Films from the Void: METAMORPHOSIS

FILMS FROM THE VOID is a journey through junk bins, late night revivals, under seen recesses and reject piles as we try to find forgotten gems and lesser known classics. Join us as we lose our minds sorting through the strange, the sleazy, the sincere and the slop from the past and try to make sense of it all.

metamorphosis vhs

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis is, at its heart, a nasty movie. It’s part of an ad hoc collection of films known in Italy as the La Casa series, playing off the popularity of the Evil Dead films — known in Italy as La Casa. Whereas the two previous installments, Witchhouse and Witchery, at least had a weird haunted house vibe going on in them, this particular piece of English language trash cinema operates in the realm of mad science.

It’s certainly no surprise that Metamorphosis saw release in Spain as Re-Animator 2, as it’s obviously trying to appear as if it’s cut from the same cloth. In reality, despite also featuring an arrogant young doctor playing with science beyond the pale in order to conquer death, it’s far less than the film upon which many of its beats are taken.

metamorphosis still 01

Gene Lebrock as Dr. Peter Houseman hasn’t an iota of the charisma and sheer nuttery which made Herbert West an iconic character through the ages. He’s wooden, yet arrogant; sexual, yet repulsive; and just overall, a person for whom you’re rooting to fail, despite the fact that he’s our ostensible protagonist.

Yet, despite all this, he’s still the only character whose name I can recall after multiple viewings. Everyone else is just a stock character at best, or a caricature at worst, be it the child, the nerdy sidekick, the asshole tenured professor, or the professional-on-outside, sexy-beast-on-the-inside female love interest. They’re boring, overused tropes.

Hell, George Eastman (of Troll 2 infamy) is just bound and determined to swipe every genre trope, no matter what the genre. There’s a mad scientist, sleazy sex scenes, monsters. a child in peril, frighteningly misogynistic violence, and poorly-translated dialogue that I’m sure sounded just as atrocious when it was translated for overseas audiences: “Our romance was washed out by the terror in his eyes when I told him I was pregnant” being my personal favorite clunker.

metamorphosis still 02

It’s that violence against women that really makes this less your standard mad scientist / Re-Animator rip-off and more of a grim little film more along the lines of Don’t Go In the House or Maniac. When Dr. Houseman starts going off the rails, he starts violently abusing women. It’s explicit abuse that’s shown in rather unflinching detail more than once. It’s not like it’s a one-scene shot. Houseman flashes back to these scenes repeatedly, and it made my skin absolutely crawl.

The ending starts to crib from Cronenberg’s The Fly, although with none of the pathos or special effects budget which made that film so successful. It’s a very cheap, very laughable transformation which takes place — and given the amount of build-up to it, one would think there’d be something more to see, but no such luck. It’s disappointing on a level with the Godzilla remake from 1998.

 

There is a MASTERFUL freak-out scene with Houseman flopping around on a bathroom floor while a phone rings in the background, but past that, the movie’s a big snooze for most of it. I’m sure that, were Horror Remix still a thing, we would have a great 30-minute cut of this at some point, but as it is, we’re stuck with a film that at the 50-minute mark had me sure it was almost over. Sadly, there were another 40 minutes to go. In the end, Metamorphosis violates the overriding commandment of cult movies: you can be as terrible as you want, but don’t ever be boring.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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