SYNGENOR begins with a topless babe getting attacked by the titular creature, who gives her a laser beam French kiss. Later a mad scientist blows people up with an incinerator gun and a woman is genetically combined with the Syngenor to become a slimy two-headed what’s-it. Think what you will, but I’ll always have a soft spot for movies like this.
This 1990 film is often credited as a sequel to William Malone’s largely forgotten no-budgeter SCARED TO DEATH (1981), and the mold of the monster from that film—“inspired” by H.R. Giger’s ALIEN design—was carried over. So was the script, a Malone project that ended up heavily rewritten.
If nothing else, SYNGENOR has a mighty fun cast, with the late David Gale (of RE-ANIMATOR fame) headlining. Also on hand is ex-SNL cast member and prolific character actor Mitchell Laurence, Lewis Arquette (father of Roseanna, Patricia, Alexis and David) and Melanie Shatner (daughter of William). The screenwriter Brent V. Friedman also did the honors for THE RESURRECTED and TICKS, while director George Elanjian, Jr. is known for his many television credits and two installments of the eighties PLAYBOY VIDEO MAGAZINE series.
One night at the multinational Norton Cyberdyne Corporation a nasty critter is unleashed. It’s a Syngenor (or SYNthesized GENetic ORganism), created to be a perfect killing machine for the US military. The formerly captive critter, freed by some airheaded Cyberdyne employees and their accompanying bimbos, goes on a rampage, invading the house of the pretty young Susan. It kills her father (and rips his penis off in the process) but Susan manages to fight the Syngenor off with flammable hairspray.
Susan becomes obsessed with finding the creature’s origins, and enlists Nick, a journalist, in her quest. They start by casing out the Cyberdyne Corporation, where unbeknownst to them a bubble-brained receptionist loosed several Syngenors from the building’s basement the night before. The elderly Carter Brown, Cyberdyne’s nutty CEO, dispatches a security force to eliminate the Syngenors. But Brown is rapidly losing his mind and quickly reverses himself, deciding he wants the deadly creatures to remain alive.
Lots of killing ensues at the hands of the Syngenors and the increasingly batshit Brown. The finale arrives with a genetically altered Syngenor-woman thing facing down Susan and Nick, who’ve been herded back into the Cyberdyne building by the rampaging Syngenor who killed Susan’s father. A Cyberdyne-designed vaporizing gun called a Death Rattler comes into play here—as you might guess, splatter ensues!
SYNGENOR’S tagline “Product of science…nightmare from Hell!” nicely summarizes this film, an energetic exercise in grade-B exploitation that knows its place. It’s fast moving and witty, although I’m not sure how many of the laughs were intentional.
Particularly fun bits include the Syngenors’ laser-tongue French kisses (depicted with technology that was archaic even when this film was made); the sight of the fiftyish David Gale injecting himself behind the ear with some unidentified drug; and the dancing death throes the Syngenors perform as they’re shot—and then there’s the absolutely priceless dialogue like “Underneath all that tough stuff you’re just as scared as I am!”
Of course every monster movie, from ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS to JURASSIC PARK, has a slow section, which afflicts SYNGENOR’S middle act. The final third, however, is pure B-movie bliss, with many elements—a dangerous car chase, a suspenseful crawl through an air duct, the climactic THING-like mutation–that are actually quite well-done. So too are the Syngenors themselves, which outside their obvious similarity to H.R. Giger’s ALIEN design are impressive creations.
Overshadowing it all is the deliriously overamped emoting of David Gale as the loony Dr. Brown, surely the most unforgettable performance in a nineties-sploitation movie since Diane Ladd eviscerated the scenery of CARNOSAUR. Gale, who died in 1991, made quite an impression in the many films he appeared in, but none more so than the present one. The fact is SYNGENOR wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as it is without the contributions of Mr. Gale (ditto RE-ANIMATOR). He’ll be sorely missed.
Associated Screen Artists, Inc.
Director: George Elanjian, Jr.
Producer: Jack E. Murphy
Screenplay: Brent V. Friedman
Cinematography: James Mathers
Editing: Ellen Keneshea
Cast: Starr Andreeff, Mitchell Laurence, David Gale