The Invisible Raptor


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Frightfest pick The Invisible Raptor
"It’s inventive throughout, well worked out in terms of effects, and equipped with characters we can really get to know, with some great work even in the smallest roles." | Photo: Frightfest

It was created, as these things are, as part of a top secret weapons project – a ferocious raptor with brains as well as vicious claws and nasty, sharp, pointy teeth. As if that weren’t enough, those foolish scientists then made it invisible. Naturally, the resulting film found its way to Glasgow Frightfest.

Filling the festival’s creature feature comedy slot, this might well be expected to be just another story about a poorly rendered monster taking on scantily clad, intellectually ill-equipped teenagers en route to a small town festival, so it’s a joy to find something quite different and much more genuinely entertaining. Though there’s no hint of pretension here, and director Mike Hermosa knows exactly what audience it will appeal to, it’s inventive throughout, well worked out in terms of effects, and equipped with characters we can really get to know, with some great work even in the smallest roles.

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It cribs, openly and without shame. How was the raptor made? One of the scientists is eventually asked. “You know Jurassic Park? We did that.” This becomes a bit of a running joke, but it’s great shorthand. We don’t need originality here and we don’t need to waste time on already familiar accounts – we can just get straight on with the story. It reflects an economic approach to dialogue and structure which really suits the format.

The human centre of the story is one hit wonder palaeontologist Dr Grant Walker (played by co-writer Mike Capes), who has fallen on hard times, split up with the woman he still loves and found himself working in a dinosaur theme park, where his only loyal companion is security guard and dinosaur suit dancer Denny (David Shackelford). When the aforesaid love interest, Amber (Caitlin McHugh), comes back into his life, things start to look up, but this just happens to happen on the day that a child who has visited the park mysteriously disappears, and Grant finds something nobody else could have recognised – a distinctive, unmistakable piece of fresh raptor poo.

At one point does the poo, emerging from the raptor, become visible? Hermosa doesn’t worry about that kind of thing in a film which tours through classic genre moments as well as inventing a few of its own. The scene in which the monster sneaks up on a woman in her bathroom is a delight, but you can rest assured that it doesn’t have sexual motives – that kind of action is reserved for its visit to the local chicken farm, which is presided over by tough old gal Henrietta McCluckskey (Sandy Martin stealing every scene she’s in). We can follow what it’s up to thanks to a series of tricks which reveal its impact on its environment, the movement of various objects and, briefly, the use of infrared glasses – plus the occasional suddenly missing head.

What really gives the film its energy is the great chemistry between the central duo, both deeply flawed, sometimes downright unpleasant, but somehow still loveable characters. Grant hopes that pursuing the raptor will enable him to restore his scientific reputation, and he seems to be on a moral redemption arc, but that falls a little way short. Denny just wants to make a friend – and to show a childhood bully that he can amount to something after all. There’s some very childish humour but it’s balanced well with the action and mostly hits home. Alongside this, there’s a series of wonderfully deadpan moments with children. After being spoken to cheerily by Grant at the start of the film, during the dinosaur show, one child says flatly “Daddy’s in Mexico with Sally,” and the theme of neglect and youthful disappointment continues from there.

Though it occasionally runs low on steam, The Invisible Raptor is a real treat which fans of horror comedy will not want to miss.

Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2024
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The Invisible Raptor packshot
A raptor created as part of a top secret military experiment escapes from the lab and threatens the residents of a small town. Oh, and it's also invisible.

Director: Mike Hermosa

Writer: Mike Capes, Johnny Wickham

Starring: Mike Capes, Derek Alvarado, Sean Astin, Chad Bullard, Vanessa Chester, Grace Demarco, Bobby Gilchrist, Larry Hankin, Bill Kottkamp, Bunny Levine, Sandy Martin, Caitlin McHugh, Linda Eve Miller, Kelly Murtagh, JJ Nolan

Year: 2023

Runtime: 113 minutes

Country: US

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