Bacterium (2007)

“Don’t do that!  Didn’t you see The Blob?”

This one, despite a title which suggests something more Romero is actually Brett Piper‘s loving homage to The Blob.  Not that he doesn’t get more than a touch of George Romero in there as well.

Of course, this is the Blob by way of the 1988 remake, a beast which was far more…”athletic”…than the original, running across ceilings, shooting out  “tentacles” and dropping down suddenly on people – although it never got to grab a helicopter out of the air!

While his gooey special effects are the star here, Brett matches them with a nicely complex script, full of weird science, government conspiracies, secret military operations, a hidden lab, a mad – or at least irrational – scientist, soldiers in white hazmat suits, a biker gang, a little gratuitous nudity, and an innocent group of paintballers who take their mock battles to the wrong place.

I suspect George Romero’s The Crazies was also one of Brett’s major influences here, with the Military trying to contain a dangerous infection (before it mutates into something worse):  and the opening sequence – with a desperately ill scientist weaving all over the road in his car as he is pursued – reminds me very strongly of Repo Man.  As always with Brett’s films, this is a fanboy’s fanboy film, with the usual Easter eggs (like “General Ackerman”) and references to other, much loved films.  But there’s also a wonderfully satiric sense of humor at work here, with perhaps the finest moment the “serious deliberation” two Senators engage in.

Curiously, Brett Piper achieved his Blob effects practically, with bladder effects, puppets and oozing goo and not his trademark stop-motion (he did add a few seconds of stop motion in post-production, but they are so brief as to be almost unnoticeable).  His miniature sets here are particularly well done and match the real locations perfectly.

Also interesting is that the detonation (okay, okay, “implosion”) of the exotic weapon used against the beast is a digital effect, something that is very rare in Brett’s handmade films.  Not that there is no CGI in his films, just that he normally uses it for more practical and invisible tasks, like compositing, and covering over stray bits of equipment that ended up in his shots (i.e., light stands, cables and Anthony Polonia).  Here, he also used it to erase John Fedele’s ponytail (which would be just a tad out of place on an Army Captain).

However, that classic shot of trees blowing over in the shockwave, which is normally atom bomb test stock footage in these sorts of films is a particularly fine bit a miniature work.

This is one of Brett’s finest films – and a remarkably good Blob movie, even if Brett won’t admit how much it cost (hint:  way less than that $30,000 IMDB estimates!).  Certainly, there is more fun per dollar here than in any Hollywood production (one suspects, in fact, that the various announced Blob remake projects which haven’t surfaced in Hollywood have spent far more in pre-production alone than Bacterium cost).

For those of us who love those classic SF and Horror films from the Fifties, it is disappointing that there are so few films out there that are half as much fun.  But at least we’ve got Brett Piper hard at work, crafting marvelously fun little films by hand and for next to nothing.

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