The film was released to theaters on May 21, 1993 by Concorde Films, just four weeks before the larger-scale blockbuster Jurassic Park. As a result, Carnosaur may be considered a "mockbuster". Diane Ladd's daughter Laura Dern was one of the stars of Jurassic Park. The film was a financial success, grossing $1,753,979 at the box office on a budget of $850,000. Critical reception was poor however, with film critic Roger Ebert naming it the worst movie of 1993.
In a small town in the American Southwest, a mysterious illness befalls its citizens. Dr. Jane Tiptree, a scientist working for the Eunice Corporation, is secretly breeding a strain of extra large and fertile chickens by splicing their DNA with that of different animals. The sponsors of the corporation become suspicious of her research, but cannot legally interfere. One night during transportation of the chickens, a mysterious creature hatches from a chicken egg, kills the drivers and escapes into the night.
Doc Smith is an alcoholic security watchman protecting digging equipment from environmental activists, though he befriends one of them named Ann Thrush. Meanwhile, the creature, which turns out to be a juvenile Deinonychus, goes on a killing spree, killing two truck drivers and a group of teenagers. One of the dead teenagers was the daughter of Jesse Paloma, an employee for Tiptree. Afraid of the truth about her research being leaked, she lures Paloma into a laser-protected Tyrannosaurus pen, where it consumes him.
Thrush and the other activists begin to protest by handcuffing themselves to the digging equipment. However, the grown Deinonychus appears and slaughters the activists while Thrush watches in horror. Doc finds Thrush in shock and brings her back to his trailer, where she is attacked by the Deinonychus but survives. Doc locates a truck belonging to the Eunice Corporation. Pretending to be the dead driver, he talks to Tiptree on the radio and makes his way to her facility. Meanwhile, Sheriff Fowler discovers a dinosaur embryo in a carton of eggs and brings it into a lab to study.
Doc sneaks into Tiptree's lab and holds her at gunpoint, telling her to show him her experiments. She reveals that the infected chicken eggs are responsible for the town's mysterious illness, as they contain a lethal virus that kills men and impregnates women with dinosaur embryos, which kill the host when birthed. The goal of this is to spread the virus around the world, effectively driving the human race into extinction and letting the dinosaurs rule the Earth once more. When news of the town's deaths reaches the Eunice sponsors, they trace it back to Tiptree. The government infiltrates the town and has it placed under quarantine. In order to sterilize the situation, all civilians, infected or not, are shot and killed on sight.
Fowler investigates a disturbance at a puppy kennel where he is attacked by the Deinonychus. He fatally wounds and kills the creature, but not before being impaled by its sickle claw and succumbing to his wounds. Back at the lab, Tiptree reveals a serum that can cure the illness. Doc steals it tries to escape, accidentally ending up in the Tyrannosaurus pen. Tiptree releases the dinosaur from its laser bounds and it chases Doc. He escapes and the Tyrannosaurus breaks out of the facility. Tiptree is revealed to have infected herself with the virus, and dies as a baby dinosaur rips its way through her stomach.
Doc returns to Thrush, who has fallen ill to the virus. Before he has a chance to inject her with the serum, the Tyrannosaurus makes its way to the construction site. Doc battles the creature with a skidsteer and with the help of Thrush, impales and kills the dinosaur. Bringing Thrush back into the trailer, she succumbs to the virus and Doc is shot and killed by government soldiers, who then burn his and Thrush's bodies.Diane Ladd as Dr. Jane Tiptree
Raphael Sbarge as Doc Smith
Jennifer Runyon as Ann Thrush
Harrison Page as Sheriff Fowler
Ned Bellamy as Fallon
Clint Howard as 'Slim' Friar
Frank Novak as Jesse Paloma
Ed Williams as Dr. Raven
John Brosnan was first approached to write the screenplay in mid-1991 by Roger Corman's wife Julie, who formalised the deal at Brosnan's drinking club, and drew up the contract on a bar napkin. As the film was meant to compete with Jurassic Park, Brosnan later wrote that he was taken aback when it was revealed that the film's budget would have only been $1 million. Although concerned that the restrictive budget would require a reduction in the amount of dinosaurs used, Corman assured him that he was free to write whatever he wanted, and that any modifications would be made in the final draft. Once Brosnan sent his first draft to Hollywood, he lost all contact with the film crew. His screenplay had in fact been heavily revised to the point where his credit had been reduced to "original story".
Creature designer John Carl Buechler was assigned to create the dinosaur models, under the supervision of amateur paleontologist Donald F. Glut. Buechler's special effects crew had only 10 weeks to complete both the miniature and full sized models, due to the film's limited budget. Also, many of Glut's suggestions were not incorporated into the dinosaur's final designs, as many of the models were already in various stages of completion when he was consulted. For the Tyrannosaurus rex, Buechler created numerous different sized props, including a pneumatically-operated creature measuring 16 feet in height, 25 feet in length and 450 lbs in weight, a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m) suit version and a 3-foot-tall (0.91 m) mechanical walking puppet. An 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) suit was made for the Deinonychus, as well as a 1-foot-tall (0.30 m) mechanized, walking mockup. Due to the low budget, Buechler could not create the full scale Tyrannosaurus model with standard sculpting and molding techniques; therefore, the Tyrannosaurus' understructure was built using L200, a light polyurethane foam, while the skin was crafted with urethane foam sheets. Miniature models for the Tyrannosaurus and the skid loader were used for most of the penultimate scene, as the full scale model was too inarticulate to fight the vehicle convincingly.
Carnosaur received a limited release theatrically from Concorde Films in May 1993. It ended up grossing $1,753,979 at the box office behind a $850 thousand production budget, making the film a modest success.
The feature film was heavily panned. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes noted that 11% of reviewers gave it a positive review. Gene Siskel gave the film a marginal "thumbs up," while Roger Ebert gave it "thumbs down" on Siskel & Ebert and even named it the Worst Movie of 1993. Siskel's endorsement of the film was mocked when the duo made a guest appearance on the animated television series The Critic.
Although John Brosnan described the dinosaurs as "laughable" compared to the ones in Jurassic Park, and agreed that the film was "crap", he nonetheless wrote that it was "interesting crap", and credited it with raising greater awareness of the novel. He screened the film at a re-launch party for his novel, and stated that "I will no doubt take the lead in shouting abuse at the screen."
The film has been released on DVD by New Concorde Home Entertainment three times. The first release was a single disc release in April 2000. The company subsequently re-released the film in The Carnosaur Collection in 2001 and on a double feature DVD alongside sequel Carnosaur 2 in 2003. The last two versions are both currently out of print.Siskel and Ebert's differing opinions of the film was parodied in television show The Critic, where Ebert taunts Siskel by saying "you liked Carnosaur!"
Due to the financial success of Carnosaur, a sequel, Carnosaur 2, was produced in 1995. The latter was a financial failure. As a result, the third movie in the franchise, Carnosaur 3, was released straight-to-video in 1996. Two spin-offs of the film appear in the form of 2001's Raptor and 2006's The Eden Formula. Every movie in the series following Carnosaur features stock footage from the first film.