There is an old adage that says “to catch a monster you must become a monster”. Well that usually is meant in the figurative sense: a cop breaking the law to stop criminals, federal agencies using extreme measures to stop terrorists and other situations like that. But when the monster is real then the meaning becomes more sinister: perhaps it does take a true monster to stop one. This is the premise of writer/director J.A. Steel’s new film DENIZEN.
The film opens with Dallas
Murphy (Jody Mullins) investigating a mysterious water contaminant
that is killing fish in the waters near a small rural community.
When townspeople begin getting murdered by a mysterious creature,
Dallas calls in his old friends Dexter (Ben Bayless) and Deacon (J. A. Steel) to help. The trio had worked together extensively in the past on special operations like this, and Dallas is sure that Deacon’s special skills and Dexter’s scientific know how are what he needs to solve the mystery and stop the killings. However, Deacon has some secrets of her own that will either help them stop the monster or end up destroying them all.
DENIZEN is a mix of action, horror and science fiction. It has plenty of gun play and a surprising array of stunts including deep water scuba shoots, sky diving, and some military fighter action. These sorts of stunts are usually accomplished with stock footage or CGI, but it looks like Steel called in a few favors and arranged the real thing for the film. Of course stunts and cool shots from inside a jet fighter don’t make a movie. With respect to the story, DENIZEN has a complicated plot that incorporates a number of different elements: government conspiracies, monsters, as well as mystery. The film does require its fair share of suspension of belief, but overall the story is entertaining.
DENIZEN also has an array of interesting characters. Dallas, Deacon, and Dexter are an intriguing team that, from their back story, comes across as a combination of the team from Sy-Fi’s DESTINATION TRUTH and THE X-FILES. While not as well developed, Deacon’s girlfriend Maggie (Hilary Delgado) is another one worth watching. She works at a strip club, but is also apparently a former government operative. Unfortunately, the acting for some of the characters, especially the supporting roles, tends to be wooden and the deliveries often feel forced. This distracts from the story and the development of the characters. The version of DENIZEN that I saw also had a number of issues with sound quality. Often when characters were speaking their dialogue would be covered over by the music or background sound effects. That said, this version was a rough cut and I would expect the finished version, due out in 2010, to correct many of those problems.
Ultimately, J.A. Steel’s DENIZEN is a respectable independent action film with elements of sci-fi and horror thrown in. There is plenty of action, some surprisingly sophisticated stunt work and special shots, and an interesting story involving monsters; both human and inhuman. So if you like conspiracy theories, monsters, guns and science gone wrong, then check out J.A. Steel’s DENIZEN and just remember when you do that even the fountain of youth has its price.