It takes an incredible amount of intelligence to get a film as gleefully stupid as The Invisible Raptor to work. Yes, it’s Jurassic Park on one hundredth of the budget, with a giant empty space where the dinosaurs should be; hilarity is more than likely to ensue, running off just that pitch alone. But despite what much of the low-budget genre market would have you believe, one good joke does not make a film. Something which thankfully, director Mike Hermosa and writers Mike Capes and Johnny Wickham well and truly take to heart here, doubling down on absolutely everything around their bloodthirsty – and yes, totally invisible – mega beastie.

A chuckle-worthy, Sean Astin-starring cold open definitely sets the tone; outrageous gore, parody-level Spielberg gags, surprisingly decent production design. But it’s when Capes himself appears on the scene as dashing, fedora-sporting lead Dr. Grant Walker, that we start to get a handle on just how genuinely good a dumb little feature about an invisible dinosaur can actually be.

Enter the town of ‘Spielburgh’, one of those familiar middle-American suburbs where dangerous military experiments frequently run riot, and none of the kids have dads. Failed palaeontologist Dr. Walker – whose only major discovery was sadly, a prehistoric “butthole” – has found himself trapped at a local dino-themed amusement park. Spending his days hawking cheap merch and avoiding the advances of weirdo security guard Denny Denielson (David Shackelford), who just seems to want a friend.

Throw in a long-lost ex-girlfriend (Caitlin McHugh), a mad-eyed chicken farmer (Always Sunny’s Sandy Martin) and a rampaging invisible monster from the cretaceous period, and you’ve got yourself a fairly effective little B-movie. But what elevates the set-up here isn’t just the pretty impressive hit-rate of the jokes (which build and build to a beautifully asinine finale), but how oddly likeable the performances are too.

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Capes is just the right blend of chiselled jawline and pathetic burnout to sell his dime-store Sam Neill, McHugh is a deliberately vapid delight, and Shackelford is the surprising standout, as a  truly unhinged fake cop, desperate to use his ridiculous adventure to finally make something of his (literally) shitty life. And while the film’s script relies hard on gag after gag after gag, Hermosa’s careful to keep it all about the cast, leaning hard on those underdog foundations to give us characters we actually care about.

It’s definitely baggy in places; 113 minutes is a lot of time to spend in a world this small, and some of the best jokes seem to stretch just a touch too far. Tonally, Hermosa lands it somewhere between a Broken Lizard style raunchy comedy, and a runaway genre curio (think a more self-aware Tammy and the T-Rex) with a fair amount of blood and guts. The moments that drift more towards the latter – Hermosa and his sound team do a remarkable job at giving terrifying presence to a velociraptor that we never really see – are certainly the most entertaining. But the joyously silly self-aware humour is what will sell it for most.

At its best, The Invisible Raptor echoes the height of the ;00s parody craze; Austin Powers, Super Troopers and the first few Scary Movies. Cleverly stupid high-concept comedies, that don’t skimp on character and build their own identities alongside whatever it is they’re lampooning. A seriously funny good time, and a surefire crowd-pleaser that demands as big a release as possible.

The Invisible Raptor was screened as part of FrightFest Glasgow 2024.