While most remakes are an attempt to cash in on a once successful film premise many decades later and present it to a whole new generation of moviegoers (as well as make it profitable to company stockholders) sometimes a film is remade that was, shall we say, less than unforgettable the first time around. Such is the case of HILA which is a modern remake of an ancient film THE GIANT GILA MONSTER an otherwise forgotten film which I remember well as it was the individual title chosen for MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER VOLUME 10.2 when due to copyright issues the original creature feature GODZILLA VS MEGALON was pulled from the MST3K VOLUME 10 set making it an instant collector’s item, and one of the most valued boxed sets in my personal collection. Let us take a look at this ancient monster movie premise involving a giant lizard and see if it still has “bite”.
As the film begins, a giant Gila Monster discovers a couple making out in Lover’s Lane. They attempt to flee at once, but a car malfunction causes them to abandon their vintage 50’s roadster and become devoured ravenously by the evil, B movie computer graphic. (I hate it when that happens). Next we meet our Hero, Chase Winstead: amateur teenage drag race champion and ace mechanic who is hanging out with his hotrod buddies talking about cars, as well they should, It seems this is the fifties and everybody drives a classic car in curiously perfect condition (as seen in SIN CITY). With his “aw shucks” attitude and his pretty girlfriend, (not to mention his unbeatable 55 Chevy coupe), Chase is a stereotypical movie protagonist from films of this day I like to call a “noble greaser” a rebel in a black leather coat with an indelible sense of honor. Predictably, a heel shows up, a young hoodlum named Waco Bob in a Ford T bucket with his equally pretty but evil, sidekick named Carla. The two drag race and Chase soundly beats the bad kid. Of course Waco calls foul play at the results of this contest and vows revenge. I have given you the basic plot and sub-plot to this film which repeats itself. The giant Hila monster continues to gobble up any townsperson it can find, and Chase and Bob have many confrontations against one another, always with Chase getting the better of Waco in the end until even his own girlfriend starts to openly disrespect him. You would think that after an hour of this repetitious action that either the Gila Monster would be full or Waco would be somehow shamed into leaving the area for good, but it is simply not to be and the end scene is a grand holiday celebration when the monster is finally beaten. Curiously, it seems one character is not really welcomed to the gala Christmas party at the end of the film despite his heroism when it came to destroying the the monster, nor is the GILA actually dead either, come to think of it? Humph. I hope I am dead before they make a third film in this series some 55 years from now.
You must really be in love with late fifties/early sixties creature features (or a classic car nut) to enjoy this film, but as for me I have a hard time getting excited about any DVD sent to me that could be shown on the Sci-fi channel in its entirety without a single cut for content.
As a nod to the original film they did have the moxie to use the protagonist of the original film (Don Sullivan) as the survivalist mechanic, Dawes. Also they were very faithful to the script of the previous version, right down to the goofy little ditty “The Mushroom Song” which the protagonist plays on his guitar for no good reason in either film. Yet it is difficult to come to grips that the biggest advancement that this film over its predecessor released over a half century ago is the fact that the action sequences in the 1959 version were almost based entirely upon black and white footage of a Gila monster destroying scale models of desert fixtures meanwhile live actors pointed at the camera a lot and screamed. Now the Gila monster is entirely a digital creature, capable of delivering onscreen kill shots, yet most of the film’s running time is still devoted to characters discussing the best way to kill the monster and of course a whole lot of pointing and screaming at the camera. Sometimes authenticity isn’t always amusing.
Extras include a trailer for the original film, a trailer for the remake, some cast bio information, a brief history of the drive through, and the sing along lyrics to the mushroom song. Yes, really.