90s kids may recall a trip to the video store in which they rented an innocent, odd little movie called Tammy and the T-Rex. It's a source of nostalgia for some. Yet, history has a way of messing with nostalgic feelings. Case in point, this movie was originally supposed to be an R-rated, schlocky gore fest that was trimmed down to a PG-13 rating and dumped direct-to-video in 1994. Now, 25 years after the fact, the so-called Tammy and the T-rex "Gore Cut" has been assembled and fully restored. The results are, at the very least, baffling and remarkable. Maybe not traditionally great, but remarkable.
For starters, let's go over what Tammy and the T-Rex is about. As simply as possible, the movie centers on Tammy, played by Denise Richards, who finds herself in a rather unique situation as her boyfriend Michael, played by the late Paul Walker, has had his brain implanted in an animatronic T-rex by an evil scientist. Yes, really. Taking that basic premise into account, it's easy to see how this could be turned into a zany, kid-friendly romp. But that wasn't the original intention and this new cut, if anything, serves as an interesting case study in just how different a movie can be from cut to cut, without adding anything that wasn't included in the original shoot. The editing room is where the movie is truly made.
It's important to remember what was going on when this movie was shot in 1994. Jurassic Park had come out the year prior and proved to be a record-breaking, massively successful blockbuster that put dinosaurs into the mainstream consciousness on a level never seen previously. So, Stewart Raffill, the director behind the infamous E.T. ripoff Mac and Me, was tapped to helm this project. Why not get the man who channeled another Steven Spielberg classic to also tap into that dino popularity?
But Stewart Raffill shot a truly gory movie on a shoestring budget. This story is wackadoo on a level few things are. There are so many insane elements to this thing, even outside of the T-rex with a teenage jock's brain in it. A lion mauling, a drunk uncle, grave robbings. And that's not even the half of it. But, it's easy to see, in making it, how one could think in the Blockbuster Video era, that the carnage would overshadow the story. Yet, it's also easy to see why the studio would decide to sanitize this B-movie to try and maximize appeal in the short term.
I distinctly remember renting this movie in my youth. I don't remember much about the PG-13 version, but I'll probably never forget the R-rated version I was treated to at Fantastic Fest. The effects are cheap, yet pull no punches. Many of the kills and carnage that come at the hands of this animatronic T-rex are shocking, cheap or not. And the movie is truly gruesome. So much so, in fact, that I'm very curious to see the original version again and see how they managed to cut around all of the bloodshed.
From a performance standpoint, everyone in this movie is dialed up to eleven. Everyone is playing up some sort of stereotype that doesn't play particularly well through modern eyes. But everyone is committed. Denise Richards, in particular, is giving it her all. One of the most compelling things, to me, was Paul Walker. The charm that would come to define his career later in movies such as The Fast and the Furious was on full display here. It's hard to blame a performer for coming up against the limits of the material on the page. And what's on the page in Tammy and the T-Rex is bonkers.
The arguable ace up its sleeve, if there is such a thing, is the T-rex itself and honestly, it looks terrible. No amount of gore can salvage the cheese oozing from this cheap prop the movie was built around. Yet, it provides more than a few laughs, intentional or not. That's perhaps the main takeaway here. There are plenty of laughs to be had while watching this gory cut of this weird little movie. This is best enjoyed with a large crowd. Gather some friends together, pop this thing in, have some drinks and be prepared to not take it too seriously.
Does the gore cut improve Tammy and the T-Rex? That's really tough to say. It's still post-Jurassic Park trash and it's certainly not a good movie by most traditional definitions. But damned if it isn't amusing. The Tammy and the T-Rex gore cut will be released by Vinegar Syndrome in November over Black Friday weekend.