Making the World Safe for Indian Casinos: “Organizm: Living Hell”

July 3, 2008

Organizm (or Living Hell as it was retitled abroad to make it sound, er, scarier) begins with a prologue so devoid of good taste and that it plays so perfectly straight, you have to wonder if writer/director Richard Jefferies has, you know, normal human feelings or if he stalled out sometime around eleven years old.

The movie begins in 1959 when little Frank Sears is being bullied by his emotionally unbalanced mother to remember the words “Sublevel three; vault 12.” A visibly-traumatized Frankie remembers it well enough, but mom decides to make sure he never forgets it by using a penknife to carve it into his hands! Mom then proceeds to confront dad, who is in the garage workshop making a bookcase or something. They fight about something ominous, and then mom proceeds to blow dad away and then shoot herself while little Frankie watches.

Well, we’re already off to a rollicking start. Nothing like a good dose of domestic violence, murder and suicide to set the tone for what is sure to be a stupid film. What, they couldn’t have tortured some kittens or something just to top things off? Goddamn, five minutes into this movie and I was hoping for a giant squid to rear its tentacle-laden head.

Okay, so flash-forward to present day and Frankie has matured into an emotionally-burnt high school science teacher on a mission. He bullies his way into the Army base where his mother and father used to work. The base is being closed down and handed back to the locals Native Americans so they can build a casino. This surprising amount of background story goes precisely nowhere, so don’t bother memorizing it or anything. Frank meets up with Jim and Carrie, the base’s husband and wife team of HAZMAT handlers (Jason Wiles and Erica Leerhsen, thankfully having ditched her weird highlights from Wrong Way 2). Frank tells them that something horrible is in sublevel three, vault 12 and that they should not open it up under any circumstances. He tells them about his whack-job mother and shows them the scars on his hands to prove what a whack-job she was.

The military tells him that they’d been through that area and hadn’t found anything, but at the sight of Frank’s scarred palms, they decide to take a closer look. Sure enough, there’s a fake wall and a steel containment unit. Okay, pop quiz time. You have found a containment unit from the 1950s that the military buried, hid, and expunged all records of. Do you:

A) Transport the containment unit to a secure facility for storage or study?

B) Leave the unit there to be encased in the concrete and buried when the base is decommissioned?

C) Open it up in an uncontained environment and start poking the stuff inside of it?

If you answered C, you are just stupid enough to be a character in this movie. Soon, organic tendrils explode out of the unit and begin absorbing everything around them, including Jim (our token hottie is single again! Woo-hoo!). Within moments the tendrils are taking over the whole base. The military promptly runs and sets ups a makeshift command post in a nearby bowling alley (sure, why not?) and begins making a plan to fight the, uh, tendrils of death.

Now might be a good time to point out that had Frank just shut the hell up and not called the military’s attention to sublevel three, vault 12, none of this would have happened. Thanks Frank. Way to be a hero.

Okay, let’s speed this along, shall we? The tendrils are taking over the town and growing at an exponential rate. The military’s counter-offensive (consisting of tanks, troops and howitzers—what is this 1944?) fails spectacularly, because an armored division may not be the best way to fight ravenous tendrils. Meanwhile, Frank and Carrie frantically race about trying to figure out what the secret of the organizm is. They discover that the guy Frank’s mom ventilated wasn’t his real father. His real father was a whack-job Soviet defector who worked with the US Army to create the ultimate biological weapon using his own tissue. When it got out of hand, the Army sealed it all up in sublevel…well, you know.

The kicker is that, because the organizm was grown from his father’s tissue, Frank’s blood kills the thing (uh, what?) Frank runs around cutting himself and bleeding on the rapidly-expanding organizm. Finally, they decide to go after it at its source, the nucleus in sub-level blah, blah, blah. This leads to ooky scene #2 in which Jefferies plays “wah-wah” Cinemax soft-core-porn music on the soundtrack as Frank repeatedly cuts himself and slathers Carrie’s nude body with his blood to protect her. Now I’m not opposed to gratuitous nudity in a crappy horror movie—often times it’s all they’ve got going for them—but don’t try to titillate me with a nude scene that is obliviously intercut with acts of self-mutilation.

Oh, and based on the evidence, Frank has gallons of blood.

So Frank and Carrie race against time to kill the organizm before the military nukes the whole town (which along with killing everyone in town and preventing the building of a new casino will just feed the organizm and allow it to take over the world). Can they succeed? Does Frank have enough blood left to stop the monster? Will New Mexico glow for a little while? Well, to ensure that you never see this movie, the answers are yes, yes, and no.

Organizm falls down in a lot of ways. Aside from the general ickiness, to which Jefferies seems completely blind, the tendril monster just isn’t that scary or interesting. The climax of Frank bleeding on a mass of tendrils lacks some suspense (to be charitable). The whole military-screws-up-and-wants-sterilize-the-area is beyond trite, and as Frank Jonathan Schaech is a blank slate.

The movie also screws up everything military-related. Now, I’m not insisting they get the minutia right, but when troops are seen on the news on a daily basis, doesn’t Jeffries think the audience may be hip to the fact that the uniforms in the movie are a solid thirty years out of date? And you don’t have to be a jet-head to notice that the stock-footage F-16 interceptors that are supposed to be delivering the nuclear strike aren’t carrying any payload! Jesus, Richard, why didn’t you just use footage of a TWA 747 or C-130 Herky Bird or hey, as long as we’re suspending our disbelief, maybe The Spirit of St. Louis or the Wright Brothers flyer?

Okay, so there you go: Organizm. Making the world safe for Indian casinos through domestic violence and self-mutilation. God Bless America.


  1. Thanks again, for keeping another clunker off my Netflix queue.

  2. It’s what I do.

  3. hey I just watched the movie and I typed ‘living hell is stupid’ and found this site. I have to say it’s a hilarious yet accurate depiction of what crap the movie was. I will live the rest of my life regretting the fact I wasted some of it on this waste of time. At least by coming here I gained something out of it.

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