Julia (Chynna Walker) and her friend Kyle (Richard Rennie) are driving across California on the way to an important gig for her, as she is a stand-up comedienne who, if she goes down well at this event, will be able to move to Los Angeles and get her career going properly. Kyle is not the greatest of drivers, however, and somehow ends up off the road when he swerves to avoid a coyote that ran across their path, in the process bursting a tyre. For which he has no replacement, so after trying and failing to hitchhike, the pair decide their best option us to walk a mile or three back from whence they came to the ghost town advertised on billboards there. But even when they do arrive, they find the place deserted - though it's not as deserted as they would prefer.
A tiny budget horror comedy, Claw was stronger on its comedy than it was on its horror, thanks to a pair of bright performances in the leads, an odd couple for this type of thing since they are a man and woman who really are only friends, Kyle being gay and Julia just not interested in romance. Their verbal interplay was the highlight of director Gerald Rascionato's screenplay (penned with Joel Hogan) and created a sympathetic centre for the mayhem to revolve around, just as well when the rest of it was somewhat shoddy and underfunded. From the opening titles you know you're dealing with a dinosaur movie, but one that was more Carnosaur than Jurassic Park, but it handy to know there was a monster on the way from that early into the story, since it took its sweet time in arriving.
Indeed, it seems almost half the movie was Julia and Kyle bickering and meeting the owner of the ghost town (not in a Scooby-Doo way), who is Ray (Mel Mede), and seems to know more than he lets on. When he suggests they stick around till noon the next day when his brother can help them out, alarm bells go off in the friends' heads, but that impulse to be polite overrides their suppressed panic, also the sense that the apparently mild-mannered Ray could fly off the handle at any second should they say the wrong thing. But have they got him wrong? Certainly when the dinosaur shows up it would appear that they have other, more pressing, threats to worry about, though thanks to the budget we do not clap eyes on what is revealed to be named "Roger the Raptor" in the end credits crawl, all that much, and he's usually under cover of the night.
A word about those credits: although the running time was just over an hour and twenty minutes, it had to be said that was somewhat inflated to make Claw more substantial than it was. The plot actually ended around the hour mark, whereupon it made do with not one but two comedy codas, a Dad's Army-style "You have been watching" bit to identify the cast, an outtake and then about a quarter of an hour of the slowest credits you've ever seen. You can't imagine even the hardiest credits watcher making it through that without their fingers itching for the fast forward button, and to be honest it left a feeling that you were being taken for a ride by what had previously been a perfectly amiable monster flick on a budget. As long as you did not mind the experience souring somewhat an hour in, this succeeded modestly within slender means, and the CGI raptor was not so bad that it took you out of the movie completely, though you were never convinced by him as a real presence alongside the actors. Really, Walker and Rennie needed to reteam for a better project. Music by Corey Wallace, which sounds like a cartoon.
[CLAW premiered at FrightFest's Virtual Festival on 4 September and is released on Altitude.film and other digital platforms from 13 September 2021.]