Tammy and the T-Rex (1994/2019)

Every now and then a movie suddenly finds its audience.  Take The Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example.  Sure, it didn’t find that audience immediately, but within a couple years of release, the mega fans were showing up at midnight showings in costume and so forth.  With the advent of home video and the explosion of home entertainment via cable and a video rental store in almost every strip mall as well as even grocery stores, movies that didn’t do so well in theaters suddenly had a second life.

Then comes this curious little direct-to-video movie called Tammy and the T-Rex.  Aside from it featuring two very young, and very pretty future stars in Denise Richards and Paul Walker, it was relatively overlooked as a low budget teenage romantic comedy.

However, in recent years, it’s been rediscovered…

First and foremost, I remember Tammy and the T-Rex on video store shelves in the 90s.  Here was this super bizarre cover with a dinosaur and a super hot teen girl riding it.  It looked like a kids movie.  It didn’t have anything that seemed to have any interest for a guy like me.  I mean…  Aside from Denise Richards, what about this cover looks like anything a teenage dude would want to see?

I mean, you could say, “But what about that mean looking T-Rex?”  Well, that’s slightly undercut by the babe riding it with a big ass smile.  It’s majorly undercut by “He’s The Coolest Pet In Town!”  If that wasn’t enough, just watch this preview for the movie and tell me how I’m supposed to feel about this movie…

So why, after 25 years, has this movie suddenly become something that’s been on the minds of various B-Movie aficionados like me?  It all starts about five years ago when RedLetterMedia released an episode of Best of the Worst that covered dinosaur movies from the 90s.  As of the publication of this post, that video has nearly 1.4 MILLION views on YouTube.  That’s probably more than the number of people who have actually seen that movie.

One thing that seemed to come out of their look at the movie is that it’s a bizarre movie that seems to mix a lot of really disparate genres and ideas.  It’s a movie about star-crossed lovers.  But there is a jealous ex subplot that gets super dark.   Then there’s a mad scientist.  A robotic dinosaur that the scientist has built – for what reason it’s hard to say.  It’s bizarre, and really inconsistent in tone.  It feels like there was another idea for the movie – something much darker and R-rated.

Since then, more and more people rediscovered the movie and reviewed it.  In true internet fashion, the other reviewers followed RLM’s style and came down hard on the movie.  Not saying it is uncalled for necessarily, but just search “Tammy and the T-Rex” on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean in titles of the reviews.

Well, sure enough, over the past few years, it was revealed that Tammy and the T-Rex did indeed have a different original version.  Something that was a bit darker, and, maybe more importantly, gorier.  So, through the efforts of our good friends at Vinegar Syndrome, this new version of the movie is finally seeing the light of day.

What’s interesting, though, is that I’m not sure what the original intention of the director and co-writer, Stewart Raffill, was.  Basically, he had a chance to film with an animatronic T-Rex that was owned by some guy he knew.  Within the next month or two, it was being shipped to Texas to be placed into a park.  Everything seemed to work, so he was like, “Let’s make a movie with this thing!”  He didn’t have a story, but he only had a month to get everything together before it was too late to work with.  He wrote a script in a week, and they got right to work.  In the end, Raffill just wanted to make a goofy movie for people who liked goofy movies.  He had an opportunity to use the dinosaur, he took that opportunity and ran with it.

So, when you frame it like that, it’s actually a surprisingly well-made movie for having only a couple months to get this thing done.  He got gore master John Carl Buechler to do some of the effects, and he got Terry Kiser, best known as Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s, and enough people to just fill out the movie and production.  Kudos to you, Mr. Raffill.

Now…  I cannot let this sort of shit be.  I want to give this movie the benefit of the doubt.  I really do, but when the movie started I saw the title come up on screen.  I thought to myself, “Hmmm…  I thought that said Tanny and the Teenage T-Rex, but surely…  Surely the auteur behind Mac and Me would not have let a mistake like that pass his notice.  Nah…  He wouldn’t do that.  Oh!  Look!  It’s sexy Denise Richards doing sexy cheerlead…”

Well, fuck.  Kinda hard to give this movie the benefit of the doubt when the optical team misprinted Tammy’s name not once, but TWICE in the original R-rated cut.  Holy fucking shit.  That’s the sort of legendary bullshit that happens to movies that are really, really bad.  Thank the maker for Vinegar Syndrome leaving art AS IS and not changing it back to the proper title.

The movie opens with a bit of a meet cute between Richards’ Tammy (or also, “Tanny” I fucking guess) and Walker’s Michael.  They walk to class after cheerleader and football practice.  They run into her best friend, Byron.  Byron is that type of “Hollywood” character you’d see in the Mannequin movies.  Speaking of, Raffill directed Mannequin 2: On the Move.

In other words, Byron is flamboyantly gay.

Tammy chastises Michael for leaving her a yellow rose because her old boyfriend, Billy, is a goddamn psychopath.  And sure enough, Billy comes pulling up with his crew to find out what the hell Tammy is doing talking to this hunk of a young Paul Walker.  This leads to a knock down, drag out fight that ends in what the cops who come to take Billy away for having a “restraining order” from the school call a “testicular standoff”.  And in case you’re wondering what a testicular standoff looks like, it’s this:

Smash cut to Terry Kiser checking on his dinosaur creation with his hot babe, goon, and science dork goon.  He has the dinosaur there, and his people show off what it can do.  It’s super strong.  It’s got super sharp teeth.  He’s got the ferocity.  It doesn’t have a brain.  That keeps it stuck in the warehouse where he was I guess “built” or “created” or whatever.

That night, Michael is bummed out that Tammy ran away after the fight with psycho Billy.  She calls him to apologize and tell him to come over because she needs to see him.  He sneaks into her bedroom, but is caught by a couple bitches who think the best way to get back at these jerks will be to call Billy.  While this movie will take a moment to remind us all that we were never nowhere near as purdy as 21 year old Paul Walker or 23 year old Denise Richards and we will never get to make out with whatever combo of that pair in our own lives, this moment is broken by Billy and his gang of goons showing up at Tammy’s to deal with this Paul Walker motherfucker.

Michael doesn’t want to run from Billy, but she doesn’t want her parents to know he was there.  By the way…  With Billy and his gaggle of fuck nuggets rampaging through not just the town but Tammy’s parents’ house, how are these people NOT in jail?  I do kind of feel like Billy is definitely showing his credentials to someday make it to the Supreme Court.   Michael runs but is eventually caught by Billy and gets his ass handed to him again.  Instead of dealing with Michael with his own two hands, he loads him up in his trunk and takes him to a “Wild Animal Park” so he can be mauled by a fucking lion.

A motherfucking lion.

Some might call that overkill.  Others, like this blonde bitch that hangs out with Billy’s crew, think it’s pretty fucking funny.  So they let Michael go in this wildlife preserve and Billy tells him that next time he’s gonna fucking kill him.  But I think Billy’s got “next” time confused with “this” time because…  I mean…  He did kind of just dumped his ass off in a crazy wildlife preserve with lions and cougars and leopards and shit.  I’m not a large cat expert, but Michael’s kinda fucked.

And, yeah, Michael gets fucked up pretty bad.  He gets saved by the game warden and brought to the hospital.  Tammy and Byron come to visit him, but he’s in a coma.  No cranial or spinal damage, but he’s not doing so well.  Especially because I think he’s got sudden loss of blood to everywhere that is not his penis.

Dr. Wachenstein (Kiser) and his hot babe, Helga, come to the hospital on the pretense that he’s going to help him come out of the coma.  While he asks Tammy about Michael’s emotional state, Helga unplugs Michael from life support and it appears that he dies.  Tammy and Byron pass out while Helga gets the body and loads him up in Wachenstein’s car.

They get back to the warehouse where the dinosaur is and perform surgery on him.  Wachenstein might not be a very good doctor because he just kind of giggles and laughs and is really bad at cutting open Michael’s head without making a huge mess.  He messes around with his brain to make him move his leg, have an instant boner, etc.

They take his brain out and put it into the dinosaur’s body.  It’s a pretty good scene really.  I mean the goofy comedy is kind of “take it or leave it” if you know what I mean, but the brain removal is kind of gross and gooey.  You can tell Buechler was involved as he was a really good makeup effects guy.  The transplant is complete and the doctor and Helga leave to go fuck around while the scientist assistant and the muscle bound goon are left behind to clean up and order a pizza.

The T-Rex wakes up and realizes that his brain is no longer in his body.  While the assistant ridicules the T-Rex, Michael decides he’s had enough of that shit and bites his head off.  When the muscle-bound goon comes in and threatens the T-Rex with karate, Michael kicks him out of the warehouse and steps on him, killing him.  Outside the warehouse, a little old lady is on the phone reporting what she’s seeing to the disbelief of (not her husband but) her horse betting bookie on the other end of the line.  That’s when the T-Rex approaches her…

But not to kill her, just use the phone to call Tammy.

Now, look…  I know I often complain about tone.  Whether it is here or over as my real persona on Film Seizure, but let me explain exactly why I have no issue with a T-Rex using a payphone, or the next several moments in the movie.  While a movie like, say, It Chapter Two wants to be a scary, creepy clown movie, it also wanted to have a buttload of jokes.  It saw how the first movie played well with the joking around and the chemistry between the younger actors, it doesn’t work that well when the adults are now faced with having to finish off this pretty huge and terrifying threat.  In other other words, I feel It Chapter Two wants to have its cake and eat it too.

Tammy and the T-Rex, on the other hand?  Well, it set out from the beginning to be tongue-in-cheek and a horror comedy.  Maybe it isn’t the best at pulling it off all the way through the movie, but it made no bones about what it wanted to be.  Remember, Raffill wanted to make a silly movie for people who like silly movies.  He just so happened to have an animatronic T-Rex, a couple people to hire as actors, and John Carl Buechler’s phone number.

Alright, so now Michael is out and about now.  He first runs into a couple.  The guy is pretty sure he saw the dinosaur move, but the girl just focuses on wanting to get a purse made from it.  At a party, Tammy and Byron are just bumming around.  I mean, her boyfriend did just die and stuff.  Of course, also some of Billy’s goons are hanging around too.  Again, why these psychos are not in prison is beyond me, but whatever.  Michael shows up and notices that Billy is there being a total dickwad monster as per the usual.

While Billy goes off with the equally psychotic girl that ratted Michael out to Billy when he showed up at Tammy’s and now making a play for Billy herself, he guts the number one goon in Billy’s group.  Michael then goes after Billy and his new fuck buddy.  He first kills the bitchy girl and runs down Billy and decapitates him.  Michael tracks down the rest of Billy’s gang and kills them all pretty brutally.

We’re only about halfway through this movie and Michael has seemingly gotten all his revenge.  Where do we go from here?  I mean, he’s gotta reconnect with Tammy, sure, but does that take all of the remaining 40+ minutes?  Well, the cops come and they learn that it was indeed a dinosaur that caused all the chaos and carnage.  So while Billy’s people are done for, the cops are now aware of some sort of monster running about.  Not only that, but Wachenstein and Helga are also now aware that Michael has escaped.

Michael does what any guy would do with or without a dinosaur’s body – he goes and reveals himself to Tammy.  He shows up at her house and freaks her out.  But while she’s passed out, he takes her to someplace where he can try to communicate with her.  She figures out that his brain is inside the dinosaur.  Her parents see that her room is all messed up and the cops tell them it was a dinosaur that took her.  That… seems plausible, right?

Ultimately, Tammy convinces Byron that Michael’s still alive.  But they need his body back.  So they decide to try to figure out a way to get his body during the funeral.  They do have to still contend with the fact that he is a murderer (even if it is righteous revenge) as well as a valuable commodity.  Basically, they have to avoid the police and Wachenstein and Helga.

Sometime after the funeral, Tammy and Byron try to get Michael’s body,but it’s in pretty bad shape with mice and maggots and so on.  Wachenstein and Helga also strike with the plans to use Tammy as a hostage to make sure Michael goes into their truck to be transported back to his lab.  They fail horribly and get captured by Tammy and Byron.

Still, there is the issue of a body for Michael.  They go to a morgue to see what they can find for him.  Byron finds someone he thinks is perfect.  Because the dude has a huge dick.

A dick so big that no matter how much Byron wants that thing in his bits and bobs, Denise Richards is not interested.

Wachenstein and Helga escape and the cops chase Byron and Tammy who are trying to escape with Michael.  Tammy and Michael hide out at an abandoned farm until the cops get wise to Byron going out there to visit them.  Byron and Tammy ultimately try to talk sense into the police.  When Wachenstein and Helga show up to try to claim the T-Rex, Byron and Tammy fail to convince the cops to help save Michael.  Wachenstein enters with a tranquilizer gun, but Michael kills him.  The police open fire on Michael and it seems they kill him.

But, that is not how it really goes down.  Somehow Michael’s brain was preserved and it now lives with Tammy.  Every day, she comes home, pours alcohol into a tray where his brain is soaking in brain juice, and she uses a camcorder for him to see her.  She is researching bodies for him, but what’s more, she dances for him in sexy lingerie until his brain begins to smoke and spark.

I think this movie is incredibly fun.  Yeah, it’s goofy, and it’s kind of uneven with its tone and intelligence, but it’s fun nonetheless.  It’s a nice slice of 90s fun.  That said, the jokey bits are probably gonna be problematic for people.  A lot of the jokes would be considered insensitive.  Like Byron is overtly gay and a couple of the deputies make pretty broad jokes about not dropping anything around him.  His dad is the sheriff and their last name is Black.  They are basically the only two black characters in the movie.  It’s not as broad, but once you realize it, eh, maybe some wouldn’t be so forgiving of that joke.  Really, it’s mostly a product of how quickly it was written and the era it came from.  I don’t really see this movie as having a really bad bone in its body.  It’s just low brow and cheap entertainment from a time where these jokes were probably more acceptable.

However…  No matter how much fun I can say this movie really is, there is zero way around the fact that this movie is completely bonkers on every level in almost every scene.  You have a teen romance that, at times, plays like a boner comedy.  You have Stephen King level psychopathic bullies.  There’s a revenge story.  There’s a mad scientist and his hot, sexually charged babe who both come off like Boris and Natasha at times.  There the broad gay jokes.

All of that with a dinosaur powered by Paul Walker’s brain.

That’s a level of insanity that is hard to comprehend a serious filmmaker going to.  Okay, yeah, Raffill made Mac and Me, but that is its own level of bonkers.  I’d even go so far to say it’s just a jumbled up mess of missteps than anything else.  No, Raffill made movies like Passenger 57 and The Philadelphia Experiment.  Both at least somewhat liked for their genre appeal.  Throughout his career he won all sorts of awards at various film festivals.  The guy isn’t without some serious talent even if he did do Tammy and the T-Rex and Mac and Me.

Tammy and the T-Rex is one of those movies that, while obviously bad in the traditional sense, is incredibly fun to watch.  It would make for a marvelous headliner in anyone’s Bad Movie Night.  Even if you only watch the PG-13 version, it’s fun.  In fact, that version with several minutes cut out of it to not be R-rated may even be even kookier to watch with friends.

That puts the wraps on this week’s B-Movie Enema.  For next week, it’s time to get into the holiday spirit.  So I decided to check out the holiday slasher Christmas Evil!  You better watch out, you better not cry.  You better come back here in one week’s time!

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