Hyenas is not a good movie, but no one expected it to be. Unfortunately, this no-budget horror flick about a band of shape-shifting killers is not "so bad it's good" either. Hyenas is just plain bad: Boring, lacking in scares and gore and full of terrible acting, Hyenas is nothing to cackle about.
The opening scene of Hyenas teases at a cheesy, bloody B-movie that never materializes. A young woman is killed and her baby stolen by two men that morph into wild, hyena-like creatures. The woman's husband, Gannon (Costas Mandylor of the later Saw sequels), joins Crazy Briggs (Meshach Taylor), the only man who believes in the killer hyenas, to avenge his family. The hyenas are apparently descendants of Africa that feed off the living and have the ability to look human when necessary. The pack of killers is looking for a new alpha leader, and targets Gannon and Crazy Briggs when it learns of their mission.
A movie like Hyenas deserves the full B-movie treatment of copious gore, incessant nudity and ludicrous action. Hyenas receives little of this treatment. Instead of focusing on the pack's grisly attacks, Hyenas wastes time on a subplot involving a small town's rival gangs and focuses too heavily on Gannon's interactions with another would-be victim. How the filmmakers got Mandylor after his success with the Saw franchise is unclear, but he looks bored out of his mind in Hyenas.
Gorgeous cult starlet Christa Campbell stars as Wilda, the pack's new alpha hopeful, in what I assume was an attempt to distract male viewers from the terrible plot. In an undercooked gimmick, many of the hyenas are women who conveniently shed their clothes before transformation. This would seem to satisfy part of my aforementioned B-movie checklist, except this is merely SyFy Channel disrobing. What little gore appears is similarly disappointing, and the hyenas look so bad that director Eric Weston barely allows them on screen.
I have no problem with ridiculous horror, but Hyenas fails to provide anything to counterbalance the terrible acting and ridiculous premise. Overlong and uninteresting, Hyenas is neither horrifying nor exciting. Wal-Mart bargain bins are littered with better examples of low-budget horror than Hyenas. Some red contact lenses and corn syrup just don't cut it these days.
Lionsgate Films presents Hyenas on DVD for American World Pictures with an average 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Detail varies throughout; some close-up shots are impressive while other wider shots look downright low-res. There's also noise, shimmering and some black crush in spots. On a better note, colors are strong and don't bleed, skin tones are accurate and the transfer is free of digital manipulation and print damage.
The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is fine. Dialogue is crisp, and hiss is kept to a minimum. The surrounds are used occasionally for ambience and effects, but the track mostly sticks to the front speakers. Nothing in this audio track stands out as particularly problematic, but it's certainly not demo-worthy. English and Spanish subtitles also are available.
Horror movie villains can include just about anything these days, so killer hyenas aren't much of a stretch. Hyenas could have been campy fun, but the final product is dull and lacks the exploitation elements necessary to make such a ridiculous premise successful. Lionsgate's DVD has acceptable picture and sound but no extras. Skip It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.