William Dever, Steve Mitchell, Jim Nielsen, Paul Sinor
Brian Gross as Chase
Terence Knox as Sheriff
Madeline Voges as Lisa
Rich Komenich as Compton
When a film arrives, and it’s got the exclamation Gila! Spread across the cover in classic 50s sci-fi font, it’s near impossible to avoid breaking out in laughter. The last Gila flick I caught was a good 60 years old and miserable (as I recall) on just about every front imaginable. Why expect anything more from this obvious low budget effort that lacks not only star power (you won’t find a marquee name in the lineup) but the slightest hope of a single decent special effect as well? Doesn’t make much sense to toss this one in the DVD player with high hopes, eh?
Don’t judge a DVD by its cover, punk.
Somehow, some weird, weird way, Gila! proves marginally more entertaining than it should. Don’t get it confused, those monetary confines I spoke briefly on just a moment ago, they’re extremely prevalent. Every single time this hulking creatures slowly shambles into frame, there’s a chuckle fighting to escape sealed lips. But why fight it? It’s a fun and funny film, have a laugh. It certainly never feels as though director Jim Wynorski is concerned with being laughed at. In fact, I’d bet the man had more than a single outburst during the making of the picture. It’s that kind of picture, self-aware, but fully prepared to enjoy itself in the process.
As for the story, well, there really isn’t one. There’s a giant lizard attacking a small rural town, devouring the random bystander, head first. But this creature has an enemy to contend with in this quiet community: the film’s hero, Chase (Brian Gross, who also appeared in 2001 Maniacs). Chase is a good hearted guy, which makes him likable, but courageous in an almost nonchalant manner.Trouble’s a brewin? Eh, hand me a shotgun, I’ll go see what I can do. His attitude shouldn’t work, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t really, really effective. There are a few others helping Chase out in his mission, including the most noteworthy players, including the Sheriff (Terence Knox, who surfaced in an early Children of the Corn installment) and Compton (the underrated Rich Komenich who had a small role in the Amityville Horror remake). A fun trio to study here.
Now here’s one of the most compelling issues with the pic. At first glance Gila! obviously looks to be set somewhere in the 1950s. The cars are all vintage (surprisingly effective job avoiding slip ups with modern day mishaps; IE a Taurus parked in the background of a shot), there’s an almost golly-gee innocence to the film – a theme recurring among a number of focal players – drag racing is still the coolest thing in the world. It all falls in place with the good old times of yesteryear. Except the attire. The clothing is totally and completely wrong. Every piece of clothing you spot in the movie looks about as contemporary as it gets. And while that may seem like something easily excusable, it creates a very strange mental conflict. It almost feels as though your eyes are playing tricks on you. Why does the whole flick look old school… but the characters are wearing modern day gear? It’s a problem. Not a nail in the coffin problem, but a problem all the same.
You’re not going to rush out to alert your buddies to this film. You’re not going to spend much time discussing it online with your cyber pals. Hell, you may not even remember it in a year or so. Just the same, there’s an odd charm about it. There’s something that suggests Wynorski pulled off a very rare feat in making a pic of this ilk entertaining. And to his credit, he’s got a clear, albeit basic vision that he brings to life relatively well. He certainly siphons some memorable performances from a series of relative unknowns, and he keeps a certain degree of synergy coursing through the cast. That’s respectable. Whether or not you enjoy Gila! will in large part depend on what type of sense of humor you have. If you’re not too uptight, you’ll find some laughs in this one, and as long as you keep a light mindset, you should be able to find some enjoyable sequences in this inspired shoe-stringer.