The movie opens with a young couple, Pat Wheeler and Liz Humphries parked in a bleak, rural locale overlooking a ravine. A giant gila monster attacks the car, sending it into the ravine and killing the couple.
Open with a bunch of dancing teens in a soda shop that looks to be about the size of a large walk-in closet. After Chase and his, "French" girlfriend Lisa show up, we learn through helpful exposition that a pair of their friends have gone missing. Blah Blah. Enter "Old Man Harris", the local drunk and comedy ‘relief’. (Alcoholism and drunk driving always makes for a good laugh, eh?). Anyway, Harris has a cool car that Chase would love to buy from him. Harris refuses to make with Chase a deal via a clumsy ‘humorous’ exchange of witty retorts. The kids leave to go to the drive in, and leave a message for "Pat and Liz" to meet everybody there when they show up.
The next day Mr Wheeler has filed a his son was missing person report with the local police. Sheriff Jeff pays a visit, and through a stiff conversation Pat’s father accuses Chase of being a bad influence on the other teens. Surprisingly, Sheriff Jeff sticks up for Chase and reminds the irate parent that Chase has been taken care of his mother and crippled sister ever since his father died on "one of your drill rigs!" (Zing!)
The excitement continues the next day as Sheriff Jeff visits Chase at the local gas station/garage where Chase is employed as a mechanic. Mounds of pointless, meandering dialog regarding the missing teens: have they run off to get married, are they in any type of troubles, and so on and so on. Hmm, this is a monster movie, right? The scene comes to an exciting conclusion as the Sheriff warns Chase not to take part in any drag racing next weekend.
Oh god. The Sheriff drives out to Liz’s house and talks to her parents. Ed Humphries and Agatha Humphries Yes, the exciting investigation continues. Liz’s parents haven’t seen her and don’t reckon she’s run off to tie the knot The Sheriff leaves.
Back at Chase’s garage, our young hero is talking to one of the local yokels and hey! What do you know?!…It’s now time to play "Plot Point Revelation"! The exciting scene where exposition fills the air and hints of future events are pounded into your skull. Chase has a bunch of nitroglycerin stored out in his shed. Gee, I wonder if <that is going to play any part in this film? Let me repeat so that you can get the hint as clearly as I did: Chase has a several jars of very volatile nitroglycerin sitting in the shed behind the garage. This lovely chunk of exposition is interrupted by the telephone ringing. Chase eagerly snatches the receiver from the hook and mentions that it’s probably the Sheriff ringing, and if there’s been a crash he’s going to get a "tow job" out of it. (Hey! I didn’t write this movie!)
Oh wait. It’s one of those old phones where everybody is on the same line. So Chase listens in to learn that there has in fact been a crash. With thoughts of a "tow job" on his mind, Chase runs from the garage, jumps into his tow truck, and races out to the crash scene.
Cut to a lone Hitchhiker on the highway. A man wearing a three pieced suit, hitchhiking along the highway in the middle of the night in BFE, Texas. Yeah, that happens a lot. (Kids, if you don’t know what "BFE" means, then ask your father.) Scary music indicates that this lone, although well dressed, gila monster kills hitchhiker is about to become a midnight snack.
Chase and the Sheriff Jeff head back to town but stop to investigate when they come across an abandoned suitcase standing beside the road. (The one from the Well Dressed Hitchhiker.)
Cut to next day. A drunk, drivingly wildly (as drunks are wont to do), crashes into a ditch. In an incredible coincidence, Chase Just Happens To Be Right Behind Him In His Tow Truck, and pulls him out of the rut. As Chase Winstead meet Steamroller Smith labors with the wreck, the drunk explains that he crashed after seeing a giant pink-and-black lizard in the road, but since he’s, you know, drunk, Chase dismisses his story as hog wash.
Good to his word, Chase has rounded up a couple friends and is busy searching "the area" around town. Upon reaching a particularly desolate area, Chase and Lisa hop out of their car and head off on foot to explore a ravine while their friends continue on in their car. A few shots of the lizard ‘stalking’ the teens acts as sort of a fake scare…sort of. I guess.
Once again, the fact that the lizard and the actors are never shown in the same shot makes the gila monster appear to be in an entirely different movie; which in fact it is. Cutting back and forth between the lizard and the actors just doesn’t cut it, no matter how ‘scary’ the music is. (Let that be a hint to all aspiring film makers.)
Anyway, to make a long scene short, the missing teen’s car is found, and Chase and Lisa unwittingly escape the giant monster which was quietly stalking them. (I guess. It’s impossible to tell the spatial relationship between the actors and the lizard.) Now comes the exciting "Pulling The Car From A Ravine" scene. (Hint: Beer break.)
Oh gee. Cut to a large fuel Mr Compton driving his tanker truck trundling along down a lonely road. Hmmmm. A quick shot of a gila monster runs Mr. Compton sticking its tongue out is enough to cause the driver to raise his hands to his face and yell, "Ahhhh!" off the road while he's hauling fuel; making his truck blow up. with about as much enthusiasm as could be mustered by an actor trying to act afraid of a non-existent menace. For some reason, merely letting go of the steering wheel causes the truck to turn into a model, tip onto its side, and burst into flames explosion,
Chase Winstead, returns home that night (presumably after stealing parts from wrecked cars…) and watches as his sister Missy Winstead, complete with a new set of leg braces, tries her damnedest to demonstrate how well she can walk. Well, the little tyke falls a couple of times and gets frustrated. Never fear, Chase picks up his ukulele (!!!) and sings her "The Mushroom Song". (See complete, creepy lyrics at the bottom of this review.)
Well, this heart-breaking scene is interrupted by the phone ringing. Yes, the fuel truck wreckage has been found. Chase Winstead, Sheriff Jeff, and Old Man Harris, head out to take a look. Mr Compton is missing, and dad-gummit, they just can’t figure it out.
Cut to Old Man Harris driving down a lonely road. He spots a train cruising alongside the road, guns his car, and zips across a railroad crossing just a few feet in front of the speeding train. (Needless to say, the type of locomotive pulling the train changes from shot to shot. In fact, I saw at least 3 different types of trains right after each other. Nice job, guys.) Unfortunately for the crew aboard the train, the gila monster has knocked out a bridge a little further down the line. Harris can only watch in horror as the speeding locomotive turns into a model train and hurtles off a toy bridge into a table-top ravine complete with a sleepy gila monster at the bottom Harris drive back to the Police Station. and Gila Monster Attack the Train.
long, boring scene where Steamroller Smith plays a song by a new ‘mystery’ singer. The crowd goes wild for the song, but can’t seem to figure out who the singer is. Well, let me take a shot in the dark:
It’s Chase! It’s Chase! It’s Chase! Let’s get moving here! I’m not getting any younger! OK, well at least the monster has arrived outside the barn and is about to raise some living hell. Chase’s rendition of "The Mushroom Song" is (mercifully) interrupted by the monster smashing through the side of the barn and peeking around a bit.
Teens scream and run outside. The gila monster smashes up the model barn. Pretty standard stuff here. Blah. Sheriff Jeff chases the monster off with some well placed rifle shots. Meanwhile Chase has a light-bulb moment and rushes home (along with Lisa) to collect the jars of nitroglycerin (each jar is labeled simply with "XXX" , whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean…) that he has stored behind the gas station.
Chase drives around for awhile and spots the trail of destruction left behind by the gila monster. (This destruction comprises mostly of a knocked over tree and a ruined fence.) "They usually travel in a straight line!" says mechanic-cum-gila monster expert Chase. His heart leaps in his throat when he notes that the house where Missy Winstead (don’t ask, she spent the night at her friends house…I think) has been destroyed by the monster. Alas, Missy is nowhere to be found. Well, I take that back. Chase decides to cut across a bumpy field (with a gallon of nitro bouncing around in the front seat) and sees Missy laying helpless in the middle of nowhere. (Umm…What the hell is she doing out there? My head hurts.)
Lisa jumps out to protect Missy as Chase directs the car directly at the lizard. Jumping out at the last moment, Chase watches with relief as the car smacks the gila monster in the nose and explodes, thus blowing the lizard into smithereens.