Behemoth (2011)

Behemoth (2011)

A mountain…A monster…A massacre.

An unexplained series of earthquakes threatens to activate a long dormant volcano which in turn puts a local town in grave danger. Seismologist Emily Green investigates the matter and meets local lumberjack Thomas Anderson. The two form a partnership to get to the bottom of the events and it leads them to a shocking discovery. The tremors are being caused by a huge monster which emerges every fifteen thousand years to threaten humanity.

 

First it was the drive-in. Then it was home video. Now it seems that the first point of call for anyone wanting their fill of low budget monster movies is to check out the Sci-Fi Channel. I’ve lost track of the amount of ‘Sci-Fi Originals’ that have been made over the past couple of years. They are produced by the network to fill a void in Saturday night prime time television in the States and generally budget up around the $5m mark, a mere pittance when you consider something like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides had a budget rumoured to be $250m.

With short shooting schedules and quick turnaround, these cheapo films are easy to make and provide the channel with fresh programming whilst no doubt picking up a small sum when the films are released on DVD. With the low budgets, short shooting schedules and quick turnaround comes the inevitable issues of creativity and originality. I’d bet there is one script floating around the studios where a team of writers simply change the names of he characters, the location and the type of monster before signing it off for production. Behemoth is the latest in a LONG line of carbon copy monster flicks where the entire film can be plotted out just by reading the DVD blurb.

The Sci-Fi Channel clichés are all in abundance here: rugged and usually single father with attractive daughter in late teens/early twenties encounters some strange events in his small local town. He then meets up with attractive female scientist sent to investigate (who also happens to be single…..what are the odds?) and the two join up in order to combat whatever the monster-of-the-week before hopelessly falling in love by the end of the film after he rescues her and the daughter from imminent death at a crucial point in the film. Don’t forget the creative license that these films take with scientific theory and physics. The only difference between this and the likes of Wyvern and Carny is the choice of monster.

I really don’t see the logic in choosing Behemoth – something which is described in the film as a “singularity event” which can change the face of the planet – since the budget was never going to stretch any further than it does here and we were never going to witness full scale carnage of the Earth’s cities being smashed to pieces. For all that it’s cracked up to be the bringer of the end of the world, Behemoth doesn’t do anything. It emerges from the ground far too late in the film (it’s just before the hour mark when it finally begins to show itself) and then it’s hardly worried about destroying the planet. It seems more bothered with killing off a few puny humans (our main characters) than doing any city-smashing. Talk about an anti-climax. The entire film builds up the nature of the monster and gears us up for something amazing and the final product is just, well….meh.

This is a real pity too because, when the monster finally decides to make its cameo appearance, it looks pretty darn impressive. It’s the size of the mountain and has huge tentacles flailing all over the place as well as a massive mouth with razor teeth – think of the Kraken from the Clash of the Titans remake and you wouldn’t be too far from this. The special effects are surprisingly good and the sheer scale of the creature makes for a breath-holding couple of moments. But just as things are getting interesting, the hero decides it would be an appropriate time to launch a special weapon and kill it before it has chance to do any damage. There’s a decent script in here which cried out for a good $150m+ budget. Add another half an hour to this with the creature smashing up cities and the like before the secret weapon is used and you’d have had a great flick.

A bigger budget wouldn’t have mattered much to the cast though since it wouldn’t matter who you got in to play these characters, it would have been the same result. You can write the dialogue as you go along with these sort of films. Pseudo-scientific jargon to make everything sound plausible. Gushy romantic dialogue for the sub plot. Whiny teenagers rebelling against their parents. Crazy old men warning of the end of the world. Speaking of which, William B. Davis, the legendary Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files is the token old coot here, spouting off the end of the world and generally doom-mongering (until it turns out he was speaking the truth!). It’s a far cry away from his cold, calculating character he made famous but ironic since he’s the one now doing the Fox Mulder-style paranoia ranting.

 

Behemoth runs more like one of their cheap disaster films than a monster film. It is simply another cog in the machine for the Sci-Fi Channel. It’s not producing “original” films anymore, just lifeless clones each one more predictable, more tiring and more dismal than the last.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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