‘Project: Metalbeast’ is a science-fiction/horror film that stars Kim Delaney, Barry Bostwick, John Marzilli, and featuring Kane Hodder as the Werewolf. It is written by Alessandro DeGaetano and Timothy E. Sabo, and directed by Alessandro DeGaetano.
The story begins in 1974 as a soldier named Butler (John Marzilli) carries out a secret military operation in Hungary, in which he is to retrieve a blood sample from a werewolf. After the Werewolf attacks and kills the photographer that accompanied Butler on the mission, Butler shoots it with silver bullets, killing it, and successfully getting a sample of the beast’s blood. He brings the sample back to Colonel Miller (Barry Bostwick), but grows impatient with the researchers at the military facility. Later, he sneaks in, steals the blood sample, and injects himself with it. He soon begins to turn into a werewolf and attacks the researchers, but is gunned down by Colonel Miller. Miller proceeds to cover up what had happened by terminating the project, and storing Butler’s body in a cryogenic tube in the lower levels of the facility.
Twenty years later, Miller assumes control of a different military research project, this time one that is working on developing synthetic alloy skin to make soldiers impervious to bullets. The lead scientist, Dr. Anne De Carlo (Kim Delaney), and her team struggles with moving forward on their testing as the formula hardens fast, making it a major risk to use on living subjects. Miller, however, insists that the team uses a cadaver that he’ll donate – Butler – to move forward with the experiment.
During the procedure, as they are grafting the synthetic skin onto Butler’s body, the scientists discover three silver bullets inside the body. They remove them, and suddenly Butler becomes revived. As Butler begins to regain consciousness, the team grow suspicious of Miller and the situation that they find themselves in. Things get worse for the researchers when Butler experiences the metamorphosis and takes his Werewolf form – now nearly indestructible due to his metal exterior, making him deadlier than ever before.
Writers Alessandro DeGaetano and Timothy E. Sabo do a fairly decent job crafting their story around the concept that blends horror with science-fiction, and while there is some cheese to it, they at least try to keep it grounded instead of going completely overboard with its science-fiction element. Goofy concept? Sure, but it works. The issue here is the overall look and feel of the film. The direction and cinematography are flat, and makes this very much resemble a made-for-TV movie not all that unlike what you’d see on the ScFy Channel.
The acting is okay here. Kim Delaney is likeable as the lead protagonist, while Barry Bostwick effortlessly plays a slimy dickhead that serves as the lead antagonist. And speaking of antagonist, while John Marzilli isn’t in the film a whole lot, he does well as the impatient and unlikeable Butler. Lastly, Kane Hodder rocks, both as the werewolf in the opening, and again as the Butler version of the werewolf later on.
The best thing about this low-budget film, though, is the Werewolf itself. Here we get my personal favorite type of werewolf: the monstrous bipedal beast with a fully formed wolf head, thick fur, and imposing stature. In the opening scene, we get this type of werewolf design, like we’ve seen from ‘The Howling’, ‘Bad Moon’, and ‘Dog Soldiers’, just to name a few, and it looks really good. While the ‘Project: Metalbeast’ itself may not be as good as those films, I think the design, effects, and suit for the werewolf are very strong and looks great.
Of course, as you could have guessed based on the story synopsis, we do get an alternative werewolf design for the second half of the film and I’m a little mixed on my feelings for it. The second design keeps close to its original look, but now with metal skin and a more robotic presence. On one hand, it’s at least doing something different and it does look cool, but on the other hand I can help but feel that there was a mix-up in communication between the filmmakers and the effects team. For some odd reason, once Butler fully transforms into his metal werewolf, the eyes are completely red and looks more like a robot than a werewolf who gained layers of synthetic metal skin. The look of the metal wolf – or Metalbeast, as the title refers – feels a little out of place, like it belongs in a story where someone made an artificial robotic werewolf.
My biggest criticism of this film is the audio. I’m not sure if it’s something that’s always been there since its release, or if it’s the DVD transfer, but the audio is atrocious. The dialogue is really difficult to hear at times, and there are several moments where I could see Barry Bostwick speak but couldn’t hear what he was saying at all. Because of the audio issues, there are parts of the movie that are difficult to understand.
Overall, I dig ‘Project: Metalbeast’ for what it is. It’s not one of the best werewolf films ever made, but it’s got a great looking werewolf in the first half, a cool-yet-problematic looking werewolf in the second half, and is a unique take on the legendary monster.