The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: SYNGENOR (1990)

Damon Swindall

by: Damon Swindall
June 16th, 2011

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago, Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas, and Chicago. GATW’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!


Sequels can be so much fun! Back in April we watched a little film from 1981 called SCARED TO DEATH (read my Chronicles of HMN piece on it here) where we learned of a killer creature created in a lab known as the Syngenor. This reptilian monster uses a long tongue to drain his victims of their spinal fluid and has an unquenchable thirst for the stuff. The film was left with a hint that there might be more of the genetically altered beasts living in the sewers, so when a sequel was made nine years later you would think this is where they pick up, right? Wrong. Instead this new director, George Elanjian, Jr. (this being his only feature film credit), took the awesome looking creature and made up a whole new story involving them, created some new rules and made it much more entertaining than its predecessor. As of now, SYNGENOR is in the books as one of the most fun flicks we’ve watched this year!

A shady weapons company called Norton Cyberdyne has been working on the newest in military technology, but no matter how many improvements they make to the guns there’s still a problem - soldiers are only human. This means there are some limitations, like death, that can keep them from taking down their opponent. To fix this problem, NC took the time to create a Synthesized Genetic Organism, Syngenor for short, that is practically unstoppable and will change the way wars are fought in the future. Everything is fine until one of them escapes and kills a few people, not to mention the rapid rate at which they reproduce asexually. It’s up to a reporter and the niece of the man who helped to create them, Nick and Susan, to stop the Syngenor from destroying everyone.


“Here at Norton Cyberdyne we predict that war will not be fought by American men but by a new breed of soldier without fear. A soldier impervious to conventional weaponry. A soldier trained to kill and survive in the desert. And a soldier capable of reproducing every 24 hours. That soldier shall be called ‘Syngenor.’”

One of the reasons sequels are so awesome is because the cat is already out of the bag. You spend the original film cloaking your villain in some level of shadow and secrecy, but now everyone knows who/what they are and you can put them out in bright light from the get go. The Syngenor were definitely noticed as cool-looking in SCARED TO DEATH but it’s sad that they were always so dimly lit that you could barely make out the particulars. All those problems have been cast aside here right off the bat when the first creature shows up before the ten minute mark! In a sequel you can also make everything “bigger” and in this it means more Syngenor than I could count and even a few slight variations in their design through the “generations”. For the most part, they used the same design and just added to it for the variants. I tried to put my finger on just what exactly the Syngenor reminded me of during the first film and these mutations helped me realize they could be doppelgangers for Hordak from the She-Ra/He-Man MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE universe. That made the rest of the film pretty fun.

Syngenor and Hordak separated at birth.

The fun doesn’t stop at the Syngenor themselves, because we have some awesome things happening in this film. For one, Norton Cyberdyne’s crack task force. I guess it makes sense since they do a lot of government/military work, but why do they have to dress like janitors who moonlight as umpires? Maybe because it makes them look so cool. The team dons stylish blue coveralls with the protective gear of an umpire or catcher on their shoulders. With all this awesome gear and their many weapons, you would think they were a force to be reckoned with, but they don’t really have everything together. Their “leader” has grenades just hanging on his pocket by their levers, not clipped to anything just dangling as he commands his team to “suit up to the max.” This also makes you wonder whey they are going to be using explosives inside the building’s basement anyway. I know they have to stop the Syngenor from getting out, and the offices are not in a huge skyscraper, but in this multi-floor building it is probably not a good idea to go around just blowing up shit.

This task force means business

The task force, however smart, are only acting on orders from the man-in-charge at Norton Cyberdyne, which explains a lot. David Gale plays Carter Brown, who is the head honcho of making this whole Syngenor thing happen and selling it to the government for actual wartime use. I’m sure this is a high pressure job, but through the course of the movie we really see how unstable the man has become. From the start Carter seems quite together, that is, until you see him alone with his injecting gun. We never really find out what exactly he is injecting into his neck but I think it was just included as an homage to RE-ANIMATOR. The liquid is the same glowing neon-ish green as Dr. Herber West’s reagent and Gale appeared in both flicks. He does does some pretty nasty things in this film, but nothing compared to what he does as a severed zombie head in the other flick. Still, Carter’s decent into madness takes him to the point where he’s killing people and crying out for someone to hold him while wearing a plastic bunny mask on the back of his head. This performance is quite amazing at times and really makes the film that much more enjoyable. As if the Syngenor were not enough of a problem now everyone has to deal with a hopped up "green stuff" addict who has control of another of the company’s devices - the Deathrattle. This is large gun/laser that basically vaporizes anyone you put in its sights. When you get the two together - what a combination!

Carter's gone crazy

Carter Brown might be the best and zaniest character in the movie, but he’s far from my favorite. I think I can speak for everyone who has seen this when I say that the real star of SYNGENOR is not Carter, Nick, Susan or even the Syngenor themselves. The real deal is Norton Cyberdyne’s best, and only, security guard Donnie. He’s sassy, on his game, and still has time to relax on the job. When we first see him he’s leaning back watching the security monitor and drinking a tall can of Schlitz Malt Liquor. Why can I never find a job like that? In the rest of his, all too brief, screen time he jams out to some tunes on his Walkman and even manages to stop Susan from snooping around what appears to be Norton Cyberdyne’s room of secret science fair projects. Unfortunately Donnie’s time was not long for this world and we only got a few short minutes with him but they were all quality.

NC Video Narrator: “A gun so efficient it can dispatch over a thousand rounds per second with a radial spray of up to ten meters. Easy to load, easy to maneuver and fun to fire.”
Donnie: “Shit, what the hell kind of company is this anyway?”

Drinking on the job

A few other odds and ends in the movie remind me to share some words of wisdom with you to use in your everyday life. Guys, if you are in bed with a girl and the two of you are about to have sex for the first time the phrase “just close your eyes and relax” should probably never be uttered. It seemed to work just fine for our hero Nick but it just comes off rather rapey. I’m willing to be that it’ll kill the mood a bit. Second, if you are hiring an attractive female receptionist who is only 17, maybe you should make sure that none of your employees are perverts who will be creepily hitting on her while undressing her with their eyes. Scientists take note - just because you can put an orange in a beaker with some sort of chemical solution, shake it and make it explode that is by no means an effective, or practical, way to make orange juice. Finally, for any directors out there looking to make a film with a very involved rubber suit creature just know that you can use the extra pieces and make-up test photos in the film as a creature’s subject on display or pictures in said creature’s file, because that’s obviously what they did here.

Okay, so this film isn’t perfect but it’s a hell of a good time. The Syngenor look incredible, especially when they mutate with a human and form an entirely new creature, but the real threat is the over-the-top performance by David Gale. I expected him to start literally chewing on the scenery. Sadly, he did not. SCARED TO DEATH and SYNGENOR are both out on DVD and while the first film is enjoyable it’s leaps and bounds from being as entertaining as this sequel. Fun flick that was a great fit for HMN. My only problem with it is why is the Syngenor’s one real weakness water? Come on.

Until next week - remember that any company with “Cyberdyne” in its name is bad news.

Body Count: 21 (!)
First Syngenor: 6:26
First Kill: 6:46
Best Kill: Stan vaporized by the Deathrattle
Donnie’s Best Line: “Shit, when they start shooting at kids that’s when it’s time for Donnie to get his ass into a new job.”

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-6/15/11: LA CASA 5 (1990) aka BEYOND DARKNESS
-6/22/11: POPCORN (1991)
-6/29/11: AMSTERDAMNED (1988)
-7/6/11: THE DARK POWER (1985)

Mutated Syngenor

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