If you watched The Blair Witch project and thought “You know what’s missing from this film? Pterodactyls!” then The Dinosaur Project has your name written all over it.
This unusually short film (just over 80 minutes) follows six enthused explorers as they root around the Congo in hope of finding Mokele Mbembe – the African equivalent to Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster. (No really, this mythical beast really is possibly maybe lurking in the African waters. Maybe).
In a familiar beast vs man / man vs man scenario, the young and incurably curious Luke hijacks his dad’s expedition to Africa and wins over the crew with his enthusiasm for filming devices as he plays victim to his dad’s nitpicking.
Luke’s concentration in Technology class pays off as his nifty tricks scrape the gang from the floor of some sticky situations – much to his dad’s dismay. However, as the dream trip – over-inflated with the expectation of discovery equalling fame – curdles to the nightmarishly slow cull of the cast, father and son put their bickering aside and switch to survival mode.
Because it’s got dinosaurs in it, it will inevitably be compared to Jurassic Park but it’s impossible to compete with the ever-classic JP, so they’ve not even gone there. There’s no orchestra music to usher your emotions to the synopsis’ whim, just some thrashing camera work and the frequent grumble of some hungry, oversized reptiles.
The Dinosaur Project would work well in 3D but you get the feeling they probably spent the little money they had on the sophisticated dino-graphics. That’s not to say the film looks cheap. They’ve clearly spent some cash on pushing the boundaries of the ‘found footage’ genre which, if you ask producer Nick Hill, is down to our obsession with mobile phones and acceptance of armature camera work.
It’s rather realistic – as long as you believe dinosaurs still exist. And if you managed to watch the film without any knowledge of the turbulent camera shots, you’d probably end up notifying the staff about the reel that’s just fallen off its cog. Once you realise it’s part of the fun, you’ll feel happily sea sick. Or just think you’d accidentally walked into a screening of Cloverfield.
The Dinosaur Project was released in UK cinemas on 10th August 2012