Overview: A company run by lunatics and idiots creates an army of mutant killing machines, and it's up to a reporter and a crazy psycho-bitch to stop them. Luckily, the mutants' main form of attack consists of moving incredibly slowly and occasionally french kissing someone.
Directed By: George Elanjian Jr., 1990.
The Case For: David Gale's performance as Carter Brown frequently doesn't suck.
The Case Against: Aside from glaring continuity errors, inane dialogue, wooden acting, and cheesy special effects, the only thing I can really argue with is the fact that the supposedly unstoppable monsters can be stopped by just about anything that happens to be laying around.
I did not expect to like this movie, but I have to say, after I watched it through once, I was pleasantly surprised. It turned out that I really didn't like this movie! "Syngenor" takes a jumbled mess of B-movie cliches and fucks them all up, one by one. The result is an ugly goulash of myriad failures that I have to imagine brings the cast and crew nothing but shame every morning when they look at themselves in the mirror. Realizing that their main plot could really only be stretched to about forty minutes of footage, screenwriters Michael Carmody and Brent V. Friedman throw in a convoluted subplot about office backstabbing and corporate maneuvering that gives some of the film's worst actors the chance to show off their uselessness. The best, and simultaneously worst thing about "Syngenor" is watching late character actor David Gale essentially rehash his role from "Re-Animator" while doing his best to prevent his jaw from closing. It's an odd acting choice, but the fact that it's an acting choice at all makes it an anomaly among the performances in this movie. If you're a fan of crappy rubber monsters and badly simulated terror, then rush out and rent "Syngenor." If you have higher standards than that and have nothing better to do with the next ten minutes of your life, then by all means read on, read on.
The only reason he got this part is because he can talk on the phone without using his hands.
The film opens with a series of nauseating, lurching, swooping shots of city lights at night. It's something of a confusing choice of backdrop for the opening credits, since the entire movie basically takes place in three locations, none of which are actually in a city. After the credits roll and the audience returns from regurgitating their milkduds due to motion sickness, we join a late-night party already in progress. A black car pulls into the one handicap spot in front of the Norton Cyberdyne building. You may recognize the generic sci-fi company name "Cyberdyne" as the company that creates Skynet, thus dooming humanity in "The Terminator," which came out six years prior to this derivative piece of dreck. The "Norton" part is, as far as I can tell, just some pointless name tacked on to avoid litigation.
The seemingly drunken inhabitants of the car - Stan Armbrewster, Tim Calhoun, and two bimbos (whom the credits name as "Candy" and "Brandy") - pile out and stagger into the foyer of the empty building. The building itself is an imposing behemoth of glass, steel, concrete, and frequent repetitions of Norton Cyberdyne's awkward and frankly confusing logo. Donny, the building's primary security guard, who apparently works twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, watches the four drunks enter on a security monitor and suavely remarks, "Ooh, looks like we've got ourselves an orgy!" Granted, there's no one around to hear him make the comment, but nonetheless, I'm going to reach into my bag of "Big Lebowski" references and say shut the fuck up, Donny. Armbrewster tells his hammered buddy Calhoun to show the girls down to the basement. As soon as the others are out of sight, Armbrewster soberly picks up a phone on the front desk and orders Donny to go investigate some kids he says he saw in the parking lot. Armbrewster then calls his associate Paula. When talking to her, he acts like a child who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. On a man in his forties, it is an attitude that is both comically pathetic and thoroughly irritating. Paula, who is clearly the bitchy brains of the operation, tells him to leave no witnesses.
Feel the synthesizedness!
Armbrewster goes down to the basement, which is the perfect place for a romantic rendezvous, in the sense that it's cold, musty, dirty, and full of high voltage electrical equipment and biohazards. There, he finds Calhoun and the two girls screwing around with a rolling table like they had just found the lost treasure of Sierra Madre. Armbrewster directs their attention to a cylinder in the wall. The girls each look through a small window in the cylinder and back away screaming. They just got their first look at a Syngenor, or Synthesized Genetic Organism. The hidden joke here is that, technically speaking, every organism on Earth is a Synthesized Genetic Organism. No, wait, the real hidden joke is that the writers of this movie are idiots. But whatever. "Synthesized" is a neat-sounding sciencey word that doesn't imply anything specific, just like "Cyberdyne." I have no doubt that the monsters in this movie are called "Synthesized" simply because "Genor" sounds stupid on its own. Not that "Syngenor" is much better. Try saying it out loud. It's surprisingly difficult, and once you actually pull it off, you'll notice yourself filled with a profound sense of disappointment. Scientists are working on a pill to solve this problem. They call it "This Movie Sucks," or Thimosuck for short.
Anyway, Brandy, or Candy, or whichever of the two bimbos is arbitrarily assigned to Calhoun is apparently turned on by hideous genetic monsters, and she quickly frees her breast implants for the world to see. Taking that as his cue, Armbrewster slyly unlocks the Syngenor's tank when no one is looking, then grabs his bimbo and head back for the elevator. As his bimbo flies into unbelievable hysterics over the fact that it's cold in the basement, the Syngenor escapes from its prison. It is a black, slimy, rubbery creature with gruesome features frozen into a perpetual mask of evil by whatever obscene forces guided the hand of the cheapass costume shop that threw these things together for twenty bucks and a coupon good for a free sandwich at Arby's. We do not get to see how the Syngenor dispatches of Calhoun and his date, but we do see it jam its glowing tongue down Calhoun's throat. Terror sets in early in "Syngenor," as nothing is more frightening than an overly aggressive French kisser.
There is an entire field of science devoted entirely to pouring things onto oranges. It's not a useful field, but it's a field all the same.
Speaking of overly aggressive French kissers, we now find the brilliant scientist Ethan Valentine (played by Arquette family patriarch Lewis Arquette) conducting experiments in his backyard laboratory. I'm not saying we ever see Ethan kissing with too much tongue or anything, but his character needs a little more depth, so I'm just going to assume. Besides, he created the Syngenors, and they had to learn from somebody. Ethan is busy doing the typical shitty movie scientist thing - i.e., conducting a bizarre experiment that clearly serves no purpose other than to establish that the character is a scientist. In this case, he pours some liquid onto an orange, then puts the orange in a plastic tub and shakes it. A few seconds later, the orange explodes. The man has successfully created relatively sentient life from scratch, and he spends his nights finding new ways to blow up citrus. Wonderful. Suddenly, he looks up, as if hearing an odd noise. A single word forms on his lips: "Syngenor?" It's as much a statement of surprise as it is a question of who the hell thought that would be a good name for a monster.
"Oh no," the Syngenor bellowed. "My perm!"
In the front of the house, a would-be suitor drops off Ethan's niece, Susan after their date. The young man tries to convince Susan to stay out past her curfew, but Susan scolds him, saying that "When my uncle says one o'clock, he doesn't mean one thirty." This informative explanation of how time functions is one of the most sensible things in the movie. Susan lets herself inside, then goes to find her uncle in his lab. When she gets there, Ethan is laying on the ground, covered in splotches of a blood-like substance that must have been sprayed on him, since he clearly has no visible wounds. Nonetheless, all he can manage to choke out is a few words about spraying some pod with water. Susan rushes back into the house to get help. She grabs the phone, but since she's just a woman and is thus just as useless in a crisis as she is on the road (I'm serious about that, a surprising amount of the so-called tension in the film derives from Susan needing to be driven places), she does not call 911 and instead just whines to the operator. Luckily for the poor operator who has to endure that, Susan has to run away from the phone when the Syngenor attacks.
She runs to the front door, but it is apparently locked from the outside or something. For whatever reason, she can't get the door open. However, this does not stop her from trying for quite some time. And time is something she has to spare, since the Syngenor rampages through the countryside at a speed of approximately two miles per hour. When the Syngenor finally catches up with her, Susan keep the creature at bay by throwing a vase at it. The vase shatters, splashing the Syngenor with water. The monster shrieks and begins smoking. That's right, the Syngenor, which is supposed to be invulnerable, can be killed by getting it wet. This is revealed right now, in the first fifteen minutes of the movie. With that in mind, just try to guess how frustrating the rest of the movie is. Well, actually, it's not that bad, because it later turns out that Syngenors can be killed by just about everything, anyway. Susan runs into the bathroom, but the Syngenor gets an arm in the doorway before she can close the door all the way. Luckily, she happens to have a lighter on her even though she doesn't smoke, and she combines it with a bottle of hairspray to create a flamethrower. The Syngenor recoils in pain, giving Susan the time she needs to escape out the window. The camera pans back to the damaged bathroom door. Through a hole, we see a blinding flash come from the other side of the door. This flash is never explained, but don't worry, because it also doesn't matter in the least.
Oh lord, here come the waterworks.
The next morning, Lt. Leo Rosselli, the most emotional policeman on the force, steps into his office, where Susan is waiting for him. Through wracking sobs, Rosselli manages to offer Susan his condolences over her uncle's death. She remains calm and asks if they have any leads as to the creature that killed her uncle and tried to kill her. Rosselli says that there were some signs on the scene that could indicate a struggle. Gee, you think? Let's see, a lab in total disarray, a broken vase, and multiple broken doors and windows throughout the house, as well as any residual burns from the makeshift flamethrower. Why, I do believe it's possible something strange happened at the Valentine house last night! Despite all of this, Rosselli says the captain is declaring Ethan's death to be the result of a chemical accident. That's some quality policework, right there. By that logic, the mutilated bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman clearly indicated O.J. Simpson in a case of mail fraud. Morons.
Nick looks like the lovechild of Jerry Seinfeld and Garry Shandling
Nick Cary, a quick-talking reporter (not in the sense that he's glib, but in the sense that he talks too damn fast), pulls up to Norton Cyberdyne in his stylish blue van. Like Armbrewster before him, he parks in the only handicap space in the entire lot. It has a handicap sign in front of it and the handicap symbol painted in the space. All of the other spaces in the lot are free and clear. What's more, this space isn't even the closest one to the front door. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to park there, but everybody does it. I can't tell if this is supposed to be comic relief to distract the audience from the fact that this movie blows, or if it's actually part of the blowing in an of itself. I'll leave that for the philosophers to decide. Nick goes into the building and immediately begins chatting up the receptionist, a girl by the name of Bonnie Brown (played by William Shatner's daughter) who clearly only has the job because her uncle runs the company. The reasons behind her ridiculous outfit are still unclear. Nick tells her he's there to interview Carter Brown for an Executive of the Year story. Whether this is a lie or not is unclear, but if it is a lie, then Nick has absolutely no legitimate reason to be there at all. He'd have to be introduced solely for plot purposes, and surely a movie like "Syngenor" wouldn't try to pull anything like that, right? Right? Bonnie falls prey to Nick's charms with remarkable ease, probably because she's a complete idiot. She tells him that the PR executive was killed the previous night, but just as Nick starts to ask her to contact his replacement, the man himself walks by. And just who has stepped up to replace the late PR executive, Tim Calhoun? Why, it's loveable old Stan Armbrewster! He tells Nick to get lost, then proceeds into a meeting. Dejected, Nick goes back outside to find that his car is being towed. Well, maybe you shouldn't have parked in the only handicap space, ass.
While designing this space, I imagined David Fincher being forced to recreate the music video for Nine Inch Nails' Closer in a haunted gas station bathroom.
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