Tag Octopus/Squid

Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda (2014)

Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda (2014)

A love story

Scientist Rico Symes has crafted the latest predatory super-weapon for the military by splicing together DNA strands from a pterodactyl and a barracuda, creating a creature known as Pteracuda. During a routine test mission, the creature goes rogue after a terrorist hijacks the computer controls. Capable of flight or swimming, Symes knows that Pteracuda poses a massive problem and so tracks down the surviving offspring of the original Sharktopus, now in a sanctuary in a local aquarium. Fitting it with a transmitter, Symes gives Sharktopus a simple command: to find and destroy Pteracuda.

 

I was a little generous in my review for Sharktopus, stating it was ‘everything a cheap, goofy and enjoyable monster movie should be about’ but I could clearly see where the enjoyment was coming from and with such a ridiculous premise, it ran with it as best as it had any right to do. A few years later and Roger Corman is back with even more bizarreness but far less originality. A sequel to both Sharktopus and Piranhaconda (though I don’t get the connection with the latter film), Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda continues the trend of combing the names of two random creatures to make a new monster. Pteracuda was the dumbest name I’d ever heard – well until the sequel Sharktopus Vs Whalewolf went into production! Apparently, a bunch of combi-names was tossed around on Twitter with fans voting for the one they wanted. At least Corman is giving in to people power.

Do you expect anything remotely resembling a plot? No? Good, didn’t think so. You won’t find that here. Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda gives us the bare minimum story of military experiments, terrorists, innocent civilians who get wound up in the mayhem and plenty of unnecessary characters to throw into the way of the monsters every few minutes. Honestly, Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda doesn’t even run like clockwork – the clock has well and truly stopped here and the nonsensical plot developments would only be surprising to an unborn baby and that’s about it. Top secret government weapon that goes haywire and the people responsible attempt to bring it back and cover it up. That’s it. Let’s see what else the film has to offer.

Unlike many other giant monster showdowns of late, particularly the awful Mega Shark Vs … films, Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda does feature a lot of lengthy tussles between the titular creatures, so much so that it actually gets boring watching them. I know, I know, it appears I’m far too hard to please when I complain that there wasn’t enough in Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus and now there is too much in this one. Usually the creatures fight off in a titanic battle at the end of the film akin to the old Godzilla films but Sharktopus and Pteracuda cross paths a lot throughout the film, which was pleasantly surprising as it meant a lot more CGI effects which would have driven up the cost of this film significantly.

Like pretty much all of these CGI slugfests from Sy Fy or The Asylum, the eventual fight scenes fail to connect with the audience. You know that what you’re watching is just two computer-generated monsters fighting off because there’s literally no sense of gravity or weight to them. Don’t get me wrong, the fights do go on for a few minutes a piece but whilst they’re scrapping, the motions and movement are just too fast: tentacles flying across the screen, wings flapping all over the place, teeth gnashing and so on. Real creatures wouldn’t be able to react like that and so in trying to crank up the excitement of the film, the fights just become frenzied free-for-alls in which your eyes and ears are bombarded with as much as possible within the time frame.

Continuing on another irritating trend, both Sharktopus and Pteracuda have a tendency to kill humans by biting their heads off. Most likely because it’s a cheap and easy special effect to pull off in post-production, literally every giant monster of the past few years has killed its human prey like that. Since when did carnivores become so picky and just go for the human head? It’s so annoying, especially when I think of some classic monsters movies and the memorable ways in which people were killed and eaten alive (Quint’s graphic swallowing in Jaws always springs to mind). Having said that, the bulk of the kills are for non-characters who may say a handful of words at best before they’re fed to the fish. People die all too often in this and it becomes a chore. So when someone with a meatier role falls victim to the monsters, there’s no shock value.

That would assume you’d give a toss about any of the characters in this film. Robert Carradine has a bit of a blast as the sort-of-slimy scientist, only he doesn’t really do anything truly evil. Rib Hillis is the stock mercenary tasked with leading the mission to stop the weapon. Hillis doesn’t really get much chance to shine in the role until the end but comes off little better than your generic hero. If there is one saving grace from Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda, it’s in the form of the lovely Katie Savoy. Though her weakly-written marine biologist role is an awful character who serves little to no purpose, she’s one of the most naturally attractive women I’ve ever seen in a film like this. I’m smitten! There’s also a really random cameo from TV talk show host Conan O’Brian, who I’m sure owed Corman a favour to appear in this. Maybe he was a big fan of the original Sharktopus?

 

Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda is a cheap sequel to a cheap film, where special effects seem to revert back in time and all sense of what a film should be has been thrown out of the window. Though I guess when you see two giant hybrid monsters pummeling each other in the air and underwater every ten minutes or so, it’s kind of irrelevant how bad everything else is.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)

It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955)

IT CRUSHES! KILLS! DESTROYS!

A nuclear submarine on its maiden voyage is attacked by a mysterious object from the depths. A large chunk of rubbery tissue is pulled from one of the vessel’s propellers and examined by two marine biologists, who conclude that it came from an enormous octopus. The military dismiss their findings, until the creature begins sinking ships and making its way toward the west coast of the United States.

 

Well in 1950s America, a giant radioactive monster wouldn’t go anywhere else, would it? (Well, maybe except for Godzilla!) This was a decade dominated by ants, locusts, grasshoppers, spiders, scorpions and space monsters all growing to enormous size and attacking America. The nuclear monster era was here, in a time dominated by the very real threat and fear of atomic bombs being used by the Soviet Union. Capitalising on this fear and paranoia, cinema churned out a ridiculous number of varying quality B-movies during this decade, spanning the likes of Earth Vs The Spider, The Black Scorpion, Beginning of the End, Them! And The Deadly Mantis to name but a select few entries. Devastating attacks on mankind weren’t just confined to the land and air though and It Came From Beneath the Sea stands up in the corner of the sea monsters to make a name for itself.

Cult stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen had made his first solo effects feature film two years earlier with classic The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, the earliest of the 1950s atomic monster B-movies. Seeing how popular these films had become, he jumped at the chance to make another one when approached by producer Charles H. Schneer. This was Harryhausen’s first collaboration with Schneer and it was to be the making of a fantastic partnership which would change the way cinema looked at special effects, with the two men pioneering work in classics such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts within the next ten years. Schneer was fully supportive of Harryhausen’s talents, often exceeding budgets in order for the maestro to finish his work to the best possible standards – you just wouldn’t get that level of trust in today’s film market.

With only one man producing the special effects, it was clear that the octopus wasn’t going to be on screen for a lot of the time and so other filler was needed to keep audiences hooked. Sadly, It Came From Beneath the Sea fails to engage the viewer when the monster isn’t around. There’s a really awkward romantic love triangle sub-plot between the main characters and it’s so tedious that you don’t care who gets who by the end. The usual military types spend plenty of the film bickering about the best course of action to prevent disaster from happening and there’s a team of scientists racing to find a way to stop the monster before it’s too late. I’m all for a bit of plot development but seeing the same faces standing around talking isn’t a great use of time. The addition of a news reporter-style narration to proceedings adds nothing to the film except a few extra minutes of running time and a cheap way to provide the exposition that the boring dialogue fails to get across.

When the scenes of destruction arrive, they are pretty good but are over far too quickly. The octopus only has six tentacles (an infamous fact down to Harryhausen not having time or money to animate eight) but this doesn’t stop it from doing some damage, taking out ships before arriving in San Francisco for a very famous attack on the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s more action than the majority of the aforementioned giant monster movies provided but still seems somewhat lacking. Sadly the final confrontation with the octopus doesn’t deliver a knock-out blow when it needs to and the film ends on a rather a weak note.

Kenneth Tobey was a familiar sight in the 50s, starring in two of the decades greatest sci-fi films in The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and The Thing From Another World and lends his usual gung-ho schtick to the military role he is required to play again. Co-star Donald Curtis also popped up in another Harryhausen film a few years later, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and portrays the same military role. You’d think that everyone back in the 50s was in the army with the way they get all of the main roles in these films! They’re both bland in parts that require nothing more of them but to regurgitate military mumbo jumbo to each other.

 

It Came From Beneath the Sea is never built up as one of Harryhausen’s best and there’s a good reason for that – it’s not. Whilst the animation is excellent, the excitement is lacking and there’s not enough action to keep the film from sinking. However, it was another learning curve for Harryhausen and another showcase to craft his art, which he would refine over the coming years.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Octopus 2: River of Fear (2001)

Octopus 2: River of Fear (2001)

Out of time…out of breath!

Dead bodies begin to wash up on New York harbour and no one knows what the cause is. That is until cop Nick Hartfield sees a giant octopus in the harbour but no one will believe him. With the Mayor wanting to keep the harbour open for the Fourth of July celebration, it spells bad news for anyone getting too close to the water.

 

This tacky monster film is a sequel in name only – oh yeah, apart the fact that it has a giant octopus in it – to the original Octopus. At least that one was more Crimson Tide than Jaws even if it was a complete load of rubbish. Octopus 2: River of Fear goes straight for the predictable monster-on-the-loose jugular with predictably dire consequences.

I guess the writers have seen Jaws, or at least a handful of this ludicrously over-saturated ‘monster-on-the-loose’ sub-genre. So what do we have here: monster-on-the-loose – check; character who sees monster and tries to convince everyone else of its existence – check; local authority figure who wants to keep the town/beaches/harbour open for some holiday/festival/event – check; token set piece at said holiday/festival/event where the monster shows itself and proves the person right all along – check. I could keep going on but no doubt if you’re reading this review, you’re familiar with the tropes of that particular sub-genre. Needless to say, Octopus 2: River of Fear has them all except the ‘great white hunter’ character.

Nothing in this film is original in the slightest but I guess that’s your straight-to-video monster flick nowadays. No one can be bothered coming up with creative ideas anymore so they just keep rehashing old ideas. Don’t get me wrong, some of these films can be entertaining when done properly with a decent cast, decent script and reasonable looking monster. But here? I don’t know where to start. It looks dated, almost as if it was filmed back in the late 70s or early 80s such is the grimy nature of the New York setting.

The characters are all so uninteresting and you don’t want to root for anyone, especially the ones who are just so ignorant to everything that happens. There’s no developing these characters at all. They’re just there for the sake of it. Even the actors know this and so don’t put anything into their performances. The story gives them little reason to put any energy into the film, with the police investigation into the discovery of the bodies taking up the majority of the screen time in the first half. Where’s the octopus?

Well you might regret pondering that question when it eventually turns up. The octopus itself looks awful, with big rubber tentacles being used in attack scenes and the underwater sequences are badly filmed and edited together so you can’t see what is going on. I guess they’re good in a ‘old school rubber monster’ sort of way which continues the 70s impression that I alluded to early.

The worst part of Octopus 2: River of Fear comes in the finale with about fifteen minutes to go – the octopus is seemingly ditched and the film turns into some sort of Irvin Allen-style disaster flick as the cop tries to rescue some kids trapped inside a collapsing tunnel. The octopus returns for a brief cameo with about half a minute of the film remaining but the big pay-off finale is sorely lacking. I had to re-check the cover box to make sure I was watching the correct film and that someone hadn’t taped over the proper ending with Daylight.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Octopus 2: River of Fear is its use of landmarks and its depiction of the Manhattan skyline – by the time it was released in 2002 the skyline had been dramatically changed by the events of the preceding year. Surprisingly, the octopus does attack the Statue of Liberty at one point but this is only during a dream sequence, proving to be irrelevant to the overall story. Thinking back to Ray Harryhausen’s classic It Came From Beneath the Sea only makes me wonder what could have been with this scene, in fact the entire film.

 

There’s so much wrong with Octopus 2: River of Fear that it’s hard to end this review without going off on a complete tangent. Nu Image, the brains behind this mess, also made the Spiders films and the first of them was semi-decent so it’s not like they don’t know how to make a good creature feature film. Just not this time around!

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (2006)

Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (2006)

Thirty years ago, Ray witnessed the death of his parents at the hands of a giant squid. Now determined to get revenge for his loss, he joins up with Nicole, an archaeologist who is searching for a fabled Greek opal and whose location is guarded by the squid itself. But a ruthless crime lord is also on the trail of the opal and will do anything to get it.

 

The good old Sci-Fi Channel has once again outdone itself in mediocrity. Not content with churning out such genre tripe as Attack of the Sabretooth, Hammerhead and Pterodactyl, it has decided to go back into the water for another aquatic-bound feature. This time sharks and mutated fish are not the source, it’s the giant squid. I’ve always been keen to see a decent giant squid flick since I saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in which Kirk Douglas and co. battle a rubber squid. I’m going to have to keep on waiting because this mess of a film isn’t going to convince anyone that there’s a giant squid involved, let alone anything resembling a decent plot.

Once again don’t sit down to watch a film with this level of budget and expect to see the squid tearing people apart every moment of screen time. You know what to expect before you do watch it, unfortunately you don’t know how badly your meagre expectations are going to be let down. For a film about a giant squid, you’d think the beast has joined the witness protection program. Apart from a few early moments and then the inevitable showdown at the end, the squid is hardly anywhere to be seen. In fact it’s not only hidden from view, it seems that no one really cares less about it as most of the conversations are directed towards obtaining the opal (or with characters trying to make out with each other).

With this being the Sci-Fi Channel, it can’t just be content with having a group of people all on the same side fighting off the said monster of the film. No, they’ve got to throw in all manner of crime lords, mad scientists, psychotic soldiers, terrorists and general nefarious bad guys to conflict with our heroes. In reality all it does is provide these films with human villains so that they don’t have to show the monsters as much. And it also gives us a few more unnecessary bad guys to feed to our monster. After all, we can’t have any of the good main characters being offered up as monster fodder, can we? Jeez I remember the days when no one was sacred in a horror flick (Spielberg feeding that Kitner boy to the shark in Jaws springs to mind)

The CGI squid rears it’s ugly head on few occasions and looks terrible when it does. The actors have no ability to interact with it whatsoever. I guess it’s hard trying to act as if an imaginary squid is trying to kill you without seeing anything there and waiting for the CGI to be superimposed at a later date. But at least the actors here could try. There’s a major problem with how the squid is portrayed too. In some scenes, the squid is clever enough to slice open scuba divers’ air hoses and in other scenes it drags its intended prey under the water, only to release them a few moments later for no apparent reason. Of course we know that any good characters attacked by the squid will be ok and any of the villains who are munched will not be so lucky. Also thrown in is a random boat of teenagers – their scene providing absolutely nothing to the film apart from three more bodies and the chance to attach Christa Campbell’s name to the production. An easy pay cheque for her it may be but I would have refused to pay the others in the cast.

Charlie O’Connell looks like a total meat axe and comes off sounding just as thick and wooden. Victoria Pratt does little else but hog the screen in a bikini. Why are all of these scientists smoking hot blondes? I need to get a new job! Also appearing is Jack Scalia as the crime boss. Quite what his organisation does is really of no interest to me and it’s a good job because you’re not going to get much more than “I’m a bad guy, boo me” plot development for him.

 

Throughout this film I was constantly reminded of the far superior mini-series The Beast, based on the novel by Peter Benchley. Although the effects looked just about as ropey at times, the emphasis was still on the squid. Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep seems to be a piss poor thriller about an ancient Greek opal with a bit of squid thrown in for good measure. It’s like renaming Raiders of the Lost Ark something like Snake Attack! for the brief moments that the snakes harass Indy. Definitely one to feed to the fishes.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sharktopus (2010)

Sharktopus (2010)

Half-Shark. Half -Octopus. All Terror.

A genetically engineered shark-octopus hybrid, code named S-11 and billed as the Navy’s next super weapon, has its control implants damaged during a demonstration and escapes into the wild. A team is dispatched to try and bring the creature back alive and they head to the Mexican holiday resort of Puerto Vallarta where it has staked a hungry claim to the holidaymaker-filled waters.

 

Sharktopus is one of those films which has thrived on the publicity for its title. Like Snakes on a Plane or even the terrible Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus, the hype machine worked a lot harder to whip the audiences up into frenzy than the actual people who made the films. As it turns out, it’s just another cheaply-made carbon copy creature feature from the Sci-Fi Channel. With such an outlandish creature, you’d have thought that more knowing winks and waves at the audience would have gone down a treat but the bulk of the film is played straight and it’s to its detriment.

Come into this film expecting to be dazzled and you’ll be sorely disappointed but come in with a few beers and like-minded friends and no doubt you’ll be in stitches before the titles hit. Sharktopus runs like a sequence of terribly thought-out set pieces where the sharktopus is right there at the centre of the action. You see it from the start and it gets a lot of camera time. The necessary human plots serve little more as a distraction as anyone who’s watching this wants to see the sharktopus do its thing. The sharktopus gets well fed and this Mexican holiday resort is filled with all manner of hunky men and bikini-clad women swimming, sailing, bungee-jumping and all other of activities. Heck, the creature doesn’t even stick to dry land to feed. It seems to spend more time on land than the water, walking around on it’s tentacles like stilts. So no one is safe. The kills are all very comical and not to be taken seriously in the slightest. Most have some sort of ironic twist to them like the two painters who are talking about the worst ways to die (including the film’s best line, “oh no, not like this!”) or another character who conveniently states that there is no thing as a sharktopus about thirty seconds before said creature drags him into the water.

The creature looks both awesome and terrible at the same time. Obviously when you’ve got a shark-octopus hybrid monster, it’s going to look bizarre and unique. But the CGI is ropey beyond belief and it has this perma-grin on its face to make it look like it’s constantly smiling at the camera. The rest of the special effects are just as bad with the CGI and human character interaction reaching new levels of hilarity as various characters shake, scream and fall around the camera pretending to be grabbed by one of the tentacles.

Eric Roberts heads the cast as the head scientist and spends most of his time sitting on a yacht drinking scotch and barking out orders to his minions. To go from The Expendables to this in the same year makes me laugh. The guy just wants to get paid! Sara Malakul Lane is his scientist daughter and Kerem Bursin is the mercenary hired to track the creature down – two young, single people with history together and reunited in the face of adversity – what is the betting they get together by the end? The rest of the cast are there simply to sit on the buffet tray including said mercenary’s best friend (he’s foreign and bald so he’s bound to die), a news reporter and her cameraman, some local fisherman, a radio DJ and his smoking hot assistant plus Roger Corman himself in a small non-speaking cameo role. The acting across the board is atrocious but even half-decent actors would have a job to get motivated when they know they’re playing second fiddle to a giant sharktopus!

 

I’ll never forgive myself for giving a Sci-Fi Channel original such a decent rating but the truth is that Sharktopus is everything a cheap, goofy and enjoyable monster movie should be about. It is set piece after set piece of trashy, tongue-in-cheek fun which drifts too closely to the rest of the generic Sci-Fi Channel stuff but has just enough bizarreness and originality to see it through to the end. Hardly something to get worked up about and its reputation will no doubt be greatly enhanced by its name but just spare us the inevitable Sharktopus Vs Mega Shark sequel!

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus (2009)

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus (2009)

Winner… Eats… All!

Following the collapse in the glacier in which they were both entombed, a gigantic megaladon shark and a monstrous octopus terrorise the seas and oceans around the world before fighting each other.

 

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus has been getting a fairly decent bit of press lately. Everywhere I go, it seems to be getting mentioned, be it in newspaper write-ups, upcoming DVD magazines, plastered all over the internet – hell even Empire blogged about it. It’s the sort of trashy film I go for and have been looking forward to it for a while now. But as soon as I saw that the brains behinds this were those folks from The Asylum, I suddenly had doubts. They are the studio who love to cash-in on the big blockbusters so when Transformers came out, The Asylum made Transmorphers. When The Day the Earth Stood Still arrived in theatres, The Asylum churned out The Day the Earth Stopped. And above all, they provided the world with Supercroc, the only film about a giant 50ft crocodile that hardly has a giant 50ft crocodile in it! Suddenly my expectations to see plenty of monster mash-up action seemed a distant memory. Just how bad could this film get?

Well the answer is almost at the bottom of a bottomless pit. The ‘making of’ on the DVD states that they wanted a dialogue-heavy film – hang on a minute? Let me get this straight…..you’ve got a film about a mega shark and a giant octopus that are going to fight each other and you want to make the film “dialogue-heavy.” Give me a freakin’ break. They weren’t kidding either. The film is dull and features plenty of scenes of scientists mixing potions together, conducting experiments, talking about the giant octopus and mega shark or browsing the internet for information. But when it comes down to the boil, the stars of the show are nowhere to be seen for the bulk of the running time. You only see slightly more of them than you do in the trailer, which I might add was a lot more entertaining than the final film and received something like 1.5 million hits on YouTube.

When the shark and the octopus are on screen, the special effects are not so special at all. Clearly low budget films have just given up when it comes to making an effort with the CGI. The beasties do show up every once in a while to reek havoc on something else, be it the Golden Gate Bridge, an oil rig or, in the film’s best moment, the shark actually jumps through the air and takes out a 747. This is that sort of daft film. The problem is that these attack scenes are over so quickly. There must be about ten seconds of animation but it’s spliced between shots of human actors reacting to what is going on. The illusion is that you see more than you think you are but in reality, you’re getting less and less. The culmination of the film – the mega shark versus giant octopus fight so widely hyped up throughout the film – lasts for about a measly two minutes! And even then everything is so rushed and quickly edited together that you can’t see what is going on. It’s also inter-cut with footage of the three human characters in the little submarine watching what is going on and reacting to every tail swish or tentacle slap.

The characters are awful and just go through the motions but in a really serious manner not befitting the ridiculous story. Can someone please explain to them what film they are actually starring in? Lorenzo Lamas is no stranger to fighting rubbish CGI monsters (Raptor Island is probably top on his résumé) and he looks like he walked off the set of a porno flick here with his ponytail and sleazy suit. Deborah Gibson (an ex-pop star but I think I’m a little too young to know who she was) does little than waggle a joystick on a submarine and mix liquids in a lab. I mean is the best that the script could have them doing in the film? Actually the script manages to get the male and female scientists together for a quickie but instead of just being a token scene, it gives the characters the method in which they can lure the monsters together.

The script does manage to pepper a few nods to monster movie lore including the fact that the giant octopus heads straight for Japan after it’s released from it’s icy tomb (in the Godzilla films, the alien monster would always head straight to Japan to destroy it). There’s also a nod to the legendary Ray Harryhausen with the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge (which featured a giant octopus destroying the bridge in It Came From Beneath the Sea) but isn’t it funny how that scene from the 50s looks infinitely better than this one does!

 

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus is just a terrible film. Somehow it’s managed to grab the attention of the general public but they couldn’t have picked a worse ‘obscure’ film to latch onto. The only reason it gets points is because it has a giant shark jumping into the sky to take down a jumbo jet. You don’t see that everyday (come to think of it, you don’t exactly see it here either as it’s all blurred).

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Octopus (2000)

Octopus (2000)

A cruise to hell

A Russian submarine is destroyed during the Cuban missile crisis and it’s cargo of nuclear material sinks to the bottom of the ocean. In the present day, a US submarine is given the task of transporting a terrorist from Bulgaria along with the American agent responsible for bringing him to justice. The submarine travels through a section of ocean notorious for ships being lost. Superstition says it’s a sea monster but the crew don’t believe in it – until they come across something at the bottom of the sea.

 

Can you guess what they come across at the bottom of the sea? The clue is in the title of the film. Nu Image presents us with another ‘it does exactly what it says on the cover box’ film in the same vein as Spiders and Shark Attack. It’s shameless low grade nonsense from beginning to end complete with Nu Image’s usual array of paper-thin characters, a script which defies physics and logic, special effects which are not so special and a general feeling of everything being a pointless waste of money and resources.

You won’t actually see the octopus until the mid-point in the film. By that time you’ve been given a lethal concoction of practically every single submarine thriller, political thriller and ocean-bound horror film ever made. Among the superior films plagiarised for plot elements are The Hunt For Red October, The Beast, Patriot Games, Speed II: Cruise Control, Deep Rising and many more. There’s a lot going on in this film as the story gives us way too many threads to follow. Why does the submarine have to travel through these Cuban waters when it’s coming from Bulgaria? Wouldn’t it be easier to fly the terrorist out of Bulgaria? Not only do the submarine crew have to deal with the octopus but the ever-present threat of the terrorist’s friends who have hijacked an ocean liner and are following the submarine on the surface. Quite how they manage to track a state-of-the-art submarine underwater in a cruise ship is never explained, nor will I attempt to try.

Needless to say this sub-plot gives the film the unnecessary secondary antagonists it needs, human ones at that, and the octopus becomes a secondary threat. You see they’re cheaper to include in a film and most of these low budget creature feature films feature human villains. The supposed heroes of the film spend most of their time fighting the terrorists and vice versa because it’s easier to show guys punching each other and firing guns than it is to animate a CGI octopus. Octopus seems to think that by adding together various plot elements from the previously mentioned films, you can actually get a new film. It doesn’t work in the slightest. The film is extremely boring throughout, even during the action scenes and alleged dramatic moments.

The octopus is a cheap CGI creation which shows just how limited CGI can be in the wrong hands – just watch some of the really flawed shots of it attacking a cruise ship. The film also plays with the laws of physics too as the octopus has an uncanny ability to send its tentacles spiralling through the corridors of the submarine and yet the water level inside is ridiculously low. If the octopus can get its damned tentacles through a hole in the hull, then why isn’t the submarine completely flooded? Why hasn’t its hull buckled under the pressure? For the amount of screen time the octopus is actually around, they should have called this Crimson Tide 2 or something more appropriate. It’s used sparingly which, in some cases, can help the film by increasing the stakes and keep you in suspense as you wait for its next appearance.

Unfortunately since the only reason anyone will pick up Octopus is to see a giant octopus doing what a giant octopus does in films and then be cheated from that, then hardly showing it is a cardinal sin. This is especially the case when there’s nothing in the film to keep us entertained whilst we’re waiting for it to re-appear. As I’ve already said, the characters are paper-thin and the script is terrible. The acting is pretty bland across the board but who can blame them when the script is this one-note? Jay Harrington has gone on to bigger and better things in Desperate Housewives but he’s rather dull in the lead role. The only other noticeable actor here is Ricco Ross, who played Pvt. Frost in Aliens. He shows a bit of potential in the solid back-up role and you’ll wish he was given more to do. Although being the only black actor on the pay roll, it is obvious what is going to happen to him.

 

Octopus squeezed the life of me from the start and wouldn’t give it back. I demand compensation for wasting 100 minutes of my life watching this dreck. One of Nu Image’s first CGI monster flicks and they certainly haven’t gotten any better over the years!

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Tentacles (1977)

Tentacles (1977)

Each year 10,000 tourists visit Ocean Beach. This summer Ocean Beach has attracted SOMETHING ELSE!

When people start mysteriously disappearing in a small seaside resort, a reporter believes that it has something to do with an underwater construction project run by a local businessman. However as more people go missing, the reporter and his marine expert friend come to suspect that there may be something more deadly in the water – a giant octopus.

 

The slew of Jaws rip-offs/clones/imitators/cash-ins that sprung up in the wake of Spielberg’s masterpiece is no surprise given cinema’s penchant for beating a dead horse to death and trying to make as much money out of popular fads. One of the earliest and one of the worst is this stinker from Italy featuring a giant octopus in the role of nature’s death bringer. I can’t really remember too many Jaws rip-offs being any good (Piranha probably being the pick) and the rest seem to be gunning for the title of ‘worst Jaws rip-off ever made.’ Well it’s quite possible that we have a winner here with Tentacles, although the competition is extremely tough!

Like the others, Tentacles’ script clearly borrows heavily from Jaws, including the now traditional ‘monster attacks local regatta’ scene and a grisly corpse popping out the water to scare someone ala the disembodied head in the boat scene. But borrowing something doesn’t mean to say it will work again and in this case, nothing works that has been plagiarised because there’s no build-up or anticipation. There’s just no tension or excitement at all. Attack scenes have no suspense and they’re almost blood-free which is a crime given that this is an Italian exploitation flick and you can usually bank on them being gory. It’s also a bit harder to get worked up about a killer octopus than it is a killer shark but at least make the effort. The octopus just isn’t given any credibility or channel enough fear to make it appear a real threat.

In fact no one realises the culprit is an octopus for a long time, meaning that the human scenes are seemingly pointless. At least the main character in Jaws knew that it was a shark and therefore even though the shark was not in the scene, it was still being talked about and made to seem like a serious threat. By the time the characters have figured out the score here, the film is half way through. The strength with Jaws was that when it was on land, the story kept moving forward and the characters were interesting and well-acted to keep you going until the next time the shark attacked. But that’s not the case here as the land scenes are terribly dull and uninteresting. Even when the characters do occasionally go out to sea, they do nothing but scuba dive. If you like scuba diving then maybe this is the film for you as there’s lots of it. It’s all well-filmed underwater and the sea looks nice and clean but it’s not exciting.

The special effects are not so special and the octopus seems to be just stock footage of an ordinary octopus which is then edited into the film to make it look like its attacking people. I think there are a couple of prop tentacles used in attack scenes but the effects are all so poor, it’s hard to distinguish between them all. There is arguably the world’s worst toy boat prop used for one scene in which the octopus drags it underwater. And to top it all off, the finale involving the octopus battling a pair of killer whales look like hand puppets trying to fish an octopus out of an aquarium – all very feeble. To top it off, there are some big names in the cast including John Huston, Shelley Winters and Henry Fonda however none of them has any sort of interaction with the octopus at all. They all disappear about two thirds of the way in which is probably a good thing as the script is dire anyway so the less talking these people do on screen, the better it is.

 

Tentacles is pretty much unwatchable. It’s not even remotely ‘bad’ enough to watch for a laugh. I’d like to think of some octopus joke to round this review off but the film has sapped my creative juices from me!

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Eye of the Beast (2004)

Eye of the Beast (2007)

From the depths of the ocean comes man’s darkest fear.

In a small fishing village, panic and fear are spreading as legend of a giant underwater beast grows. When a government scientist is sent to investigate the murky waters, he soon uncovers a sea monster beyond anything he could have ever imagined.

 

The murky depths of the sea become the focus for this monster flick and in this case it’s a giant squid that has been given the ‘token aquatic monster’ tag. If you’ve seen any of the other films produced for the Sci-Fi Channel, you’ll know immediately that this is going to be a by-the-numbers monster flick which delivers mediocre scares, splashes of gore, some CGI monster action and little in the way of originality. I’d also like to state the fact that giant squids and octopi aren’t as over-used as sharks and crocodiles in horror films but there’s been a steady slate of them over the years with none of them doing anything remotely worthwhile with the material, save for The Beast, a TV adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel which runs like Jaws except with a giant squid. I quite enjoyed The Beast but when it’s the best that the “tentacle sea monster” genre has to offer, it’s a pretty shallow indication of how truly awful the squids have been treated over the years. Could Eye of the Beast do any better than its underwhelming offspring?

Let’s look at the check list. Monster – check. Small town / remote location – check. Local authority figure to try and stop monster – check. The expert who arrives to help out – check. Plenty of minor characters for the monster to eat – check. Washed up actor in lead role – check. I laugh how they are called ‘Sci-Fi Originals’ when all they do is slightly re-write the same script to accommodate a different monster. It’s the type of film you could quite easily watch with the sound off and fill in the gaps. It’s also the type of film you could skip right to the end and see how the monster is dispatched, again filling in the blanks between titles and end credits with around 90% accuracy. Such familiarity is the reason why people like myself are drawn to these films. There’s the hope that just one of them will do something different with the formula but it always end in total disappointment!

To say the film is about a giant squid, you’d be forgiven for thinking you may have been duped. There’s not a great deal of squid action and the best you get to see until the finale is some rubbery-looking tentacles. It’s only in the last few minutes that you see the rather ropey CGI squid rear it’s beak out of the water. It’s a complete sham to find out that the back of the DVD contains an image of a squid with its arms completely wrapped around a fishing boat, dragging it into the water. At least some of these other Sci-Fi Originals featured reasonable amounts of time with their star monsters eating people – the squid here seems too ashamed to become the centre of attention. It gets off to a promising enough start with the squid snacking on two loved-up teenagers but then disappears for ages. Usually these films pepper the talking with some kills here and there but this doesn’t even include them. Most of the cast are thinned out at the end of the film when the fishermen set out in a couple of boats to destroy the squid.

James Van Der Beek is our token washed up actor here. The former Dawson’s Creek star plays the scientist but I doubt anyone would mistake him for one. He’s way out of his depth and telling the grunting fisherman not to touch his equipment is about the highlight of his expertise. This is also a film in which the characters looking for the giant squid simply switch to Google Earth and see it from space. It’s that type of film. Alexandra Castillo fares a little better as the token love interest (also doubling up as the token authority figure) but their romance seems forced, pointless and a complete waste of time. Why do I need to see two people falling in love when the film is about a freakin’ giant squid killing people?

On the plus side, this must be one of the first Sci-Fi Channel monster flicks not to include a human bad guy for our characters to fend off. My main gripe about human villains in the other films is that they take away the screen time from the monster. Well there’s no excuse for that here as there aren’t any human bad guys! Yet they still shaft the monster into the background. So what does fill the screen for the majority of the running time? Not a lot it has to be said.

 

There’s something fishy around here and Eye of the Beast certainly reeks of it. Slow, plodding and being overly dull is not a good combination when the audience are only watching for some squid action. Peter Benchley’s The Beast was a far superior giant squid flick.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆