When is a sequel not a sequel? Mind Ripper began life as an actual third instalment in The Hills Have Eyes franchise – despite having no connections either through character or incident to the first two films – until Wes Craven changed his mind and left what became a HBO TV movie (with direct-to-video debuts in Europe) to stand on its own merits; Germany was having none of this and released it as The Hills Have Eyes 3 anyway.
You can see why they would. Despite a handful of interesting cast members, there’s very little to mark this out as either distinctive or intriguing enough to warrant your attention. It’s ploddingly written and unimaginatively directed (by Joe Gayton, creator of AMC’s Hell on Wheels for TV), and looks like the poorer cousin to a substandard mid-series episode of The X-Files. Only the Craven affiliation (co-writer Jonathan Craven was Wes’ son) will arouse your curiosity, and you might wish it hadn’t.
Lance Henricksen is head of a secret underground laboratory housed in an old nuclear facility somewhere in the American desert, researching a new life-giving virus when the ultimate test case drops into the team’s lap: a suicide victim. Throwing protocol to the wind, ‘Thor’ (Blom) is injected with the virus and six months later, after Henricksen has quit the project in disgust, is now a laboratory rat intended as the first of a new breed of super-soldier. But when Henricksen’s replacement John Diehl increases Thor’s doses tenfold in order to hurry things along, Thor begins reacting in unexpected and violent ways.
Thenceforth it’s cliché after irrationality as Diehl, and Henricksen’s would-be old flame Claire Stansfield, call their ex-boss back to the facility to help them sort out the mess, while Thor goes on the rampage, murdering the (insanely unlikely) scientists one by one as he begins to mutate into something more, or less, than human.
There are some pretty risible plot developments – even in a low aspiration horror it beggars belief that Henricksen (apparently embarrassed at his involvement in this) takes his teenaged kids on holiday to the covert military base he’s just received a distress call from – but it’s almost rescued by the cast. Henricksen himself is always dependable, and soars above the material he’s given, and a young Giovanni Ribisi is also much better value than his hackneyed character had any right to be. Sadly the female leads – including Natasha Wagner – are rather self-conscious and much less capable, and the music, lighting, effects and camerawork (none of which are flattered by this new Blu-ray edition) mostly serve only to sap any residual tension that might have arisen.
There’s a fairly substantial Jonathan Craven interview included to pique your interest, though.
Extras: trailer, Jonathan Craven interview
REVIEW: MIND RIPPER (aka THE OUTPOST) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOE GAYTON / SCREENPLAY: JONATHAN CRAVEN, PHIL MITTLEMAN / STARRING: LANCE HENRIKSEN, GIOVANNI RIBISI, NATASHA WAGNER, CLAIRE STANSFIELD, JOHN DIEHL, DAN BLOM, GREGORY SPORLEDER / RELEASE DATE: 25TH JUNE