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Film / Proteus

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"Proteus had moved on to new level. It had converted shark's tissue into a new form. Amorphous. That night, it crawled out of tank and consumed every other specimen in the aquarium. We were overjoyed! [Beat] We were idiots..."
Dr. Shelley

Proteus is 1995 horror film starring Craig Fairbrass and Doug Bradley. It concerns drug smugglers Paul, Mark, Linda and Christine, along with two undercover DEA agents named Alex and Rachel, being shipwrecked and seeking refuge on an abandoned oil rig owned by the mysterious Brinkstone Corporation. Aboard, they find a top secret genetic engineering facility, and the shapeshifting horror that the Brinkstone scientists accidentally unleashed.

The script was written by John Brosnan a.k.a. Harry Adam Knight, based on his and Leroy Kettle's novel Slimer. In addition to changing both the title and the name of the compound which creates the monster, Brosnan also switched around characters' names and roles, making Alex of all people the likable DEA agent hero! While mostly a generic Alien ripoff with a dash of Leviathan (1989) and The Thing (1982) thrown in, Proteus still has some good moments and is a far more faithful Brosnan adaptation than the earlier Roger Corman Carnosaur.

Not to be confused with the historical documentary Proteus: A 19th Century Vision. Or the indie video game Proteus.

Tropes used in this movie:

  • Action Girl: Rachel, and later Linda.
  • Action Hero: Alex. So much so that Mark nicknames him "Mr. Macho."
  • Adaptation Distillation: Alex's dickish qualities from the book are split between Mark and Paul, the latter of whom now shares the former's heroin addiction and is the first of the group to get taken by Charlie.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Christine, Rachel and Leonard Brinkstone were named Chris, Rochelle and Lloyd Brinkstone in the novel.
  • Adaptation Expansion: We actually see the characters getting on the boat following the drug deal, whereas in the novel they're already in the life raft when introduced. There's also a prologue where Alex is being grilled by Da Chief.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Alex. In the novel, he's a drug dealer and was easily one of the most despicable characters in the entire story. Now he's a heroic DEA agent.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Brinkstone was a Well-Intentioned Extremist for whom Utopia Justifies the Means in the novel, and not necessarily evil. Here, he's a greedy Corrupt Corporate Executive complete with Mooks.
  • Adaptational Wimp: In the book, Charlie was completely immune to any sort of man-made weapon, and was only defeated when he absorbed the mind of a heroin addict. In the movie, on the other hand, an ordinary flamethrower is enough to kill him. Although the ending implies that Charlie isn't actually dead.
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of the people Charlie absorbs. And scream they do, particularly when he goes One-Winged Angel at the climax.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Many a Jump Scare is provided by this.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Dr. Shelley's video.
  • As Himself: The group finds a Peek-a-Boo Corpse of a guard named Duncan Jarman, who is played by... Duncan Jarman, a rare example of someone playing themselves dead.
  • Asshole Victim: Paul and Mark.
  • The Big Guy: Alex, even lampshaded by him when he brings up that he's 6'3" tall and later complains about being thrown around a second time by people half his size (actually the same shapeshifter in two different forms.)
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: When Charlie absorbs someone, their empty clothes are left behind. This doesn't stop them from appearing fully clothed when Charlie takes on their forms, though.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The pilot of the helicopter that rescues Alex and Linda turns out to have been taken over by Charlie.
  • Evil Is Not Well-Lit: The lab is very dimly lit, a stark contrast to the novel's descriptions of bright white corridors.
  • Evil Old Folks: Leonard Brinkstone. He's basically Mr. Burns in designer sunglasses.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: This happens twice. First to Christine when Charlie in the form of Rachel er, French-kisses her to death with a long black tongue, and later to Mr. Brinkstone courtesy of one of Charlie's tentacles.
  • Failed a Spot Check: When the group searches Shelley's office, they fail to discover Paul's empty clothes, which are pretty much left right out in the open.
  • Fingore: Paul had one of his fingers cut off by the Triads.
  • The Load: Mark and Christine. All Mark does is whine and act mean to everyone, and Christine does even less. Her primary contribution to the plot before Charlie gets her is needing to pee.
  • Mooks: Brinkstone brings a few with him when he shows up at the end. Fat lot of good they do anybody.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Charlie is a mutated, shapeshifting, heroin-craving super-intelligent great white with tentacles.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Proteus. It was named that before the scientists discovered the compound gave its host shapeshifting abilities. "Proteus" only makes sense after the fact. The name from the novel, Phoenix, made more sense.
  • One-Winged Angel: The final battle.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: The dead security guard the ocean.
  • Race Lift: Alex was of Mexican heritage in the book. He's a white British guy here.
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: Used numerous times to depict Charlie's point of view.
  • Shout-Out: When Charlie, conveyed only through Shaky P.O.V. Cam, picks up Paul it's almost exactly the same as when Ash is grabbed and spun around in Evil Dead 2.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Alex lets Charlie know just how "superior" he thinks the heroin-craving mutant shark that ate his girlfriend is:
    Alex: Superior? You're a fucking fish with a drug habit!
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Brinkstone does this to Alex by smacking him across the face with his cane.
    Brinkstone: Cease this levity!
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Alex.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Mr. Brinkstone.
  • Tap on the Head: Averted. Multiple times, Alex is bonked on the head by someone, and it simply renders him temporarily disoriented rather than outright knocking him unconscious.
  • Threatening Shark: Charlie is a mutated great white.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Who Paul and Mark do their business with at the beginning.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Linda. From Paul's meek and put-upon girlfriend to machine gun-toting Action Girl.
  • Twenty Minutes with Jerks: Most of the characters are incredibly annoying. At least Alex's jackassery is part of his cover as a drug dealer.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Alex and Rachel. In reality, they actually are boyfriend and girlfriend even when off the job.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: When attempting to get Linda to trust him, Alex outs himself as a DEA agent.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifter: Charlie.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: As in the novel, absorbing a heroin addict character causes Charlie to become first disoriented by the drug and then begin craving it to the point where he begins sabotaging his own schemes to get his fix.
  • The Worf Effect: Alex tends to be the one the possessed people target to show off how strong they are.
    Alex: That's the second time today I've been thrown around the room by a complete stranger! This is embarrassing! I'm 6'3"!