Color, 1990, 98m.
Directed by George Elanjian Jr. / Starring Starr Andreef, Mitchell Laurance, David Gale, Charles Lucia, Lewis Arquette
Synapse (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9) / DD5.1

A very low budget pastiche of pretty much every Hollywood sci-fi hit from the 1980s, the heavily-hyped and instantly forgotten Syngenor assaulted unsuspecting home video viewers in 1990 but feels very much like a product from the earlier decade. Neon colors, feathered hair, and lots of old-school monster effects highlight this straightforward romp about the havoc unleashed by the Norton Cyberdyne company (hmm, where'd they come up with that one?), which has created a new breed of soldier able to aid the military's efforts in the Middle East. Named Syngenor (an abbreviation from Synthesized Genetic Organism, of course), this creature soon kills its primary creator and engineer, Ethan (Arquette), whose niece, Susan (Andreef), teams up with a reporter (Laurance) to uncover the truth. Of course, said truth is a little hard to take when you're talking about rampaging genetically engineered mutant biolizard men who rip off people's heads and suck the juice out of their nervous systems. Meanwhile the company head (late Re-Animator star David Gale) becomes more than a bit monstrous himself as he tries to control to continuously escalating mess around him, namely by shooting himself in the neck with various chemicals and doing unspeakable things with fake bunny ears.

Kind of a sequel to director William Malone's first film, 1981's Scared to Death, this guilty pleasure recycles the monster suit and the name of the creature, but little else. The rest is blatantly pilfered from The Terminator and Aliens (as well as Contamination and a slew of others if you're paying attention), with the gaudy visual gloss you usually don't see outside of a Shapiro-Glickenhaus production. Apart from Gale, everyone seems to be a TV actor cashing in a check, but the script manages a few nice little humorous riffs now and then, particularly during the berserk climax. No, it's not really very good at all, but the entertainment value is definitely there if you're in the right frame of mind.

Syngenor first bowed on DVD courtesy of Elite Entertainment, then went out of print and was subsequently resuscitated by the good folks at Synapse. The transfer looks great considering the movie came during a period not known for visually sumptuous horror films; the anamorphic widescreen framing looks fine, and those hot neon colors pop right off the screen. You also get a new 5.1 mix along with the original two-channel stereo track known and loved by old-school VHS collectors. Not surprisingly, most of the exras center on David Gale, who's seen promoting the film in 1990 at the Tokyo Fantastic Film Festival (along with a guy in the Syngenor suit) and even auditioning for the film. You also get a look at the FX shop of creator Doug Beswick, some footage of the film's publicity photo shoot, and the deliciously dated theatrical trailer.

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