Fan ICHF: The Dilophosaurus

This ICHF was written by The Real Kiryu2012. I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!

I really love dinosaurs.

Growing up, I had the likes of Walking With Dinosaurs and the Jurassic Park films to binge watch as a kid, as well as a whole lot of dinosaur books and toys, not to mention Godzilla himself quickly beginning to establish himself as a prominent influence on me around this time. So, all things considered, I was pretty much fated to gain a love for dinosaurs and other paleofauna. 

Speaking as someone who actively supports the notion of giving increasingly more accurate designs to dinosaurs in popular media, I could never get rid of my soft spot for more classic, outdated depictions of these paleofauna. I chalk it up to both nostalgia and a genuine love for the likes of both the old school tail dragging lizard-like retrosaurs, as well as the more updated, but still not quite accurate, scaly fast moving monsters of the 90’s. Sure, they don’t hold up so well thanks to our understanding of paleontology always evolving, but they still serve as important landmarks for our ever growing knowledge of these species, and how we’ve come to adapt and portray them in popular culture.

Probably one of the best examples of noteworthy depictions of dinosaurs can be none other than the Jurassic Park films. I really can’t help myself when I say that I genuinely love all of these films, even the controversial ones that many might dislike or even hate. Growing up on the first three movies, and getting to see the Jurassic World films in theaters, I mean it when I say the Jurassic Park franchise just might be one of my favorites, almost up there alongside Godzilla. 

When it comes to depicting dinosaurs, Jurassic Park is certainly an interesting sort; while it absolutely can and does often portray these animals as violent man-eating beasts that will actively make the effort of going for any human characters with the goal of ending their lives, it also portrays them as animals, animals who often are just trying to survive and do whatever it takes to do so, even if it means ending the lives of others to sustain their own. You can certainly talk a big game about how effectively the films manage to go about with portraying this aspect, especially in the later films, but it is still an element that certainly needs to be acknowledged, as it helps show that dinosaurs aren’t just monsters that were made up by pop culture; these were real species that existed in this world.

Jurassic Park indisputably had some noteworthy antagonists in the form of the carnivorous theropods that pretty much stole the show; there were the clever girls, the Velociraptors, who weren’t just brutish snarling beasts, but were highly intelligent predators that forced the human protagonists to always think ahead and use their brain, not their brawn, to prevail. And who could forget about Rexy, the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex who was awe inspiring with her sheer size and power, and of course has an unforgettable roar probably as well known as Godzilla’s.

But I think there’s one particular dinosaur that plays a prominent role in one particular part of this film who doesn’t get nearly as much attention as they should, and who I feel deserves a moment in the spotlight as, while their role was small compared to Rexy and the raptors, it was still a memorable moment in its own right. Of course I’m talking about the crested huntress, the Dilophosaurus.

From this moment onward, while I’ve talked about only the film version of Jurassic Park up to now, I’ll be focusing on both the film Dilo as well as the original book Dilo; I think both versions deserve to be talked about, as they both deliver well in their respective scenes that, frankly, are plenty frightening in their own rights, while still managing to have some noteworthy similarities with one another.

In both the film and the novel, things in the world of Jurassic Park start taking a turn for the worse thanks to one particular Ingen employee by the name of Dennis Nedry. In the film, he was dealing with financial problems that not only was Ingen not helping him with, but John Hammond himself said that this situation was Nedry’s alone to deal with. Meanwhile in the novel, Dennis was constantly left in the dark in regards to Ingen’s plans, and wasn’t ever told anything. Hammond in particular was requesting things from Nedry that were never a part of the original contract, and when Nedry refused, he was threatened into complying with lawsuits.

Regardless, both mediums have Dennis make an alliance with one Lewis Dodgson; if Nedry brings him a collection of dinosaur embryos, Dodgson would reward him with over a million dollars in payment. Considering the circumstances plaguing Dennis, he of course accepts the proposition.

Thus begins the catalyst that would cause the original Jurassic Park to be unable to be open to the public, for Dennis steals several embryos and shuts down the power to the park. This, however, proves to be a fatal error, for by shutting the power down, Dennis also deactivated the electric fences keeping the dinosaurs contained, and so they could roam free.

Including one particular specimen that would ultimately seal Nedry’s fate.

In the film, Nedry inadvertently crashes his jeep off the road and tries to get it down with its tow rope, and in the novel, he almost runs into a concrete barrier. Either way, it’s a storm that causes him to lose his way, and forces him to exit his vehicle.

And in doing so, he encounters the Dilophosaurus.

Jurassic Park had popularized several of the dinosaur species featured in the novel and film, each having their own characteristics. The Velociraptor is a cunning man-sized pack hunter that constantly forces the humans to try and one-up them in terms of thinking. The Tyrannosaurus is a huge predator that inspires awe and commands respect, being so big and strong that no jeep or shack can hold her back.

But the Dilophosaurus is different. She’s not a huge beast, nor a highly intelligent pack hunter. So what does she have that makes her stand out from the others?

Venom.

In reality, Dilophosaurus was most likely not venomous; the known fossils of this species have no evidence to suggest that this theropod wielded venom when hunting, and considering more recent studies have suggested that the Dilophosaurus was an apex predator of its time, venom simply wouldn’t be necessary for it.

In the world of Jurassic Park, however, it’s venom that is the Dilophosaurus’ greatest weapon, and what helped establish her as a unique threat in both book and movie.

Dennis learns the hard way that he shouldn’t look back when trying to flee from such an unknown danger; in both the novel and the film he’s blinded by a spitting splatter of venom that coats his face and assails his eyes. His death varies in both mediums; the book has him disemboweled by a swipe of the Dilophosaurus’ claws before being seized by the head in her jaws, and the film has him mauled to death in his own jeep, with the Telltale game that takes place afterwards confirming that he’d become just another meal. But both mediums have him be subjected to the Dilophosaurus’ venomous spit, a trait that Jurassic Park would popularize so much that other media would copy this trait for their portrayals of the crested theropod.

Dilophosaurus, even if it was most likely not venomous in reality, nowadays seems associated with venom in pop culture; the multiplayer game Primal Carnage Extinction portrays the Dilo as having a ranged weapon in the form of venom it can spit out, and The Isle’s Dilophosaurus is set to have a hallucinogenic venom to aid in hunting. Whether you’re a fan of this trope or not (I personally have no qualms with it), it seems reasonable to agree that it was Jurassic Park which started this trend to begin with; sure, maybe at some point somebody would try giving the Dilophosaurus venom if JP never tried it, but it was thanks to this film and novel that it’s so well known.

I think another trait about Jurassic Park’s Dilophosaurus, though, that also needs to be pointed out is her personality, and how she behaves towards her future prey, Dennis. She’s not some snarling, loud monster that just instantly attacks Nedry the moment she sees him. She’s curious, she watches him quietly from a distance. While the novel has her standing well away from Dennis and his jeep, the film emphasizes this by having her follow Nedry from a distance, watching his every move and not initially showing any signs of aggression. She does ultimately decide to attack him, sure, but she’s not simply a raving beast that does so immediately. Rather, she watches and waits.

This just goes to show that the Dilophosaurus isn’t some movie monster; she’s an animal. She clearly isn’t used to seeing humans, and watches to see if Dennis is a threat or if he’s vulnerable. It’s only when Nedry ends up letting his guard down that the Dilophosaurus finally attacks, and when she does, it’s a surprise. And I’d say in a way this is scarier than if she were to just promptly attack while snarling and roaring like a stock movie monster scripted to kill someone. The audience themselves might let their guard down around this cute-looking, seemingly harmless critter, and so the moment she spreads her frill and goes on the attack is all the more effective.

Jurassic Park’s Dilophosaurus is a superb dinosaur, and she deserves the same kind of love the Raptors and T-rex so often get. Now if only she’d reappear in a damn sequel already.

This entry was posted in Creepy Columns, Iconic Characters of Horror Fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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