2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)

2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)

1 Body, 2 Heads and 6,000 Teeth.

A group of students are aboard a Semester at Sea vessel ship which becomes damaged when it hits a dead shark floating in the water and starts to sink. As the crew attempt to repair the damage, Professor Babish decides to take the students to a nearby atoll. What they haven’t realised is that there is a deadly two-headed shark lurking in the region which begins to pick off the students as they enter the water, cutting off their escape route back to the ship. Though the atoll provides temporary refuge, it is soon apparent that it is slowly sinking into the sea. Soon there will be no hiding place from the monstrous two-headed shark.

 

A shark with two heads? Let’s face it fans of monster movies, the idea itself is inspired and definitely catches the attention for a few minutes if only for perverse curiosity of what the end product could be. Not content with increasing the size of their killer monsters to ‘mega’ size with the likes of Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus and Mega Piranha, The Asylum have now decided to add extra heads to their monsters to give them that bonus bite. I’m still not entirely sold on the entire that two heads are better than one is this case especially since they both share the same body but it’s still a great selling point and makes for a kick ass DVD cover. It’s a shame that the film itself predictably fails to deliver anything nearly as inspired.

2-Headed Shark Attack completely wastes the idea of a shark with two heads, simply having the creature do exactly the same thing a normal shark would do, except that it has twice the biting power. Any uniqueness to the creature is seemingly lost apart from the title and the poster. So the film just trots off the usual shark flick clichés. I find it hard to enjoy films when they are this silly. The script is all over the place and everything happens simply to push on to the next set piece, no matter how daft or overblown it may be. I’m still not quite sure why they all had to leave the boat and head to the atoll as the crew were still aboard and it didn’t look like it was sinking. Oh yeah, there wouldn’t be a film if they hadn’t gone to the atoll.

From then on, it’s just finding enough excuses to get the teenagers into the water for them to be fed to the shark. It seems that some characters even throw themselves into the water because they believe that swimming with a two-headed shark is a lot safer than being a boat or dry land. The attack scenes are repetitive and, since the shark gets fed pretty well, you’ll be seeing the same scenarios over and over again. Predictably, the shark itself looks awful. There’s a fake head used in brief flashes during attack scenes but for 98% of the film, it’s all CGI. The shark has the ability to change size at any given situation, being as big as a boat in some shots but then being unable to fully squeeze into a partially-submerged church later on. Taking a cue from Jaws: The Revenge, this shark roars a lot and has the uncanny ability to still exist when it loses a head – did it mutate into the Hydra at some point? The scenes of it chomping through its human prey look exactly what they are – computer scenes. No explanation is given as to why it has two heads: there is some musing amongst the cast but it’s not high on the agenda.

Unfortunately even these moments provide little entertainment as the editing is so frenetic. It’s a trademark of The Asylum’s films to feature ridiculously rapid editing to keep things moving at light speed but it gets too fast and there’s rarely a moment to just sit back and take things in. Sometimes you need that it films. I’m not saying that the material on display here needs you to sit and think but in order to process images and sounds, the human brain needs a rest. Having non-stop rapid-fire editing throughout a film might make it look high-octane entertainment but it’s taxing on the brain.

Directed by Christopher Olen Ray, son of notorious low budget schlock director Fred Olen Ray (with such politically-correct films like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and Scream Queen Hot Tub Party on his CV), it’s clear that Olen Ray Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps with his taste for the female form. Carmen Electra gets top billing, and although she provides a requisite bikini scene and spends the entire film parading around in tight cut-off jeans and a low top, she has a total of about ten lines. I’m sure her fee would have been better spent elsewhere. That said, her body still looks great so no complaints here!

It’s sad to say that the best thing on display here was Brooke Hogan. Despite writing off her performance before I had even watched (having already seen the disastrous Sand Sharks), Hogan does alright in her character of Kate. It’s pretty obvious she’s only getting cast because she’s the daughter of legendary wrestler Hulk Hogan and though she’s decent-ish in this, she shouldn’t give up her day job which is…..erm, being the daughter of Hulk Hogan I guess. She also spends the entire time parading around in a bikini and the script has her doing a lot of running. Go figure. At least the script isn’t making her out to be some sort of scientist. It only has her being a multi-talented handywoman who can fix boats, repair generators and rig crude explosives from oil barrels.

 

2-Headed Shark Attack is a predictably terrible film which relies on its gimmicky notion to sell itself – and then proceeds to do nothing different with it than hasn’t been done in x number of killer shark flicks. Two heads are better than one? Not a chance. Where is Roy Scheider and a couple of pressurised tanks when you need him?

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sand Sharks (2011)

Sand Sharks (2011)

Just when you thought you were safe out of the water

The island of White Sands is struggling to survive economically with tourists opting to swim elsewhere. The son of the mayor, sleazy Jimmy Green, heads back to town with the intention of saving the resort by turning it into some spring break haven, holding the Sandman Festival on the beach. Unfortunately, the decision to hold the festival coincides with a series of unexplained deaths on the beaches and the local sheriff is forced to close them with the fear that there is a dangerous animal on the loose. They soon learn that the cause of these deaths is a bunch of prehistoric sharks which are able to move through sand as easily as water. Not one to be deterred, Jimmy opts to press ahead with the festival with disastrous consequences.

 

Sand Sharks is every bit as goofy as it sounds and then some. The latest in a long, long line of low budget creature features from either The Asylum or The Sci-Fi Channel, if you’ve seen any of them then you’ll be in very familiar territory with this one. Truth to be told, they’re almost identikit films with only the title creatures being the variable between them. Having plundered the market for normal variations of sharks and crocodiles and totally worn out their welcomes with over-saturation, the studios mentioned now turn to prehistoric variations on the mentioned creatures. What it all boils down to is virtually the same type of killer shark film we’ve seen before, only with more of a Tremors feel to it than outright Jaws.

Spielberg’s classic is riffed on quite a lot throughout the film. Whether it just shows that the script writers are signalling where their influences lie or whether they’re just being lazy and rehashing scenes to fill out the time is another matter. The town hall scene, complete with a local ‘Quint’ who offers to kill the sharks, perhaps sums up the nature of the film best with its shameless lampooning. Jaws isn’t alone in having scenes poorly plagiarised, with the likes of Piranha and, bizarrely enough, Blood Beach also victimised. Not only is the entire film filled with scenes lifted from other films, there’s a pathetically goofy comic undercurrent running alongside. There are all sorts of one-liners, puns and sight gags strewn around and the script is full of general silliness – whether this helps the material or hinders it will entirely depend on your mindset before viewing. The feeble efforts at comedy fall flat and become somewhat embarrassing as the film progresses. Piranha 3-D this is not!

The preposterous abilities of these sharks are all rendered with the usual cheap CGI. At no point do you ever get the sense that they are swimming around in the sand – heck it’s even hard to believe that they exist in the same universe as the rest of the film. With no physical presence at all, the CGI looks tacky and what’s worse, it makes the actors look just as bad as they try to convey the sense of physicality. One of the scenes in the finale involving two characters, a confined space and the mother shark had me in stitches for all of the wrong reasons. The sharks change size from scene to the next, depending on what the story requires them to do. It’s just basic school boy error making but something which no one seems bothered with anymore. Sand Sharks is not the first, and it surely won’t be the last, of these films to vary the size of their creatures to accommodate things in the script – either change the script or cut the scene.

What’s worse is that the script has characters continually walk onto the sand when they have been standing on concrete paths. As these sharks are only too keen on leaping out of the sand like salmon, this is a bad decision on behalf of anyone who decides to venture out there. Trying to overcompensate for the lack of genuine shocks or moments of excitement, there’s a CGI gore overdose with all manner of entrails and severed heads being brought to life in not-so-believable computer-generated fashion.

It would be a poor review to not give brief mention to the cast, in particular Corin Nemec who plays the slimy Jimmy and chews every scene that he’s in. There’s a genuine spark in the scenes that he’s in but unfortunately it fails to ignite anyone else into life. It seems like a bit of effort went into developing his character though the same can’t be said for any of the other routinely-bland stereotypes and quite how anyone would believe Brooke Hogan to be some sort of scientist is beyond me.

 

Sand Sharks attempts to mix Jaws and Tremors with disastrously cheesy consequences. If you’re going to watch this, then chances are that you know what you’re about to get yourself for and are bracing for impact. Nothing anyone is going to say will make you change your mind.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Super Shark (2011)

Super Shark (2011)

That’s one big ass shark!

An offshore drilling accident triggers the release of a giant prehistoric shark which can crawl on land or fly and proceeds to start terrorising the nearby community. Marine biologist Kat Carmichael is called in to investigate but runs into problems in the shape of oil executive Mr Wade.

 

I guess it’s the trend nowadays for monster movies to try and go more over-the-top than the last one. Since The Asylum’s terribly over-hyped snooze-fest Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus set the bar for outlandish physics-defying claptrap, it seems that every film made since featuring aquatic terrors has to try and outdo it in terms of ludicrousness and unbelievability. From Sharktopus featuring a shark-octopus hybrid which can walk on land to Mega Piranha with flying piranha fish taking out helicopters, sharks with two heads in 2-Headed Shark Attack and finally Sand Sharks with sharks than can ‘swim’ in sand, there seems to be no stopping this new wave of eye-rolling monotony. Super Shark isn’t going to buck that trend any time soon, rummaging through the bin and taking a page out of the nonsense book by having a mutant shark that can both fly and walk on land!

It’s quite hard to go into a film called Super Shark and not be surprised that it isn’t anything more than a complete turd. Story and common sense matters little to a film like this. It’s a film designed to showcase some bonkers set pieces featuring a shark that can walk on land and that’s primarily it. Human characters are there just to move along the plot until the next shark moment. Whatever cool ideas the writers thought they could get away, they throw in here without concern for how bizarre they are. Ever wanted to see a giant CGI walking shark battle a walking CGI tank on a sunny beach? Well here you are in all of its cartoon CGI glory. Seriously, the effects in this film are ridiculous. The shark has the usual CGI shark perma-grin slapped on its face and seems to be impervious to bullets (either that or the marksman in the tank was a lousy shot). Someone give me an animatronic or even rubber shark like the good old days – but I guess that would be considered boring now.

Part of the problem in this cycle of films, embodied by Super Shark, is that they have to outdo each other for fear that they’ll come off dull and “not as good as Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus.” So with the barrage of moronic set pieces comes a whole host of silly sub-plots and a sardonic script to keep the audience bombarded with as much inane nonsense as possible. There are a couple of sub-plots here which are all just treading water until the characters are fed to the shark at various points. Take for example the three lifeguards introduced at the beginning of the film. Possibly coming off as main characters, they are given a fair share of the screen time and a silly love-triangle plot before the shark has its way with them pretty soon after. It was a dead end sub-plot but given way too much time before proving itself to be a total waste. The script also litters the film with ridiculous dialogue that people can use as soundbytes because the writers know that it’s the only hope they have of getting people to remember it. You can bet your life that someone will call it “super shark” at some point.

Low budget exploitation horror veteran Fred Olen Ray is at the helm for this one and despite mocking some of his previous efforts, how I yearn for the cheap splatter effects and gratuitous nudity of some of his 90s outings. This is Olen Ray at his most neutered and puerile, barely raising a titter with plenty of bikini bimbos and having to endure the awfulness of the CGI shark during the set pieces. Where are the centrefolds he used to cast and then get them naked? Where are the cheap homemade blood patches and bargain basement limbs?

As is the case with these Sy-Fy/Asylum-esque flicks, there are one or two low rent actors taking the main parts for some form of name recognition. Sy-Fy stalwart John Schneider just can’t play a decent bad guy to save his life and his slimy oil executive character doesn’t even manage to raise a few pantomime boos. At least Sarah Lieving still looks as good as she did in Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus, filling out one of the aforementioned bikinis with aplomb. Couldn’t tell you anything about her character but she looked good doing whatever she was supposed to be doing.

 

Super Shark is yet another lame, one-trick watered down monster movie where the novelty value of the creature-of-the-moment soon outstays its welcome after the first sighting and then proceeds to go from idiotic set piece to the next. This genre has quite literally ‘jumped the shark’ now. Until next month at least and the next one of these films off the conveyor belt….

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012)

Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012)

Your worst fears will surface.

Drawn to the shores by illegal drilling, a swarm of aggressive bull sharks start attacking people in the waters of Seaside Heights in the run up to the 4th of July. When one of their friends is attacked and killed, the guidos and the guidettes of the Jersey Shore take it upon themselves to rid the town of its aquatic menace. The sharks are not the only thing they have to worry about as their feud with their snobbish rivals at the yacht club threatens to spoil their summer.

 

Upon hearing the premise, I thought that this recent frenzy of outlandish shark films had reached an ultimate low in the shape of Jersey Shore Shark Attack. Not content with the preposterous shenanigans of Super Shark, Sand Sharks, 2-Headed Shark Attack, Sharktopus and the rest of this ungodly wave of toothy terrors, the addition of a bunch of bimbos and blunder heads supposedly spoofing the stars of US reality TV Jersey Shore had me nearly smashing up my TV in disgust at the new depths that producers would go to sell their films. I’d hardly shell out cash to see another hare-brained monster movie but even less inclined to do so knowing that the screen would be filled up by a load of people pretending to be famous idiots.

I have never, nor do I have any intention to, watch Jersey Shore or any number of the fly-on-the-wall ‘real people’ docu-dramas so any preconceptions I may have had about this went totally out of the window before watching. But even I’m one to hold my hand up and admit when I’m wrong and in this case, I can hold it up a little bit. With tongue firmly in cheek, Jersey Shore Shark Attack could well be the best of the senseless, adrenaline-fuelled recent wave of killer shark flicks. Whilst the competition is admittedly weak, this one has the decency to hold its hand up and admit how awful it is.

Jersey Shore Shark Attack manages to succeed where its fellow shark films have failed in that the human characters and the story are the most entertaining bits of the film. Forget the sharks – the cast of characters here make the film. The script spends the majority of its running time poking fun at these dim-witted but well-meaning heroes as they drench themselves in fake tan, garish clothes and more hair product than a barber shop goes through in a year. From throwing protein bars into the water to try and attract sharks to attempting to hot wire a boat, these characters are dumb but likeable enough for you to want to see them survive. It’s a complete reversal of how I was expecting to feel towards them but the script makes the impossible possible!

As clichéd and low brow as it is, the romantic side plot between TC and Nooki makes for engaging drama. These are truly awfully written characters but they work because of that fact. In taking themselves and the story seriously, the film works well as a comedy. There’s nothing forced here – the characters are the joke but they’re just not aware of it. This endears them to the audience, albeit in a cheap way.

Well at least that is true for the cast of guidos and guidettes, who grunt and screech their way through hilariously cringe-worthy dialogue. But someone forget to tell the senior actors on display, particularly the trio of William Atherton, Paul Sorvino and Jack Scalia, who all seem to be doing their hardest to treat everything as serious as possible. The different approaches don’t mesh together well, leading to one half of the film which is jokey and the other which is grim and sombre – after all, people are being killed by these sharks!

Don’t get me wrong, Jersey Shore Shark Attack is still a typical Sy-Fy flick through and through and this is unfortunately its undoing. It just can’t escape the usual clichés and pitfalls. There are sharks in this, though with the focus being on the trials and tribulations of the characters you wouldn’t have guessed it, and Jersey Shore Shark Attack follows the Jaws formula to the latter with a mayor who wants to keep the beaches open, a fake shark being caught and paraded in front of the papers and a sleazy property developer thrown in for good measure. Special effects are at their usual penny-pinching worst here with some of the worst-looking sharks to ever swim the seas. I just hope that the designers were in on the joke and didn’t intentionally make them look as poor as this.

 

Maybe it’s the rock bottom expectations I had when I saw this but Jersey Shore Shark Attack surprised me for being somewhat entertaining but this is solely down to the antics of the charming characters as opposed to anything else. I can’t say it was fantastic but out of the recent shark films, it’s at the top of the food chain.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Jurassic Shark (2012)

Jurassic Shark (2012)

Dinosaur from the deep

An oil company unwittingly unleashes a prehistoric shark from its icy prison, trapping a group of art thieves and female college students on an abandoned island where they must work together in order to escape.

 

Every once in a while, I’ll sit down and watch a film and proclaim it to be the single worst film I’ve ever seen. Go back through some of my old reviews and you’ll see this statement bandied around a fair bit. There can only be one ‘single worst film I’ve ever seen’ so the statement soon loses credibility if I keep repeating myself. So there will be no statements of grandeur for this review. I’ll just go on the record by saying that Jurassic Shark could be the worst film ever made. I’m not sure whether it’s even supposed to be a proper film or a joke that went too far.

More time was devoted to creating a kick-ass poster to trick punters into buying or renting the film than it seems actually went in to making it. Jurassic Shark is seventy-five minutes of incompetent filmmaking at its very best. Right from the opening scene featuring two girls who look to have been randomly picked up off the streets and talk like they were (they casually chat, not act, with each other as if the camera wasn’t there), the film never once manages to rise above looking and sounding like a college project which went viral. With a sparsely populated film, which is 90% set in the outdoors, you just get the impression that it was made by a group of friends in the middle of nowhere over some overcast weekend in July.

There’s little plot to the film and what little there is could easily be dissected to reveal the numerous lapses on logic and holes. But the small scope of the story, coupled with the general lack of people on camera, just gives the film a lightweight feel. A big oil company which has about three employees? A company which is drilling through ice in a lake which is warm enough to swim in? Thieves who plan to escape a heist on a rowing boat? I could keep going but there’s no point. I’m not trying to knock people who want to go out and make films for fun – I will knock them when their home movies get passed off as proper films and cause people like me to be out of pocket.

I wasn’t expecting the special effects to be up to much and I can’t say I wasn’t surprised. The best thing I can say is that the shark didn’t look as bad as I expected it to be. The same few frames of animation are repeatedly used whenever it attacks or is shown swimming around. There’s nothing exciting about the shark. It never once manages to instil fear, dread or any sense of physical menace. It’s just there. Yes it does eat a few characters but there’s nothing memorable about it. To say it was supposed to be a ‘Jurassic’ shark, the novelty value is non-existent and it could just as well have been any normal shark in a lake. The CGI effects typically vary in size from scene to scene and the  effects also commit the cardinal sin of not interacting properly with their physical environment (for example the dorsal fin doesn’t even cause a ripple or anything when it moves along).

Like a lot of these low budget creature features, the shark is given the boot for a lot of the running time, with the ‘script’ opting to focus on the interaction between the human characters. Between the group of thieves and the college students, there’s about half a body of talent between them all. I don’t know where these films find these people (well actually I do – their close friends and family) but sometimes it borders on embarrassing just watching people try to act out roles like tough thieves, college students, scientists, etc. I’m sure they’ve all got a huge buzz out of starring in a film like this but for the rest of us watching, its painful to watch and listen to.

 

When a shark film is so bad it makes Raging Sharks look like Jaws, you know you’ve reached rock bottom. To call Jurassic Shark a feeble effort would do that word a disservice. I honestly cannot believe that something as amateurish as this actually managed to get a DVD release. Even more unbelievable in the fact that chumps like me paid to see it.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Child's Play 3 (1991)

Look who’s stalking!

Years after the events with Chucky, Andy Barclay has grown up and is about to start military school. In the meantime, Play Pals decide to re-release the Good Guys doll line, thinking that enough time has passed since the original murders ruined their public image. Re-using old materials to create their dolls, one of the new dolls is possessed by the vengeful spirit of Charles Lee Ray who immediately seeks out Andy in the hope of finishing him off.

 

As with the first sequel, that’s about as much story as you’re going to get from Child’s Play 3. Let’s face it, there’s no real need to create anything complicated for the story to follow. Chucky has unfinished business with Andy and wants his soul so instead of rolling out yet another film with Andy as a child, Child’s Play 3 wisely decides to move the entire story forward a few years to try and give the audience a different spin on the tale. At least that was the idea but what we end up with is more damaging to the series than one could have expected. Perhaps the decision to rush it out nine months after the last sequel was a poor call and a bit more time spent in pre-production, especially on the screenplay, would have worked wonders.

Child’s Play 3 works to some extent but for the most it’s the weakest entry in the series. It’s nothing special simply because there are no great plot twists, no dramatic occurrences and no real changes in direction from the material that we’ve already had in the other two films. Though Andy is now a young adult, Chucky conveniently finds another child to attempt to swap bodies with and so this sequel just retreads the same story as the first two and simply places the story in a different setting. This time it’s a military academy and the object of his pursuit is a young boy named Tyler. This kid is annoying – the actor (Jeremy Sylvers) is a little too over-awed in the role and he’s also a little too old to believe in dolls. Compare him to Alex Vincent in the first two films and the difference in quality is staggering. Vincent was able to balance the precious innocence of his youth alongside a resolute, almost adult-like self-determination to stop Chucky to make a huge impression.

The story is little more than signposting to get from one death scene to the next and from early on, you know that’s little more than you’re going to get. Chucky’s resurrection into his new body isn’t well explained (at least it was the same doll in the first sequel) and the film skims over the requisite scenes of him working out what he needs to do in order to become human again. This allows him plenty of time to get doing what he does best and that’s kill people. The film is the bloodiest of the series to date, with Chucky going to work on everyone and anyone with whatever he could get his hands on. With the ante upped on the gore and set pieces, the slower-burning suspense and tension of the first two films is replaced with a quicker, more frenetic pace. In attempting to outdo the previous two films, the script here shows a bit too much of Chucky and not enough of the other characters we’re supposed to root for.

Chucky is now firmly in the role of anti-hero, a character that the audience knows that it shouldn’t be cheering on but they do because he’s fun to watch (and because the characters we’re supposed to empathise with are either dull as dishwater or total assholes). I’m sure you’ll feel guilty for cheering on such an evil, psychotic murderer but the way his character has easily been manipulated by the demands of the audience into such an anti-hero will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Chucky gets to fire off his usual one-liners and witty remarks but you also know that he’s a truly nasty piece of work, killing people here not because they are getting in the way of his plan but simply because he gets kicks out of it. Brad Dourif returns to voice Chucky and he’s as excellent as ever.

Unfortunately it’s the entry which has been saddled with the most negative press due to the tragic death of young James Bulger in the UK, whose horrible murder was stupidly pinned upon his two killers apparently watching Child’s Play 3 numerous times – a fact which was proven untrue during the court case. But the damage had been done and despite being falsely labelled, it has never fully repaired its reputation. Granted it’s not the greatest entry in the series but there is a heck of a lot worse films out there in the market both in terms of film quality and brutal content.

 

Child’s Play 3 isn’t the greatest of slasher films, nor is it the worst by a long way. It’s pretty serviceable and at ninety minutes, it’s certainly a brisk film. You just come to expect more from a franchise which started out so superbly but has descended into little more than average within the space of three films. This is one toy that has outgrown it’s use.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Bug Buster (1998)

Bug Buster (1998)

There’s something creepy in the neighbourhood…

A small lakeside community is plagued by killer cockroaches which can grow up to ten feet long. So the townspeople call in an over-the-top exterminator from TV to try and solve their bug problem.

 

If you ever wondered how badly George Takei and James Doohan needed work after their Star Trek films dried up then look no further than Bug Buster, a dopey ‘monsters on the loose in a small town’ flick which desperately tries to sell itself as the next big cult B-movie but fails in almost every aspect. Takei and Doohan are slumming badly in this hokey effort that assumes that being inept and goofy every two minutes is the key to becoming a funny horror parody.

There’s nothing to distinguish Bug Buster from the dozens of other creature feature films released in the 90s, save for the two Star Trek alumni present. It sticks rigidly to the traditional templates that these films follow and there’s little deviation from the well-walked path. Shady business dealings that need to go through regardless of the presence of the monster. Corrupt local authority figures desperately ignoring the threat of the menace. Townspeople that no one will believe until it’s too late. And you can keep going. Unfortunately whilst treading this path, the pace of the film is hellish slow. It takes ages to get into gear but stops and starts too many times.

When a film seems more concerned with referencing other films instead of getting its own house in order first, you know that there’s a definite sense of missed priorities. We know that the writers have seen Jaws because the film follows the typical monster-on-the-loose tropes but just to be on the safe side, it actually has the sheriff mention the film in speaking. There are also references to Outbreak, A Nightmare on Elm Street and strangely enough, The Wizard of Oz. It all adds up to make a mockery of the script, which flits between the moronic and the monotonous. You get the constant sense that Bug Buster is trying too hard to be liked.

How do the Star Trek alumni fare? Not great it has to be said. Takei is too eccentric and stereotypical as the slightly off-beat Japanese scientist and never actually shares a scene with anyone else in the film. He’s off in some lab somewhere and is being contacted by one of his students for help. Doohan, well, he’s even worse as the town sheriff. The Scooby-Doo style revelation at the end of the film is so badly under-acted and was begging for someone to do a moustache-twirling villain-like explain all diatribe. Doohan just isn’t comfortable trying to be an asshole and it shows with his weak delivery. I don’t think he was comfortable ‘interacting’ with the CGI bugs either, flailing his arms pathetically as a CGI bug attacks him late on. But hey, at eighty year old when he filmed this, I can’t knock him too much as he is given one of the bigger roles. But I think name value was more important when he was cast and the fact they could slap another Star Trek name on the cover was obviously higher on the attributes list than acting talent.

Topping off the scales of the bizarre casting is Randy Quaid. He’s clearly been at the coffee again and brings his usual brash, loudmouth, in your face attributes to the role of General George, the bug exterminator, and clearly some sort of poor man’s imitation of John Goodman’s character from Arachnophobia. At least Quaid is consistent in his performances so you know what you’re going to get. Quaid pops up quite often in the commercials on TV but doesn’t get to battle the bugs until the very end which is a bit of a shame. As manic and annoying as he can get, at least Quaid knows what he’s starring in and attempts to inject a bit of life. A young Katherine Heigl also stars.

The bugs themselves don’t get a lot of screen time, a mixture of CGI monstrosities and real-live bugs. There are a couple of scenes involving the real bugs which will have you squirming in your seat but all of the CGI moments are too badly rendered. Take for instance the giant ‘mother roach’ which attacks Doohan’s sheriff character late in the film and never once looks like it’s doing anything to him. There is plenty of and blood and goo but it’s more icky than outright horrible.

 

Bug Buster is simply bottom rung drivel. The cast is poor, the special effects are beyond awful and the film fails to provide any degree of entertainment save for the laughable sight of Takei and Doohan really badly needing a better paid gig.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Dark Waters (2003)

Dark Waters (2003)

No Air. No Time. No Escape.

When a pack of sharks attack an undersea oil station in the Gulf of Mexico, a science team is sent to investigate what happened. However their sub is attacked by the sharks and the only three survivors are picked up by a top secret Navy research submarine. It is there where the team find out the horrible truths about the deadly sharks and realise they must find a way to stop them before they reach the Florida coastline.

 

The killer shark sub-genre is arguably one of my favourites of horror and that’s mainly down to one of the only worthwhile entries: the all-time classic, Jaws. Pretty much every film containing killer sharks since then has truly been awful (Jaws 2 was an underrated sequel and Deep Blue Sea was trashy fun). This is a genre with such garbage as the Shark Attack trilogy, Shark Zone, Megalodon, Red Water, Blue Demon, Shark in Venice, Shark Hunter and many number of cheap foreign knock-offs. Does Dark Waters fit right in at home with them? Ha, is the Earth round?

In order to make a decent shark flick, you need to have one thing: sharks. Dark Waters goes to great lengths to avoid any sort of shark action. These predators aren’t well fed in the slightest and, save for the odd death here and there, they’re not the main focus of the story. There are some early attacks within the first five minutes to make you think that you’re in for a treat but then the treats dry up once the film has you believing in it. The sharks end up being off screen so much that you’ll forget you’re even watching a film with them in. Of course they show up as a token gesture in the finale but that’s more likely to remind the viewer that they’re watching a film about killer sharks as opposed to any real need for the story to have them there.

What you have instead is your typical mad scientist film where the main characters get into plenty of discussions and arguments with the mad scientist creator, get locked up for their troubles so that they can’t interrupt his experiments and then finally the scientist realises what a mistake he’s made before it’s too late and all hell has broken loose. There are lots of Navy guys running around in the submarine shooting at each other. There is really hot chick (Simmone Mackinnon) that spends most of the film in a bikini, a low-cut tank top or a wet t-shirt but who can’t act for toffee. There are some more Navy guys who constantly scream out “Now” at the end of every sentence (example being “open the doors, now!” or “full speed ahead, now”). It’s all very annoying but when a script is about killer sharks and decides to ditch them into the background in favour of all of this rubbish, it’s a no brainer how it is going to end – badly. The ending itself features a shocking sequence of events in which a load of innocent people are killed as well as the evil scientists. They were only doing their jobs!

The sharks don’t look too bad in CGI form – at least they’re not stock footage sharks – but you just don’t get enough of them. The film also gives them silly noises as if they’re motor cars racing along at the bottom of the sea. The effects are much better than you’ll see in some of the other killer shark flicks but given what happens in the film and what the sharks are required to do, the budget doesn’t match the scope in any shape. Physics never come into the equation in this type of flick and the sharks are able to do stuff they have no business doing. But you get to see so little of them, I wouldn’t have been bothered if they started walking on land or firing laser beams from their frickin’ heads (ten points if you got that last reference).

 

Dark Waters takes Deep Blue Sea and runs it through a blender, ripping out anything interesting or dramatic it had and presenting the empty rest inside a DVD case. A definite no-no. The only thing the sharks need to be fed here is the script writer and the director.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Hollow, The (2004)

The Hollow (2004)

Some Legends Never Die.

Ian Cranston is unaware that he is the last blood relative of Ichabod Crane, the legendary figure who stopped the Headless Horseman’s reign of terror in Sleepy Hollow. His arrival in the famous town stirs up the spirit of the Horseman who wants to settle an old score.

 

Taking one of the most famous ghost stories of all time and turning it into some made-for-TV teen terror flick isn’t what the doctor ordered and The Hollow doesn’t do any justice to Washington Irving’s classic story whatsoever. Those of you who imagine the story of Ichabod Crane and The Headless Horseman to resemble something vaguely like Tim Burton’s gothic Sleepy Hollow (even if it does take many liberties with the material) should well avoid this attempt to transport the story into a contemporary setting.

The Hollow is tame. I didn’t expect too much with it being made-for-TV and I didn’t get anything in return. Light on horror, light on gore, light on sexuality and light on anything that could be construed as remotely offensive, the film looks and runs like a pre-school Halloween special at times. I guess I should be writing the review from the point of view of its intended audience and in that respect, the film does alright. A ‘My First Horror Film’ approach is evident here with some mild scares, gentle titillation and a few young recognisable faces that the younger audience would be able to associate with – Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys fame for instance. For the older viewer, this is all just too glossy and light-hearted, throwing in a couple of faces that we’d immediately recognise. Stacy Keach does the ‘Crazy Ralph’ character who warns everyone about the impending danger and Judge Reinhold, no doubt grateful that he’s not starring in another Beethoven sequel, is here as well.

Even if the film was geared towards a younger market, at least it could have been somewhat exciting with plenty of action. The Headless Horseman doesn’t really make an appearance until a good half-way through the story so what we’re left with in the meantime is plenty of overly melodramatic TV drama fodder. There’s the ‘nerdy guy taking the hot cheerleader and making the jock jealous’ nugget as well as the ‘tumultuous father and son relationship where father knows best’ side story as well. The plot about the lad being a descendant of Ichabod Crane was perfectly acceptable to bring the story into the present and could have carried the film on its own. But instead it gets padded out with generic dramatic foil.

When the Horseman finally shows up late in the day to start killing (a body count of five is pretty slim pickings), the film does pick up a bit of steam but it’s not really a lot to save it. Most of the film takes place at night too and the transfer to DVD wasn’t particularly convincing so it’s quite hard to see who is chasing who at times during the latter stages. There’s little gore to be had here though depending on which version you catch will depend on the amount of gore (the DVD is apparently ‘unrated’ though there’s not much extra on show). I’ve also got to question the notion of a Headless Horseman when this ghostly figure spends the film wearing a huge pumpkin for a head. It kind of defeats the notion of him being headless. Bring back Christopher Walken as the Horseman and all may be forgiven.

 

The Hollow is a formulaic ‘safe’ teen movie with a dash of adult horror added as an afterthought at the end. It’s a total waste of time for anyone except teenagers and even then they should be sneaking into the cinema to get a glimpse of R-rated films or borrowing dodgy copies off their mates.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Hellraiser - Bloodline (1996)

This year, the past, the present and the future will all meet at the crossroads of hell.

In 2127, Dr Merchant leads a team of scientists on board a space station in attempting to permanently close the gates of Hell for good, having been opened back in 18th century France by one of his ancestors. For centuries, his descendants have been trying to find a way to reverse the Lament Configuration Box and now he believes he has found a way. But Pinhead and the Cenobites do not want the gateway closing.

 

The last of the Hellraiser films to obtain a cinematic release, Hellraiser: Bloodline was a misguided attempt to revive the flagging fortunes of the series. Like many horror franchises (Leprechaun, Friday the 13th, even Critters), when all other potential storylines had been exhausted, there was always the opportunity to blast their villains into outer space. The third instalment wasn’t overly thrilling but that didn’t stop the money men from milking the cash cow. Director Kevin Yagher, going under the infamous Alan Smithee pseudonym to officially disown his film, was involved in many arguments with the studio over this sequel and it shows in the final product. Hellraiser: Bloodline isn’t perhaps the total dud that it’s made out to be.

The main problem with the Hellraiser sequels, save for the first one, is that they all progressively moved further away from the dark taboos that Clive Barker had dreamt up. The whole pleasure-pain and Heaven-Hell binaries, films full of sadism, torture and moral choices – these were exactly the sort of ingredients needed to make thought-provoking horror. With a greater focus on the ready-made horror icon Pinhead, the sequels shifted away from this, turning into little more than glorified supernatural slashers. Hellraiser: Bloodline is the perfect example of this – a film which is top heavy with Pinhead, features plenty of gruesome set pieces and a cast of undeveloped fodder to feed to the Cenobites when needed. There are still signs of Barker’s original visions but they’ve been papered over with generic horror clichés and turned into more of a fast food horror film than a thinking man’s.

The story on its own is decent. Seeing how the numerous generations of Merchants have tried to deal with the Lament Configuration Box sounds solid in theory but less so when it is all put together. The jumps from the past to the future are too frequent and the loose structure allows for little connection between the three separate stories. The two stories set in the past are much more interesting, particularly the one in France as its nice to see horror films set in period settings without the trappings of science, knowledge and a couple of bullets to deal with the monster. As the story moves forward in time, so the interest diminishes. The whole staging aboard on the space station in the final third just seems like a poor man’s retread of Alien, only with Cenobites stalking the soldiers in the dark. It’s hardly inspiring stuff and you’ll have seen it done before.

Though Pinhead was grossly overused in the sequels (he wasn’t even given a name in the original), turning into another Freddy Krueger-like talking villain, it’s still nice to see him in his prime before the following sequels turned him into a running cameo. Doug Bradley is comfortable in the role at this point, relishing the lines he has to deliver and speaking with gusto and malice. The character gets some of his best lines in this one like “I am pain” and “Do I look like someone who cares what God thinks?” He still gets too much screen time but as he’s the best thing on display by a mile here, it’s the lesser of two evils. The rest of the cast are pretty dire although Valentina Vargas acts with her body at times.

The gory set pieces have been given the focus in this one. Whilst the original featured its fair share of flesh ripping, the sequels tried to out-do it in terms of gratuitousness. There’s a scene in which a pair of cops are hideously mauled together and their heads and bodies twisted and contorted together to form a single Cenobite. Later on, the twins absorb another victim. In the final third where the soldiers are picked off one-by-one, there are the usual chains and hooks as well as a fancy mirror death. It’s all very imaginative stuff but the deaths are quick. There’s no suffering. There’s no drawn out agony. Pinhead preaches a lot about suffering and pain yet his goons decide to kill their victims within a heart beat rather than draw out a long, lingering death. Kevin Yagher was a make-up effects guy before he stepped into the hot seat and it shows, delivering a series of sterling gore moments.

 

Hellraiser: Bloodline is nowhere near as bad as people would have you believe. There is enough gore, a quite high body count, plenty of flesh-ripping hooks and special effects to keep horror fans interested, and of course, there is always Pinhead. But messy editing, poor acting and a poor script spoil it. I would like to have seen Kevin Yagher’s original vision for the film as there was potential in here but the studios think they know best, not the guys who actually make the film.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆