[Fantastic Fest '19] Review: “GORE CUT” of TAMMY AND THE T-REX Is the Best Kind of Baffling

Having never seen the 1993 head-scratcher Tammy and the T-Rex before this newly restored “Gore Cut” version, I can’t imagine many adults enjoying the original children’s film version — nor can I imagine many kids loving it. Neither can I imagine what must have been the original target market back then for this original, teens-and-adult–oriented version. Time heals almost all cinematic wounds, though, and this oddity is bound to find a cult following. It’s not a good movie, but it is a fun one to watch, though be prepared to come away with a load of unanswerable questions.

Denise Richards stars as high school student Tammy, who is trying to distance herself from a bully ex-boyfriend and is therefore gun shy about starting up a new relationship with star athlete Michael (Paul Walker). After some comic attempts of the broadest variety imaginable, aforementioned bully and his lackeys beat up Michael. The evil Dr. Wachenstein (Terry Kiser of Weekend at Bernie’s, chewing up and spitting out scenery like it might be his last chance in life to do so) takes advantage of the situation and transplants Michael’s brain into the body of an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex. Dinosaur Michael tries to romance Tammy, when he isn’t laying waste to the villains. Can Tammy save him from a misunderstanding law enforcement squad and the mad scientist?

All of the cast members are self-aware of what kind of movie they are in, with many of them camping it up to the hilt. Richards is truly incredible, though, giving an earnest performance and playing it straight in almost every scene she is in. She’s a joy to watch, and if anything or anyone grounds this movie in some semblance of reality, it is her. 

The story goes that director Stewart Raffill (Mac and Me; The Ice Pirates) had access to the robotic titular dinosaur for a limited amount of time and created this movie around that opportunity. Basically, the T-rex is stationary and can pretty much only open its mouth to roar and do a few other standard movements, but Raffill and his special effects crew used good old American ingenuity to figure out how to have the dinosaur dial a telephone and perform other tasks that T-rex arms just couldn’t do. These scenes provide some of the best comedy in the movie.

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Let’s get down to the gore. It looks terrific, with bucketfuls of the red stuff and some cool practical effects kills. It boggles my mind that someone involved with the film decided to cut these scenes, especially considering the expense that must have gone into them, to opt for a family friendly version of the film. Expect disembowelment, head munching, body-parts flattening, and more. Considering how over the top the gruesome scenes are, it boggles my mind that the rest of the film was written as a family friendly romantic comedy!

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Perhaps Raffill was originally trying to makeTammy and the T-Rex all things to all audiences, and at some point he saw that it just wasn’t going to work. After more than 25 years, though, the kids who grew up watching the family friendly version on cable, along with curious genre film fans, were intrigued when they heard about the restored gore cut, and a new instant cult favorite was born. 

Go into Tammy and the T-Rex expecting dumb fun of the highest order, and you should have a blast. It’s unapologetic in its 1990s sensibilities of ribald and off-color humor (some of which was also missing from the family friendly version), and it just wants to entertain you. That it always does, one way or another, in this jaw-dropping, “What in the world?!?” restored version.   

Tammy and the T-Rex, newly restored by Vinegar Syndrome and presented by AGFA, screened at Fantastic Fest, which took place in Austin, Texas, from September 19–26.