Dino December #5: The Lost Dinosaurs / The Dinosaur Project (2012)

With such a title and a plot synopsis, The Lost Dinosaurs comes across as a Congo knock-off, with dinosaurs instead of simians. So i was – if anything – surprised to learn this is filmed in mockumentary/found footage style, which i think it’s a first for these dinosaurs themed flicks. I wasn’t expecting a jurassic take on Blair Witch Project, of all things. I don’t like this style, i really don’t, but i have to respect the effort into coming up with an absurd idea like this, even if the movie turns out to a complete shitshow.

The plot sees Luke, an adventure enthusiast, secretly embark with his father and uncle on an expedition to find the legendary cryptid Mokele Mbembe (basically the african cousin of good ol’ Nessie) in Congo, and in secluded jungle they actually find animals looking like dinosaurs, thought to have gone extinct 65 millions years ago…

The movie is produced by StudioCanal, was filmed entirely in South Africa, and unlike many crappy dinosaurs movie featured in Dino December, this actually got a theathrical release in the United Kingdom, under his original title, The Dinosaur Project (which is also the name of the expedition in the movie), which is a bit generic, i guess explicitely to surprise a theathrical audience that – reasonably – don’t just assume it’s “obviously” gonna be in mockumentary style.

And it sticks to that, beginning with a text crawl at the beginning this was all compiled by using untouched footage they found (yes, there is an explanation to why the found the footage in the first place), and using some fake TV news reports, but there is explanation for some of the angles that are not directly filmed by the cameraman, by having the stowaway son put lots of camera around the places, which is a bit farfetched, but it’s found footage, so we gotta have a reason for it, and it’s mostly well explained and justified in-movie, so there’s nothing worth complaining.

So, the dinosaurs themselves… go from decent to good, a lot, lot better than usual for these low budget movies. Not great, but at best they look good, at worst they look alright and interact believably with the enviroment and the actors. Good variety, as well. Overall production values are good, and the extra funding definitely helps to make this lost world and its scaled inhabitants more real and believable. Not a huge budget, i’d say, but it feels like it was put to good use.

The characters are decent, there’s some nice conflict as the son basically sneakily joined the expedition to spend time with his father, who is rarely home due to his job, and he wants to show he could be an explorer as well, there are some twists and not expected turns, and overall there is more to the plot than i expected , the fairly short runtime (80 minutes) helps to keep things going all throughout, an it ends with on a strangely – kinda – positive note for a movie like this.

There is some horror, more in the later parts of the movie, but there’s barely any blood, and it’s not a problem here because the overall execution is enough to sustain the movie by itself. More surprisingly it doesn’t feel like a Cloverfield rip-off, which i kinda expected… not directly anyway, since found footage movies existed way before Matt Reeve’s film, and this isn’t about depicting a realistic ground level experience of normal people during a giant monster attack, the dinosaurs aren’t kept hidden until the last minutes. Ironically, i wasn’t too far off in the intro, this is more like a dinousaur themed found footage version of 1995’s Congo (both movies are set in Congo, incidentally), also an adaptation of a Michael Cricthon’s novel, one that was widely panned as basically a Jurassic Park knock-off but with primates.

Decent little movie, not amazing, surprising or incredibly thrilling, but for an oddball concept as found footage dinosaur movie, Sid Berret’s opus is a decent execution of the idea. Take this from a guy who is fairly biased against found footage movies as whole.

Worth checking out for the cinematic dino entusiaths, absolutely!



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