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Polymorph   B+

Tempe Entertainment

Year Released: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: J.R. Bookwalter
Writer: James L. Edwards (story by J.R. Bookwalter)
Cast: James L. Edwards, Ariauna Albright, Tom Hoover, Sashsa Graham, Joseph A. Daw, Jennifer Huss, Pam Zitelli, Leo Anastasio.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Now that J.R. Bookwalter's first foray into the world of 35mm -- Witchouse 2 for Full Moon Pictures -- is set to hit video stores in July, I thought it fitting to check out some of his earlier shot-on-video movies. Watching Ozone (1994) and Polymorph this past week, I realized that Bookwalter is a sincerely talented filmmaker. And not just in a B-movie kinda way, either. He's got a way of making B-movie concepts play very mainstream.

Polymorph's plot stems from a classic B-movie idea, but it throws in some conflict between gangsters and interns for good measure. An alien spaceship sends a mass of glowing green stuff crashing down to Earth; this stuff can morph into anything it comes into contact with -- particularly humans. A drug-runner (Sasha Graham) hiding out in a cabin near the crash site is the first to be infected -- after she kills a scientist and his guide. She's getting paranoid, so she calls up her boss (Tom Hoover) and tells him and his henchmen (oops! henchpeople -- there's a chick, too) to come and get her right away.

A couple of the now-dead scientist's interns (James L. Edwards and Joseph A. Daw) hike into the woods with a couple of girls (Ariauna Albright and Jennifer Huss), just hoping that the scientist doesn't mind them bringing the girls along for the weekend. But they have more to worry about than that. Much more.

Sometimes the shot-on-video look can hamper a production, while other times it actually seems to work in the movie's favor. Here, it works splendidly. The visuals are rich and colorful -- the scenes in the woods are filled with lush green, and it adds to the comic-book fun of the proceedings. In fact, most of the scene transitions are accompanied by comic-book style subtitles (i.e., "Meanwhile, back at the cabin...").

While none of the actors will be winning Oscars anytime soon, the cast is wonderfully likable, and the characters are quirky and interesting. The chemistry between Ariauna Albright and James L. Edwards is particularly good -- possibly foreshadowing their entertainingly twisted reunion in 1997's Bloodletting.

The dialogue in Polymorph has a certain pizazz to it, and with characters saying things like, "This situation has all the believability of a Mentos commercial," you can't help but get wrapped up in the fun of it all. The body count is pretty high, too, but Bookwalter wisely strays away from using buckets of gore. And there's a last-minute shock that'll make your jaw drop.

Polymorph is a highly entertaining sci-fi actioner that's worth seeking out. Besides, you wouldn't want to miss the kick-ass catfight between Ariauna Albright and Jennifer Huss, now would you?

Review published 05.05.2000.

Read our Interview with J.R. Bookwalter.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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