Before watching the movie:
I didn’t even know this was a Roger Corman movie when I selected it, but as a B-movie that looks a fair bit exploitative, it’s not terribly surprising. I’ve been drawn lately toward b-movies as it becomes harder to find suitable major releases through the channels I’m accustomed to.
It’s even confusing just what the threat is. The poster depicts an insectlike creature, the tagline refers to a human-alien hybrid, and the summary in front of me talks about “Subject 20” having been created with an eye toward preventing a food crisis. I’m not sure any of the promotional materials are all that concerned with the movie they’re promoting.
After watching the movie:
Mike Colby is awoken from deep sleep by his robot assistant SAM and told that he’s been diverted from his homecoming to solve a problem at the research station on Xarbia. The researchers have been working with a synthetic DNA strain called “Proto-B”, which causes rapid growth and development in organisms it’s introduced to the genome of. However, Subject 20 develops out of control, violently destroying the genetics lab before cocooning itself and going dormant. The scientists refuse Colby’s suggestion to kill Subject 20, and soon it awakes and starts killing the research team.
While the movie’s technobabble wants to be state of the art, the idea that Proto-B harmlessly accelerated growth until combined with human DNA, and then created a metamorphic monster with high intelligence and little else human, seems to come more from mythological ideas about monsters with animal heads and human bodies and vice versa. The only defining difference between humans and animals is assumed to be intelligence and adaptability, which are shown to be the only traits that Subject 20 inherited genetically.
Since science fiction is a popular way to enable horror elements in modern storytelling, I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t unique in combining the square-jawed always-right hero archetype of classic sci-fi with the horror movie rules about who lives and dies. The arrogant and impure are punished, except for the hero. The hero gets an intimate scene with the character who would otherwise be a classic horror Final Girl, and it doesn’t affect her outcome. And the one marked from the beginning as the heroic sacrifice gets derailed to no benefit other than that the hero gets to strike the final blow.
SAM is an interesting bit of worldbuilding that the script mostly ignores. The running joke is that SAM is never allowed to be very useful because people keep turning him off when he annoys them, which is often. But functionally, SAM isn’t important to the plot except for a few moments of exposition, mostly at the beginning. It’s a little like series writers sidelining the robot sidekick because the story would be over in five minutes if the robot was still in play, only this is a standalone movie and the robot isn’t an obligatory part of the cast. Also, the artificial intelligence the humans turn off whenever they feel like it, sometimes in the middle of a sentence, was handled better in early seasons of Star Trek: Voyager.
As a hybrid, this movie keeps some of the more interesting elements of both sci-fi and horror, but leans more heavily on its more worn-out tropes. Even in its time, some of those tropes were antiquated. The effects are very well-done, but they serve a movie that’s more about what exciting things it can put on screen than what exciting ideas it can explore. It’s like chips and dip. It’s not okay to eat dip by itself, but the entire point of the chip is to deliver the dip, and the entire point of this movie is to deliver the visuals.