Triclops has what must be Brett Piper’s finest hour.
Now, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Brett is the last of the great stop-motion animators, a meticulous craftsman who creates some of the finest B-Movies anyone has made since the Fifties.
And in Triclops, we get to see the titular beast — a giant, three-eyed human mutant, a man in a lovingly detailed full-body suit — wrestling with a stop-motion dinosaur-like monster.
Yes, you read that right.
The effect is seamless. If you really want to know how he did it, you can visit his Facebook page (which I heartily recommend anyway as it is a Master‘s level course in low-budget movie making and effects creation). It’s a fairly simple trick, but the real challenge is getting it to look right when you’re done. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done in another film — at least not one that wasn’t all unreal and digital.
But then, that’s true of most of Brett’s finest moments.
Of course, with an extravagant moment like that it’s easier to miss a particularly nice touch: that Triclops’ third, goggling eye moves around and blinks at us at times. Rick Baker would have spent thousands on an animatronic mask to get that effect, but not Brett Piper, who simply inserted an eye into the image. In fact, I have to wonder whether Brett’s eye isn’t more impressive than Rick Baker’s would have been (for his upcoming film, Redneck Mutants, he actually dubbed the eyes of a real frog onto one of his homemade beasts!).
The story is…familiar. Brett is busy homaging quite a few previous lost world films, with Bert I. Gordon’s The Cyclops being perhaps the most obvious, although he references many others along the way (sharp eyed viewers will note someone named after a main character from King Kong and another who shares the first name of a certain Bert I. Gordon monster) Of course identifying those moments is always a big part of the fun.
We have a pilot who crashes in a mysterious valley which many people have entered but none of them have ever returned. There’s some sort of big secret there the military is hiding, so his fiance and brother hire a brilliant but drunken pilot (played by Polonia Brothers’ regular Ken Van Sant) to sneak them in past the patrols.
I have to confess that I do not think this is one of Brett’s better films. There are plenty of creatures and several impressive battles, some wonderful miniature sets and full-sized props, but as strange as this may seem, it is too CGI.
While Brett wouldn’t be caught dead putting a computer generated beast into one of his films, he a very tech-savy filmmaker and makes extensive use of computers to composite his images and cover up any stray bits of equipment (like production assistant Anthony Polonia) which were accidentally left in shot.
Unfortunately, the forest footage here ends up looking very unreal in the wide shots, thanks to the cloudy sky added to them, and the CG mist effects aren’t very good. Nor does the swarm of little flying monsters that bring down the plane look good, despite the fact that individual critters are one of the better designs he created for this film. Perhaps this wouldn’t matter so much if we hadn’t seen so much of that artificial looking sky, thanks largely to all the flying scenes.
And I’ll confess that one is left with the feeling that the ending just sort of fizzles out, with nothing resolved, a serious danger yet unsolved, and a very strange voice cameo. I have to wonder if he planned to make a sequel.
Not that he’s ever suggested that he might. Or that he’s even considered it. And trust me, he’d have put it on his Facebook page if that were his plan.
But we need to make this very clear: even lesser Brett Piper is better than most of the creature features out there. This is a fun, well made film with a wonderful, pulpy collection of thrills, chills and, of course, monsters. If you’re expecting weighty drama or great literary depth then you’re in the wrong place and have obviously forgotten that this was always meant to be a B-Movie, even if it is far better than most B-Movies you’re likely to see these days. Triclops is a solidly entertaining effort with plenty of what we watch Brett Piper’s films to see:
Horrible stop motion creatures.
And that’s always welcome in my book.