With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom coming on June 22, you're probably finding yourself at least thinking about rewatching the Jurassic Park series. I know I am. The series currently lingers over me like a phantom, invading my every thought. When I sleep, when I eat, when I work, all I can think is "I could be watching Jurassic Park III right now."
So yeah, that marathon will probably happen soon. There's just one problem, though: there's only four Jurassic movies so far. That's barely a marathon. You could finish that in a day and, as we all know, a movie marathon isn't worth anything unless you're screaming at your own eyes at the end of it in an effort to stay awake. You need more than four dinosaur movies, and until we get Jurassic World III: A Two-Hour Shot of Chris Pratt's Boyish Smile, we're going to have to find some supplements.
But that shouldn't be too hard, as Jurassic Park has brought us a horde of ripoff films in its wake. There are a ton of dinosaur movies out there, but for the extra features in your Jurassic marathon, I've decided to only pick out the ones that tried to piggyback on Steven Spielberg's success.
The Carnosaur Trilogy (1993-1996)
You may not have seen any of the Carnosaur movies, but I am certain that, if you're a child of the '90s, you remember seeing their VHS covers. They were in every Blockbuster and Hollywood Video east of the Mississippi River growing up, and their covers were certainly more provocative that Jurassic Park's. Jurassic Park just had a T-Rex skeleton. Carnosaur had a giant, fleshy T-Rex looking angrily at nothing. If Jurassic Park's VHS cover was a striptease, then Carnosaur was someone shouting "LOOK AT MY GREAT BUTT" in the middle of a mall food court.
Fun fact: The novel that Carnosaur is loosely based on came out in 1984, years before Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park novel. And as the film version was rushed into production to compete with the Jurassic Park film, Carnosaur actually ended up coming out a few weeks before Jurassic Park. So if you just focus on the release dates and literally nothing else, Jurassic Park is a rip off of Carnosaur. So, yeah. You can have that one. Next time you're in a bar and have run out of things to talk about, well, you're welcome.
Remember the scene in Jurassic Park where Laura Dern finds Samuel L Jackson's mutilated arm? Imagine a trilogy of movies that are 90 percent that scene. Jurassic Park presents dinosaurs as amazing scientific discoveries that are worthy of fascination, and Carnosaur treats them like lizards that are hungry for your delicious organs. Don't think of that as a bad thing, though. The creature effects were designed by John Carl Buechler, the underrated director of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, and while he had a very limited budget to work with, he does create some cool stuff, including multiple T-Rex props.
My favorite scene in the whole thing? Well, Jurassic Park had electrified fences, but Carnosaur has LASERS. Which means that not only are people getting devoured, they're also losing limbs from all the LASERS. I can't find the scene with its original audio, but I don't think this borderline arthouse clip loses anything with disco music attached.
Dinosaurs From the Deep (1993)
Imagine this setting if you will: The year is 2004 (the future). The death penalty has been abolished, because this is a future that is full of hope (lol). However, instead of the death penalty, they are now sending criminals back in time, because the future is also not very well thought out. Scientists tag along with a prisoner to go look at some dinosaurs and BOOM, Dinosaurs From the Deep.
Now, you may not believe that this movie was made to ride Jurassic Park's coattails, and that's probably because that, while Jurassic Park was released in 1993, this movie looks like it came out in 1974. The actors all appear as if they took President Nixon's resignation particularly hard, and I can only describe the special effects with the phrase "cat turds." There is no A, B, C, D or F score for Dinosaurs From the Deep. There is only "cat turds."
That said, it's a fun movie to watch, mainly because it looks like it was a fun movie to make. Film school teaches you certain rules about camera work and pacing and story structure, but Dinosaurs From the Deep unlearns all of them in every scene. I often can't tell what's happening or where characters are supposed to be in the setting, but maybe I'm not supposed to? Is Dinosaurs From the Deep even real? And what is reality? My mind is a blank canvas now, and my soul is truly open. Thank you, movie.
Dinosaur Island (1994)
Fred Olen Ray has directed such films as Bikini Frankenstein and Bikini Cavegirl and Abner, The Invisible Dog. And in the early '90s, he was asked to make Dinosaur Island, which answers the question "Why doesn't this Jurassic Park thing have more bikinis?"
I don't know who was asking that question, but Roger Corman and Fred Olen Ray heard the call and leapt into action, delivering a movie that I'm not sure that I can recommend to anyone.
Because aside from a few sparse moments of dinosaurs, this movie is mostly centered around awkward scenes where dudes in camouflage get laid. That's it. Now, I'm sure there are some people out there that are saying "UMM, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM, BRO? YOU DON'T LIKE HOT LADIES?" and I get it. Hot ladies are cool, and my thirteen-year-old self never once thought that he'd eventually utter the phrase "There's too much light nudity and not enough prehistoric mayhem!" but I just wish there was more.
This is truly not a dinosaur island. It is an island with a dinosaur or two and a ton of grinding. I did not sign up for this. I do not regret it, but if it was an Amazon package, I would send it back.
Raptor Island (2004) and Planet Raptor (2007) (okay, not the '90s, but whatever)
I feel like I cant talk about these two films with providing a disclaimer: Raptor Island doesn't just feature raptors. There's a few more types of dinosaurs there, so this film is more accurately titled And Some Raptors Island. Planet Raptor, on the other hand, is just Raptors. So you can rest easy with that one. I just didn't want you to seek out Raptor Island with the false notion that you'd be getting a pure Raptor experience.
The movies, though? Not bad! The plots are bare bones excuses to have a bunch of people shooting guns at and around CGI dinosaurs, which I don't really have an issue with. Oh, and Ted Raimi, director Sam Raimi's brother, plays a character named "Dr. Tygon" in Planet Raptor. That's rad. Someone needs to do research and see how many kids were named "Dr. Tygon" in 2007. I feel like there's at least two.
The Last Act of Godzilla (1998)
Did you guys know that the 1998 Godzilla film recently turned twenty years old? That's... ummm... an age, I guess. I can't say whether or not this movie has gotten better or worse since it was originally released, but I can say that I did watch it all the way through on Hulu. And there are so many other options on Hulu. I could've watched Handmaid's Tale or Samurai Champloo or How I Met Your Mother, but I watched the adventures of Matthew Broderick and Hank Azaria in Godzilla to completion. If you judge movies solely by the fact that they are things that you can watch with your eyes, Godzilla gets a million thumbs up.
Godzilla is also technically a Jurassic Park film, at least to me, mainly because it feels exactly like one. Godzilla's design reeks of "What if Godzilla looked more like a dinosaur from Jurassic Park?" The big moments in the movie all seem to grasping at similarly majestic portions of Jurassic Park. And the final act with all of the baby Godzillas is a clumsy attempt to shove some Velociraptors into the thing. They look and hunt exactly like raptors. They're one "Clever girl" away from being raptors.
One of the first trailers for Godzilla even referenced Jurassic Park. Godzilla causes some giant footstep booms and then stepping on a T-Rex skeleton, as if to say "THIS AIN'T YOUR GRANDMA'S JURASSIC PARK. THIS IS GODZILLA. WHICH IS OLDER THAN JURASSIC PARK. SO IT TECHNICALLY IS YOUR GRANDMA'S JURASSIC PARK. BUT STILL, SCREW YOU, JURASSIC PARK. Please call me back, Jurassic Park. I'm sorry."