29th Jul2021

‘Endangered Species’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Rebecca Romijn, Philip Winchester, Isabel Bassett, Michael Johnston, Chris Fisher, Jerry O’Connell, Brenda Ngeso, George Glenn Ouma, Aseem Sharma, Pritul Raithatha, Stephen Adogo | Written by M.J. Bassett, Isabel Bassett | Directed by M.J. Bassett

Endangered Species comes from writer/director M.J. Bassett (Solomon Kane, Silent Hill: Revelation) who explored similar territory in both the 2006 film Wilderness, which saw teens put on an island and having to fend for themselves; and much more recently with Rogue, the Megan Fox, killer lion film from last year.

This film combines both into a story that sees Robert Halsey (Philip Winchester), his wife Andi (Rebecca Romijn), teenage daughter Katie, and young son Toby take a trip to the Amboseli National Park in Kenya. Wanting to experience adventure in the wilderness, they head down a forbidden road to a remote area of the vast national park without a guide, when a hair-raising encounter with a wild rhino leaves their car a wreck and the family stranded miles off the main trail. Under the suffocating African sun, they soon find themselves stalked by hyenas and facing deadly attacks from leopards, but when they discover a vicious gang of armed poachers they find that man is the most deadly animal on the savanna…

I’m not going to lie, the main reason I wanted to check out Endangered Species is that it sounded like a modern take on the exploitation movies of the 70s – in particular those crazy out-of-control animal movies like Day of the Animals, mixed with more classic fare like Walkabout and Wake in Fright. There is even a hint of the Tippi Hedren starrer Roar here, with Endangered Species having something to say about mans impact on nature.

Unfortunately the film spends a lot of time focusing on familial infighting and the pent up tensions between the Halsey’s rather than the situation they’re in – be it when they’re walking through the Africa landscape or sat trapped in their destroyed safari van. We get that first flurry of excitement when the families transport is attacked by a rhino (which technically isn’t the rhinos fault, given that the Halsey’s park between a rhino mother and her calf) and then Endangered Species spends FAR too long on discussion, sparingly interspersing any vicious animal – and later human – action. Discussion that tells the audience exactly where M.J. Bassett and daughter Isabel Bassett, who plays daughter Zoe in the film, heads are at… This is a film with a message. A heavy-handed message but a message nonetheless.

We do eventually get to some action once Jerry O’Connell and his band of poachers turn up but by then its too little too late; the mundanity has set in and no amount of conflict between poachers and people – not even with the threat of death – can bring back the brief excitement of the films original rhino attack. Oh, and did I mention that all the animals in this film are rendered in CGI? CGI that only a step above the effects of The Asylum… which also totally takes the edge off this film!

Special Features:

  • Director’s Commentary
  • Commentary with Cowriter-Director-Producer M.J. Bassett and Actors Philip Winchester and Jerry O’Connell
  • Cast and Crew Interviews

Endangered Species is available on Digital Download and DVD now from Lionsgate UK.

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