Wow, Hybrid is one movie you don't want to ruminate on for any length of time. It's not like it will eat at your soul or anything, nagging with horror like the recent French film Inside. No, the more you think about Hybrid, the more stupid it seems. The made-for-TV thriller actually starts out running ... right off a cliff. But, with proper lubricants, you might get quite a few laughs mixed in with your pained anguish. I'm not sure that's what was intended.
There's a new, unique take on lycanthropy - or is it just a melding of two old saws; the guy who acts like a wolf and the murderous transplanted hands. An experimental neuroscientist/ surgeon played by Justine Bateman entices then astounds her colleagues with animal eye transplants before suggesting they do the same thing on a human. Conveniently Aaron (Corey Monteith) finds himself in need of a new pair (of eyes) and signs right up for the hush-hush project. Seeing as how Aaron's new wolf eyes give him astounding night vision, the military industrial complex wants in on the fun. Meanwhile, Lydia (Tinsel Korey) is up in Native American arms because Bateman got those peepers from her wolf. As Aaron begins to wolf out, the ensuing chaos includes endless visions of wolves and bison accompanied by lots of truck driving, shirtless running and a singularly annoying and overused hip-hop song.
From the expectations-raising, methodically laid-out opening sequences come high hopes for Hybrid. Though indeed the Doctor's experiments seem a bit more than mad and the extreme transparency of steps A to B to C ultimately seems specious, we're willing to go along. Bateman still has her tomboyish Family Ties charm while representing the best performance of the movie. She almost makes her weird experiments and subsequent interest in lycanthropy seem plausible. But things go downhill from there. Even in contact lenses that constantly remind us of the Incredible Hulk TV series, Monteith's mien never escapes that of a slightly hung-over ex-college student trying to find a job. Prior to animalizing, naught but a slightly furrowed brow and dazed, shirtless shuffling are his traits. All of which can be thematically excused, since Lydia, realizing who's eyes Aaron has, is determined to help him by driving around a lot, acting petulant and looking like an eternally sullen, indigenous Winnie Cooper.
Despite a pair of good turns (Bateman and Brandon Jay McLaren as Aaron's friend Ash) the rest of the mostly lame performances don't stand a chance against the episodic, internal-vision-filled layout of the movie. The third time we hear that song - loaded with references to looking and seeing, natch - or see a wolf's-eye vision, or put up with Lydia grousing at Aaron as she drives her truck, fatigue has permanently set in. It goes without saying that little in the way of reinvigorating thrills, scares or bloody violence appears to liven things up. As a made-for-TV production Hybrid is largely blood and FX-free (don't be fooled by the packaging). There's no gnawing, for sure, but blood isn't necessary when you've got thrills. Whoops! None of those, either. An ostensibly tense piney manhunt materializes as hilarity with SWAT guys chasing a shirtless idiot in the woods. Quick cuts of Aaron running back and forth super-fast almost immediately look silly, and that puts an end to Hybrid.
(Actually, Hybrid ends when Aaron, hoping to understand his wolf-like nature, burns some incense and performs a solo conga-jam. How can you possibly save a movie like that?)
Nonetheless you still have to contend with the also quite tired Native American Mystical element, which, combined with patronizing father-daughter interaction, becomes doubly aggravating. While I'm all for the well-balanced, uniquely animistic Native American world-view and religiosity, if I have to see it trotted out one more time to motivate or validate a horror movie concept I'm done. Clichés don't come more guilt-riddled or credibility-busting than dragging out the Medicine Man one more time to forgive us while pointing out the error of our ways. But watching as the father-daughter pair smiles benevolently down on shirtless-boy as he frolics joyfully with the wolf pack almost makes up for it. It certainly ends Hybrid on a high note - high-larious, that is.
An industry standard 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is the best thing about Hybrid. Colors are fairly rich and natural looking and the image is pretty sharp with a decent level of detail. Other than a little edge-enhancement, compression artifacts aren't a real problem. It's not a stunning transfer, but certainly acceptable for a TV movie.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo does what it has to, present dialog in a clear and understandable fashion. Stereo separation is obviously basic, but used OK, and soundtrack music is mostly integrated well with the dialog. The bad part is that one song they keep playing, which is mixed way up-front so as to be extra grating.
A short Preview/ Promo-Reel for the rest of the Maneater movie series (of which Hybrid is a part) is the sole extra.
From the relatively interesting werewolf update to the truly laughable ending, Hybrid is a big downhill slide. Episodic in script, uninspired in action, unintentionally comical, and bereft of thrills or scares, Hybrid is a bland mess good only for a beer-fueled mocking session. Were they secretly laughing when they made Hybrid? I hope not, it's always more fun laugh at a movie that falls on its face. Drunken masochists with too much time and money could get a few laughs, but really, maybe we all should just Skip It.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com