Monday, September 18, 2023

Bacterium (2006) directed by Brett Piper

I'm a big fan of Brett Piper's THEY BITE, a funny, slightly gross take on 50s killer creatures from the sea flicks. In that low-budget crowd-pleaser, the director piles on the jokes, coaxes a very funny performance from porn icon Ron Jeremy, and ups the ante with a faux trailer for the unforgettably titled INVASION OF THE FISH FUCKERS.

So, it's no surprise that the presence of Piper's name on the credits pushed BACTERIUM to the top of my 'To Watch' stack. And while it lacks the laughs or sly B-movie references of THEY BITE, it's not a bad entry in the mutant-organism-on-the-loose-meets-government-conspiracy sweepstakes.

Opening with a sinister car/helicopter chase through the underdeveloped backwoods of the mid-Atlantic (much of the flick was shot at Fort Totten, Bayside in Queens, NY), Piper sets an ominous tone that kicks the flick off nicely. As the car careens through the countryside, the driver's face pulses and melts away while the helicopter pursues its prey. As the contamination-suit-clad chopper occupants close in, one makes the tragic mistake of touching the "sample", a vial of green liquid that will surely lead to no good.

Meanwhile, a group of paintball-playing kids stumble upon what appears to be a deserted house in the woods. Thinking it'll be a good hiding place they enter, only to encounter the crazed scientist who has created a mini lab in an attempt to contain a mutated super virus. (One glance at the stack of ancient, low-fi Macs in the background might explain his utter failure at his mission.)

From this point BACTERIUM plays out like you'd expect from a low-budget version of THE BLOB. (And, in case you missed that reference point one of the characters shouts, "Don't do that! Didn't you see THE BLOB?!") The big tube of glowing fluid turns into an oozing, attacking, face-eating, chest-bursting mass that likes melting faces, flesh, and lab rats.

Will the teens and government scientists escape from the organism? Will the government decide to use a nuclear strike or even a black hole bomb that will deliver localized destruction and eradicate the creature ... not to mention everything else in the area?

If you've seen THE CRAZIES, THE BLOB, OUTBREAK, or any other mutant organism/government conspiracy/virus-on-the-loose flick, BACTERIUM won't hold a ton of surprises. But Piper and Co. manage to ring every dollar from the flick's budget thanks to some fun miniature and model work as the creeping bacterium divides and divides and grows stronger and larger.

And don't be fooled by the PG-13 rating. About 15 minutes in, star Alison Whitney treats us to a healthy dose of full-frontal nudity, complete with perky boobs and a nice landing strip. Couple the surprising nudity with the melty face effects and BACTERIUM is an entertaining, if not all that memorable (or original) monster flick. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor of Exploitation Retrospect and has no idea why there isn't a three-disc special edition of THEY BITE available.

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