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Synapse Films presents
Syngenor (1990)

"I want it eliminated. I want all knowledge of it completely obliterated! And I want anyone who stands in my way eliminated as well! And I want the goddamned air conditioner fixed!"
- Carter Brown (David Gale)

Review By: Matt Serafini  
Published: November 07, 2008

Stars: Starr Andreeff, David Gale, Mitchell Laurance, Charles Lucia
Other Stars: Riva Spier, Jeff Doucette, Bill Gratton
Director: George Elanjian, Jr.

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, gore, language and nudity
Release Date: October 28, 2008
UPC: 654930307595
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-B+B B+

DVD Review

A quick look at the Syngenor cover is probably the most effective way for anyone to determine whether or not this early 90s foray into sci-fi territory is for them. Personally speaking, I took one quick glance at it and realized that I absolutely had to review it. Lucky for me, the powers that be here at digitallyObsessed agreed with that notion and sent me the disc (actually, itís more probable that no body else was asking for this but, either way, a victory is a victory).

I was a little stumped when I began to research this one. It was originally released direct to video in 1990, at a time when an 11 year old Matt Serafini was hell bent on renting any and every genre release found on local video store shelves. But Iíd never run across Syngenor in a VHS incarnation, let alone ever hear of it. Admittedly, Iím a sucker when it comes to these types of creature features. Itís probably no surprise to anyone reading this review that the movie doesnít offer much in the way of story or character, and the production values are fairly low (if impressive, considering its budget). But if you can get yourself in the proper frame of mind, I canít imagine NOT enjoying the goofy delights of Syngenor.

You might be asking what the hell a Syngenor is (or maybe not, but Iíve got to assume youíre at least a little curious if youíve made it all the way to the third paragraph). Itís short for SYNthetic GENetic ORganism and itís the main source of conflict here. The Syngenor is a product of Norton Cyberdine (no, not that Cyberdine), a defense contract company on the verge of selling their genetic breakthrough to the US military in the hopes of replacing human soldiers in the next ground war. The CEO, Carter Brown (David Gale of Re-Animator fame), is under a lot of pressure from the get go: heís convinced someone in the company is trying to derail the Syngenor project and assume control of the company (and heís right). If thatísí not enough thereís a pesky reporter by the name of Nick Cary (Mitchell Laurence) snooping around for clues surrounding the mysterious murder of Norton Cyberdine scientist, Dr. Valentine.

Dr. Valentine, it seems, was instrumental in getting the project off the ground but soon realized the dangers of playing God and tried to walk away. Of course, as the film opens heís attacked by a Syngenor and killed for his troubles. His niece, Susan (Starr Andrieff), sets out on a quest for answers surrounding his disappearance and soon forms an uneasy alliance with our resident star reporter Ö just in time to spark the ire of Carter Brown and his army of steadily breeding Syngenor.

So howís that sound? For my money I was instantly taken back to that time in the early 1990s when direct to video features still had the decency to be shot on film and boasted some sort of production budget (however limited). This may not be a good movie in the traditional sense but itís a hell of lot more enjoyable than any of the Ďdeliberately badí creature feature flicks weíre getting on the Sci-Fi channel these days. For one thing the FX work isnít bad at all. The Syngenor are simply men in rubber suits but the creature design still manages a nifty effect. On the carnage side, the gore isnít explicit but at least itís there in a somewhat limited capacity.

What about the story? Youíre not going to watch something called Syngenor for the plot, are you? If so youíre going to get what you deserve, jerk. Itís almost non-existent, but that doesnít matter much. Just like it doesn't matter that our creatures are given a vulnerability as easy to come by as an everyday chemical compound like water. In all fairness it's stated time and time again that these creatures are being engineered to battle in the Middle East, but still. Water? Should it matter that even characters privy to the Syngenor project never think to use water against the creatures once theyíre set loose in Norton Cyberdine Tower? Nah. Thereís more too: Why is Carter Brown always injecting an unexplained green substance directly into his neck? Is it for any reason other than to remind the audience how great a film Re-Animator was? Gotta be. How about the fact that our two intrepid heroes are able to access Cyberdine's top secret lab by simply pulling on the door? That doesnít matter either because it's all in good fun.

In fact, I was having such a good time here that the silliness of the script only helped to make this one better. David Gale goes so far over the top here that this disc is undoubtedly worth the cash just to get a gander at his whacked out performance. The moment where he blows his security guardís brains out for absolutely no reason is absolutely amazing. You can also dig on the fact that Norton Cyberdine, a massive industry leader in defense contracts, seems to have roughly fifteen to twenty employees-including a board of trustees who are easily assembled for an emergency meeting on a Saturday within ten minutes. And it doesnít stop there: just wait until you get a gander at the uniforms of the Cyberdine private army. I wouldnít dream of spoiling that, though.

Apparently, Syngenor is a sequel of sorts to the 1981 horror flick, Scared to Death. I say Ďof sortsí because the FX team really just reused the Syngenor creature outfits here, opting to build an entire film around the monster in the aforementioned movie (although, itís my understanding that the monster in Scared to Death is also called Syngenor Ė rest assured, the completionist in me will be tracking it down soon).

At the end of the day, Syngenor isnít even the worst movie Iíve seen this week (that would be Righteous Kill). You know up front exactly what youíre going to get. Thereís no surprises there. Iím someone that grew up on a steady diet of these flicks and itís amazing how quickly I was able to slip back into that frame of mind after pressing PLAY. I only wish Iíd waited until Friday night to watch this sucker as I wouldíve gone at it with a six pack and a pizza as well. Thereís no better way to tackle Syngenor.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I can't say for certain whether or not Synapse's transfer is the same as the previous Elite release, but it doesn't matter. The image presented on this disc is pretty solid. While Syngenor looks very much like the product of the late 80's - soft focus lenses and overbearing bluish hues - the disc recreates the visual style with a very clean image. The source print is in great shape here, with no sign of damage or deterioration. For a moive that's nearing in on twenty years of age, it's a good, sturdy transfer marred by occasional softness.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 Dolby Surround track doesn't fare as well as the image, but the action and music cues do gain a little rear-channel momentum in its punchier moments. The creature attacks DO provide some jolts which helps make the film a bit more effective than during its apparent HBO run in the early 90s. The talkier moments do occasionally feel drowned out and lifeless, but if you can get past the occasional murkiness, it's a decent track.

The 2.0 track, by contrast, is slightly more consistent. Dialogue is a little more textured and the action swells are nicely conveyed here as well. The minus is that you don't get the jump scares here, but the clarity is a little better. Ultimately you'll have to see which track works better with your setup this time.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dark Forces
Strange Behavior
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Actress Starr Andreeff, Writer Brent V. Friedman, Producer Jack Murphy
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. David Gale as Tokyo Fantastic Film Festival
  2. Publicity Photo Shoot
  3. David Gale Audition
Extras Review: A collection of four brief featurettes: A 2 minute look at the creature FX, David Gale's audition, a far too brisk behind the scenes photo shoot (running just under 2 minutes) and a nifty look at David Gale and the 1990 Fantastic Film Festival (clocking in at nearly 8 minutes). Of all the features, the last piece is the only one really worth looking at as it offers a fun insight into the Tokyo Film Festival. Gale seemed like an incredibly nice and spoft-spoken individual and it seems like he was genuinely moved by the enthusiasm this crowd had for his presence. It's a shame his life was cut too short as his work in the horror genre was always worth checking out.

The audio commentary is a solid talk between writer, producer and actress that spends a lot of time reminiscing about the shoot. It's an engaging discussion that thankfully spends very little time on the film's plot and more on working with one another, how the project came to be and some of the decisions which were ultimately made and why. For a fan of this title, this is the reason to get this disc.

Trailers and some behind the scenes pictures round out this collection.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Synapse is distributing Syngenor in a release identical to the 2002 DVD released by Elite Entertainment. In this package you get solid sound and picture and an enjoyable bundle of supplemental material. Rest assured if I didnít get this disc for review I would certainly be fixing to add it to the collection. A rush of ridiculous entertainment that should please those who get their kicks from trawling the most obscure depths of genre entertainment. It's a no brainer here, folks. Syngenor is recommended.


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