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control room, Clonus Horror

Parts - The Clonus Horror

cloned product in The Clonus Horror
April 2006 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Parts: The Clonus Horror

cast: Timothy Donnelly, Dick Sargent, Peter Graves, Paulette Breen, and Keenan Wynn

director: Robert S. Fiveson

90 minutes (15) 1979
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Anchor Bay UK DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Lucinda Ireson
Following the failure of Michael Bay's The Island now is perhaps a good time to reassess the low-budget 1970s' movie that is said to have inspired it. Parts: The Clonus Horror opens with a vision of a utopian society where a group of youngsters spend their days engaging in mental and physical preparation in the hope of being allowed to enter the 'promised land', aka America. However, one young man, Richard (Tim Donnelly), begins to suspect that 'America' is a euphemism for something much more sinister and so sets out to investigate. Soon, he uncovers the awful truth that he and those around him are clones that are being primed for organ-harvesting yet, while escaping from the 'farm' may be possible, Richard learns that escaping one's destiny isn't so easy.

Having been lampooned by Mystery Science Theatre 3000, The Clonus Horror has developed a reputation over the years for being enjoyably hokey trash. However, upon watching the film, this proves surprisingly inapt: it may not be a masterpiece, but it's definitely above average and is more intelligent and interesting than one might imagine. This clearly isn't big budget filmmaking, yet one gets the impression that director Robert S. Fiveson tries his best to overcome financial restrictions and to use the available resources to maximum effect. The cinematography is particularly impressive, with Richard's journey through the claustrophobic tunnels of the clone facility prior to his entrance into the 'real' world proving atmospheric and conveying a sense of being reborn. This claustrophobia is then contrasted with a stunning long shot of Richard standing atop a cliff, looking down towards the alien territory that is the outside world. Add to this some effective musical compositions and one is left with an appreciation for the director; who has clearly tried to make the film as impressive as possible rather than simply serving as a hack-for-hire.

While undoubtedly ahead of its time, it would not be true to say that Clonus was the first film to tackle the subject of cloning; The Boys From Brazil (1978), for example, had already tested the waters in this area. However, Clonus is particularly effective in its attempt to anchor itself in reality and convincing portrays cloning as something that is plausible as opposed to merely a fantastical concept, as well as probing the ethical dilemmas arising from the issue. Of course, one could argue that this merely serves as a lazy and calculated attempt to give an air of profundity to a low-budget horror flick, yet the film proves genuinely thought-provoking and explores both sides of the subject, conveying the ethically reprehensible aspect of cloning whilst also asking the obvious yet pertinent question- what would you do if you needed a transplant? Still, it is the dilemma faced by the character of Richard that is the most fascinating: the clone farm may be breeding people for death, yet life there is all that the clones know of the world. Consequently, entering the 'real' world is not a simple process and does not necessarily provide the sense of salvation that one might imagine, with the film taking a satirical stab at notions of the 'American dream'.

Having been made in the 1970s, the film is inevitably dated in terms of aesthetics, yet it also possesses a bleakness that is characteristic of films made in this period and that is rarely found in movies today. Indeed, it calls to mind a whole host of dystopian films such as Soylent Green, Rollerball (1975) and Logan's Run (1976), and opts for a serious approach that is thankfully free of postmodern styling. The film's lack of A-list stars and special effects is also beneficial in providing a sense of realism and eeriness, and Fiveson wisely opts to slowly crank up the tension rather than opting for non-stop gore or action. On the negative side, the exposition is handled rather clumsily, with the hero learning the truth about the facility in a contrived and overly convenient manner, while the film's closing revelation is more likely to be met with the confusion than realisation. The acting is also variable, although Peter Graves adds some gravitas to the proceedings, and its fun to see Dick Sargent (best known as Darrin in popular TV series Bewitched) as a slimy bad guy. Lead actor Tim Donnelly perhaps overdoes the wide-eyed bewilderment, but he appears convincingly panic-stricken and manages to convey the poignancy of the character's situation, which is crucial if the film is to achieve its goal of emotional resonance. It is also worth mentioning that the performances of the actors playing the clones are intentionally exaggerated - these characters are supposed to be na�ve and overly enthusiastic, and so what may appear to be bad acting is actually appropriate in this instance.

In conclusion, Clonus is dated in some respects and isn't without its faults, yet it succeeds in being haunting and tragic, and is infused with a sense of destiny that proves surprisingly profound. If you're seeking gore, action or bad-movie thrills, then it may prove disappointing but if you're a fan of similarly themed 1970s' films such as Coma (1978) and want something that is creepy and thought provoking, then you could do a lot worse than this film.

DVD extras: the main extra is a commentary which takes the form of a question and answer format, with the director being prompted to discuss a wide variety of topics related to the film. The interview style means that there is little silence throughout the commentary, and Fiveson gives a good overview of the film as well as providing insight into low-budget filmmaking. Also included are an extensive stills gallery and a trailer featuring a killer tagline that, while incongruous with the film's sombre approach to its subject matter, is memorable nonetheless: "Clonus: the motion picture that will steal your heart... and your liver, and your kidneys, and your eyes..."

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