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John’s Horror Corner: Endangered Species (1982), a very strange crime/medical thriller with a serious cast.

February 11, 2023

MY CALL: I feel I have stumbled unexpectedly across a gem! This movie is really way better than the premise or movie posters would ever suggest. Fans of 80s (sort of) science thrillers, government conspiracies and obscure cinema ought to love this.

After resigning from the police force and becoming sober, ex-New York cop Ruben (Robert Urich; The Ice Pirates) heads to Colorado for a fresh start. Investigating a series of bizarre cattle mutilations, the local sheriff (JoBeth Williams; Poltergeist) reluctantly accepts Ruben’s help… and his romantic advances.

The mutilated cattle are somehow missing all of their organs as if they just evaporated, and their heads are “bisected” perfectly revealing a cross-section of skin, muscle and bone layers. Cattle tradesman Ben (Hoyt Axton; Gremlins) suspects devil worshippers, and doesn’t like it when the local news and sheriff keep digging deeper into this case.

So I’m watching this movie and I’m totally expecting a cheap gorefest of a creature feature, and then later I’m expecting an alien Sci-Horror type movie. Halfway into this film I no longer have any idea what genre I’m watching. I thought it was horror originally—literally, this was an accident as it was suggested to me as a Horror movie by Amazon. But now I’m thinking it’s more like a medical-crime thriller. Still, I’m liking it!

But what’s most interesting about this forgotten flick—that I’ve somehow never heard of—is that it has a pretty serious cast and a much more serious story than I expected. The additions of Peter Coyote (The 4400, Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis), Dan Hedaya (The Hunger, Alien: Resurrection) and Harry Carey Jr. (Gremlins, The Exorcist III) bring gravity to this unraveling mystery in which the monsters are as human as you and me. Cliché, I know. But this movie does it well.

Director Alan Rudolph (Premonition, Terror Circus) made an interesting film that has nearly been lost in the ether. I suspect genre-confusion may have been part of the reason it’s so poorly known. The poster, premise, and even the vibe of the movie scream for horror, and a man’s guts spill out of his body in one scene (along with some other gory moments). Yet, as I’ve said, horror this most certainly is not.

Decent movie, though!


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