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Reappraisals: Tammy And The T-Rex At 25

After the ground-breaking revelation that was Steven Spielberg’s era-defining blockbuster epic Jurassic Park, the public’s fascination with dinosaurs had been reignited; with the advancements in special effects that this film had pioneered, the possibilities for bringing these long-extinct creatures to life on the screen felt limitless. Director Stewart Raffill, who has been no stranger to hastily ripping off famous Spielberg touchstones in the past with his infamous E.T. cash-grab known as Mac & Me, takes this newfound dinosaur craze to explore the simple yet timeless story of boy meets girl, boy has brain implanted into robot dinosaur, girl falls in love with dinosaur.

Nearly 20 years before Guillermo del Toro refined the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story in its most tender and poignant iteration, Tammy and the T-Rex walked so that The Shape of Water could run. In order to properly celebrate the 25th anniversary of this underseen so-bad-it’s-good, straight-to-VHS monstrosity, those lovely folks over at Vinegar Syndrome have taken it upon themselves to release a 4K remastered Blu-ray dubbed “The Gore Cut”, which restores all of the blood and violence that were deemed too extreme for the time. 

Tammy and the T-Rex walked so that The Shape of Water could run. An all time so-bad-its good movie so absurd it must be seen to be believed

After what is essentially a brief animated gif of the T-Rex walking alongside the sunset which serves as our title screen (a shot which is from the climax of the movie), the film opens with our protagonist, high school cheerleader Tammy (played by Denise Richards) and her new boyfriend Michael (played by Paul Walker). Tammy is worried about their relationship because her ex-boyfriend Billy is somewhat of the jealous type–in the tamest of descriptions. Billy isn’t just your standard high school bully/abusive ex-boyfriend, he is a psychopathic madman hellbent on literally murdering Michael for trying to steal his girl. What starts as just a typical schoolyard fight that ends in a “testicular standoff” where both men are furiously gripping each other’s private areas with such intensity that they need to be pulled off of each other by the authorities, rapidly escalates into Billy and his gang breaking into Tammy’s house that night to chase Michael into an enclosed animal habitat, beat him senseless, and leave him to be mauled to death by lions.

Meanwhile, a mad scientist is working on his greatest creation: an animatronic dinosaur powered by a human brain. Upon hearing the news of a now comatose high schooler with no immediate family, the scientists steal Michael’s body from the hospital and use his still-functioning brain to power their robot T-Rex. The film never provides us with any particular motivation or logical reasoning for why this scientist even wants to create a robot dinosaur controlled by a human brain in the first place, or what significant technological benefits that this breakthrough will achieve for humanity, but that’s how we get our dinosaur into the plot.

It should be noted that no 4K remaster could possibly improve upon the framework of special effects that the original cut had left us with. When Spielberg uses animatronics and puppets to bring the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to life, it was done to create a feeling of realism and tangibility to the grandiosity of the creatures on screen. Raffill, on the other hand, decides to create an in-universe reason for why the dinosaur is an animatronic because it would never be able to be convincingly passed off as being a real dinosaur. When the dinosaur makes its first kill, it kicks a person through a wooden wall and then steps on his chest. The shots of the dinosaur’s feet are so clearly those of stuntmen wearing rubber dinosaur feet that when the dinosaur steps on the person, it doesn’t so much look like someone being crushed by the weight of a several ton beast, but more like an annoying little brother is making him smell his feet. When we see the aftermath, later on, the man’s body has been flattened to the ground as if he was run over by a cartoon steamroller. Any full-body CGI shot of the dinosaur walking looks like a clip-art image of a 2D dinosaur from Microsoft Paint being dragged across the screen. 

After waking up to discover that he’s been turned into a dinosaur, Michael as the T-Rex goes on a murderous rampage where he kills everyone from the scientists to the high school bullies all in order to reunite with Tammy, and wordlessly professes his love to her ala charades. Once Tammy realizes that her boyfriend is still alive and his brain is being used to power the dinosaur, she and her stereotypically gay best friend Byron take him down to the morgue on a shopping spree for a new body, which has the attitude of going to the mall to try on new dresses. They leisurely stroll up and down the aisles of corpses, cattily pass judgment on the ones that they think are ugly, even going so far as to pull down the sheets of potential suitors to scoff and roll their eyes at the sizes of these deceased men’s unimpressive penises. 

After failing to find a proper replacement body, the gang gets into a high-speed car chase with the cops which leads us to a barn in the middle of nowhere for the final standoff. The cops open fire on the dinosaur and he plops to the ground like a sack of potatoes. Tammy mourns over the body of the presumed dead dinosaur as she now as to mourn the loss of her boyfriend for a second time. A scene with such raw emotional power that even the cops who shot him to death just seconds ago can’t help but sob along with her. 

The epilogue for this emotional roller coaster that we’ve just experienced picks up with Tammy in what could be either a few days, weeks, or months later (it’s not really made clear) as she enters her room with a smile on her face and a generally chipper attitude considering all that she’s been through. She pours two glasses of whiskey (keep in mind that she’s a high schooler) turns over to a video camera in the wall and starts talking to it. It is then revealed that they managed to salvage Michael’s brain by keeping it in a jar which is somehow connected to the video camera. She then performs a softcore striptease for her now camera boyfriend and the movie ends with the brain presumably ejaculating as electrical sparks are emitted from the brain’s new circuit jar habitat.    

There is no clear way to accurately describe what makes Tammy and the T-Rex as special as it is without just seeing the insanity for yourself. Every new scene is just a rampant escalation of illogic and absurdity that any normal movie would never even think to attempt. It’s a non-stop onslaught of laughable camp in every aspect from its story, character motivations, special effects, line deliveries, and essentially every aspect of filmmaking from its core conception. It deserves to stand alongside The Room, Troll 2, and Manos: The Hands of Fate in the pantheon of legendary so-bad-it’s-good movies, and thanks to this new 4K rerelease, it may finally get the chance to find that audience of ironic memesters and drunk college students that it has always deserved.

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