STUDIO: RHI Entertainment
MSRP: $14.95
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes


The Pitch

It’s Ice Road Truckers meets Reign of Fire meets Twin Peaks meets…the SciFi channel.

The Humans

Director: Steven R. Monroe
Writer: Jason Borque
Nick Chinlund, Erin Karplunk, Barry Corbin, Elaine Miles, Simon Longmore, John Shaw.

The Nutshell

This week on the SciFi channel, C-list actors running from a dragon!

The Lowdown

The sheer volume of “SciFi original” monster movies is a little perplexing. They’re produced on various levels of DTV budget, and at a thoroughly steady clip, premiering on SciFi and then being released on video. I really wonder who buys these on DVD. I’ve occasionally garnered some ironic enjoyment from a SciFi original movie, but I can’t imagine ever wanting to rewatch one.

This ice fishing expedition either just got tremendously successful, or horrifyingly unsuccessful.

Wyvern did nothing to change that. It is, however, the best SciFi original movie I’ve ever seen; a well-paced, occasionally funny creature feature. It’s got Don S. Davis’ penultimate performance (not as interesting a character as Maj. Briggs, but you knew that already), decent effects by SciFi channel standards, and good ol’ Nick Chinlund.

Chinlund plays our main character, an ice road trucker (hey just like that show!) named Jake Suttner. Given that our hero is a trucker, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by letting slip the fact that in the end he uses trucking to defeat the Wyvern. (And if that is a spoiler for you, I am envious indeed, for the person who would be surprised by that outcome must find our world a thoroughly magical and amazing place.) He’s not a terribly memorable or interesting character, sad to say. He’s a good guy, he carries guilt over the accidental death of his brother, he injured his hand (in SciFi original movies that counts as a character trait.)

Diner waitress Claire is in love with Jake. That sentence right there pretty much carries the full character complexity of Claire. And of course, Jake will come to love her as well; if monster movies have taught me anything, it’s that when a man and a woman survive a monster attack, theirs is a romance written in the firmament of the heavens which shall endure for all time. Unless there’s a sequel, then one of them will surely get eaten.

Great, now the claim form needs to file a claim.

The setting is a small Alaskan town. It’s the eve of the summer solstice, which means that the “polar day” is about to climax and the sun will not set. It’s a somewhat odd town, certainly not on the level of the town of Twin Peaks, but given that it’s an oddball town in the American northwest where Don S. Davis lives and supernatural goings-on are afoot, Twin Peaks certainly comes to mind.

Sadly, in real life “We needed it to fight the monster.” doesn’t usually fly as a defense when you’re on trial for looting.

The supporting characters are more memorable than the main characters. Barry Corbin plays “Haas,” a hunter who spots the Wyvern and eventually figures out it’s a Wyvern. He says that his Scandinavian mother used to tell him stories about Wyverns. I do feel this scene is a missed opportunity, though; the other characters should’ve busted out their own dragon stories their mothers used to tell them and there should have been an argument over exactly what kind of mythical dragon this one was. Simon Longmore plays “Farley,” a weird, meek loser, and manages to get more laughs than any other character, although unfortunately the moment he first opens his mouth you know he’s the kind of character who will be Wyvern food before too long.

No one watches a movie like this for its effects, but they are a little better than I expected. The skin texture actually looks pretty decent. I suspect hard chitinous skin is one of the easier things to model for a CGI monster; Starship Troopers did it well 13 years ago, and District 9 did it well on a low budget. The movement of the creature doesn’t look so good, though, and whenever it opens its mouth (which is often, this being a monster movie) its teeth and tongue look terrible.

The pacing is probably the film’s biggest asset. No one wants to watch a monster movie that’s boring. The script manages to keep things well paced by side-stepping certain time-wasting genre conventions. The monster doesn’t stay hidden (often, of course, not showing the the monster is the most effective method in such a movie, but this movie isn’t going for scary, so it works), but rather appears and kills early and often. The townsfolk figure out there’s a monster on the loose pretty quickly, sparing us boring scenes where they have to debate something we’ve already figured out.

She always fantasized that someone would fly in to this sleepy little town and sweep her off her feet.

There are worse ways to kill a Saturday night than this movie, but there are a lot of better ones as well. It’s better than most SciFi original movies, but that’s certainly not saying much. If you’re in the mood for a monster movie, and have seen all the classics, plus all the classic non-classics (like the great Robot Monster), I wouldn’t think less of you for renting this one. I wouldn’t say it’s worth owning, though.

The Package

A good transfer, as one expects from studio product. No extras except for some trailers. The case comes with a cardboard sleeve that seems to say “Hey, if we spent money on this sleeve, surely we must also have spent money on the movie’s budget as well!”

6.0 out of 10