Bargain-bin shopping for DVDs is usually one of the most soul-destroying, unrewarding pursuits imaginable. Beneath the low-budget eighties Rom-Com flicks starring Michael J. Fox and mainstream cast-offs like Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and Pledge This!, there exists a barely habitable dead zone of salvaged no-budget D-grade horror (usually lacking in anything remotely scary) and fringe art-house soft-core porn (usually lacking in adequate nudity to justify the 'scandalous!' tag it boasts). After so many misadventures and false hopes, I started to believe that there was no such thing as an over-looked classic; what you see in the bargain-bin is almost always there for a reason. When I picked up Hybrid for $2.95 at Video Ezy (it was too cheap to resist), I regarded it with the defeatist melancholy of the disillusioned; this would be more of the same, just another cheap date…how wrong I was.
|Director: Fred Olen Ray
Starring: John Barrymore III, Brinke Stevens, J.J. North, Tim Abell, Ted Monte, G. Gordon Baker
Screenplay: Sean O'Bannon
Music: Jeffrey Walton
Tagline: An experiment gone awry…turns deadly
Hybrid is essentially an amalgamation of the two 'dead zone' movies I mentioned before: soft-core porn and no-budget D-grade horror. It's a classy combination that, as I am sure my fellow contributors will agree, rarely fails to provoke a smile on the face of even the most jaded film critic…even David and Margret would have to chuckle at the soft-core shenanigans of Hybrid. The film actually takes the genre a step further by adding some SF elements into the mix, which certainly amps up the late-night novelty factor.
Our story begins when aliens dressed like Power Rangers (nope, not kidding) attack Earth, destroying a few cars, smashing a few windows and generally reigning down an unholy wrath of Star Wars-era special effects that obliterate most human life. A handful of survivors trawl their way through the desert; among them is blonde vixen Carla (J.J. North, from Vampire Vixens from Venus, Attack of the 60ft Centerfolds, Vice Academy 5, and Bikini Hotel) and feisty brunette, Dr. Leslie Morgan (Brinke Stevens, from Demon Sex, Corpses Are Forever, Mark of the Astro Zombies, The Slumber Party Massacre, and The Vampire Hunters Club). Two 'internationally famous' soft-core/scream queens in one film? Somebody get me a towel!
The motley crew of misfits eventually runs into a lone soldier known only as McQueen (hey!) and sexual tension immediately sparks. However, there's no time for 'what's-a-nice-girl-like-you-doing-in-a-post-apocalyoptic-wasteland-like-this?' small talk as an ion shower is coming (I have no idea what an ion shower is but they seem to happen all the time in SF) so the crew must take refuge in an abandoned Laboratory. Cue the bad dialogue! "This place doesn't look anything like the travel brochure!"; "Now you know why they're only selling one way tickets!"…Classic.
Although things are looking grim – there are no scientists around, and the place is littered with severed limbs and gelatinous blue slime – there's always time for some girl-on-girl shower action. Leslie and Carla get their kit off and, after a few complaints about their inattentive male companions ("He doesn't know there's a woman underneath all that armour"), a harmless back-rub turns into a breast massage, then a thigh-rub… then the grinding eighties porn soundtrack kicks in and the girls pass the soap back and forth, exchanging shallow gasps, coquettish giggles, sensual moans and salacious groans.
It's not all hard soapy nipples and hot lesbian shower scenes though; a quick examination of the laboratory uncovers a journal and videotapes that detail the horrendous nature of the experiments taking place under the command of Artemus International; a group so fiendishly twisted "their experimental methods make that Dr. Mengele look like some little kid who just used to pull the wings off files". The tapes reveal that human subjects were injected with alien, snake and cockroach DNA, irradiated to stimulate growth and then placed in isolation for monitoring. Obviously, nobody thought this was such a bad idea until one of these super-mutated hybrids got loose and massacred everybody (take that pseudo-Nazi scientist-types). When one of the crew goes missing, the rest are quick to catch on that whatever was manufactured here is still lurking around in the basement. Trapped inside the lab, their only source of shelter from the ion storm, the crew must survive the night. Unfortunately for Carla and Leslie, the Hybrid isn't only interested in pointless killing: as it turns out, he's been getting pretty horny in the basement and he's got his mind on some mutant-on-girl fondling. Will the crew survive unmutilated? Will the hybrid get to cop a feel? Will we get to see J.J and Brinke's gorgeous naked bodies again? You probably already know the answers are No, Yes, and Yes-Yes-Oh-God-Yes! But knowing the end isn't what's important; it's the journey that matters, and knowing that you made it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
Hybrid is a real masterpiece of schlock. The plot was culled from Alien and the direction is awful; people wandering too close to the camera, fight scenes choreographed by a pre-school judo instructor, set pieces that include an alien foetus in a jar, and costumes by the same guys who dress the Power Rangers make the whole thing seem like it was filmed for day-time TV. The Hybrid monster-effects are dirt-cheap looking; the actual monster is rarely seen except for a few mouth/teeth shots to disguise the fact that the puppet-suit looks suspiciously like a giant latex penis with fangs (how's that for Freudian nightmare!). The actors were clearly not chosen for their prowess; Brinke Stevens really tries to make her part as a doctor convincing, but J.J. North just looks like a porn star with a Geiger counter and overalls. That said the dialogue isn't too bad; granted it's not winning any Oscars, but when an overweight beardo screams out "It's time to maintain the sex machine!" whilst thrusting his crotch into the air, you'd be made of stone if you didn't laugh. By far, the most technically superior direction is reserved for the sex scenes, which Ray handles like a pro: letting the shot linger just long enough to arouse interest before cutting to a close-up, dissolving to a more salacious pose and leaving the gynaecological details to your own sick imagination; the man knows what he's doing in the soft-porn department.
Hybrid isn't winning any prizes soon; it's tacky, derivative, cheap, tasteless; high on boobs and low on brains. However, I simply cannot resist the charm of bad Nineties SF/Horror/Soft-Porn that never takes itself seriously; the credits end with a disclaimer, "No live girls were injured or impregnated during the making of this motion picture". Hybrid has single-handedly reaffirmed my faith in bargain-bin shopping and discovering an under-appreciated, 'not-quite-classic, but-still-cool' film to brag to my friends about. The promise of a sequel, "Coming soon…Hybrid 2: The Patter of Little Feet", seems destined to be unfulfilled for now, but who knows what the future holds?