Tag Sy Fy Channel

Robocroc (2013)

Robocroc (2013)

The world’s most lethal weapon

When a top secret unmanned spacecraft disintegrates on re-entry, it crash-lands in the crocodile habitat of Adventure Land, a large tourist attraction with a waterpark, amusements and world-famous crocodile exhibit. The crash releases a load of nanotech-based combat drones which find a host in the rather large shape of a twenty-foot Australian saltwater crocodile called Stella. With a new found aggression and determination to kill everything in sight, Stella breaks out of her enclosure and begins hunting down anyone roaming loose in Adventure Land.

 

A film like Robocroc needs no grandiose introduction from me. If you’re a long-time reader on the site, you’ll immediately recognise it as another ridiculous creature feature movie made for Sy Fy. I just shake my head whenever I read the synopsis for any new Sy Fy flick – there’s got to be a saturation point where people will turn off and say “hang on, even this is too far-fetched” although if they haven’t by now, they most likely never will.

If you’ve seen a) any killer crocodile film over the last twenty years or b) any Sy Fy film over the last fifteen years, then you’ve already seen Robocroc. It’s just a sad attempt to put a new twist on the same formula. The Eastern European shoot, featuring a whole host of Bulgarian (I’m assuming since that’s the usual haunt for Sy Fy) bit-part actors with the token sprinkling of American and British ‘faces’ to anchor the film, just smacks of every single Sy Fy film ever made. You wouldn’t bat an eyelid if the crocodiles or snakes from Lake Place Vs Anaconda slithered onto the screen. The extras all look the same. The locations all look the same. The style looks the same.

Even though some of the film was shot in Bulgaria, it’s clear the majority was shot in a backlot in the States somewhere as a lot of the ‘action’ takes place inside a black tent. It’s the generic military HQ set-up, where the scientists and commanders stand around talking about the monster with some laptops and fancy-looking flashing lights distracting the extras in the background. Lots of exposition and talking about the crocodile takes place and for every second the film spends in here, it means less screen time for the crocodile and those costly special effects. Having said that, the CGI is awful, particularly when the crocodile loses its regular skin and becomes all-robot. Even more ridiculous is the POV shots we get from the robot’s eyes, complete with Terminator-style HUD which flashes red stating ‘prey detected’ – as if the crocodile can actually read the words.

The sad thing about Robocroc, and something problematic with a lot of these Sy Fy films over the past three years, is that they’re just spinning their wheels. They seem to be stuck in a rut, re-treading old ground over and over again because the writing teams can’t seem to find a way to make them original and fresh. Come on! You’ve got a robotic crocodile and you just throw it inside an empty waterpark and feed it a bunch of soldiers and teenagers? It’s dull, uneventful and sorely lacking any decent excitement, even when the crocodile is on the screen. Though the crocodile does things like take out helicopters, it’s not exactly pulse-racing material and you’ll never really feel that the main characters are in any danger whatsoever. There is a little CGI gore splattered around but the film backs out of showing too much carnage which is disappointing.

Regular Sy Fy mainstay Corin Nemec shows up as the hero and sleepwalks his way through proceedings. He’s already faced troglodytes, the Mosquito Man and sand sharks to name a few in these type of films so adding a T1000-like crocodile to his list isn’t going to be much of a stretch. Keith Duffy, formerly of Irish boyband Boyzone, makes an appearance as the hunter character who turns up, does a feeble Quint-like impression, and then is promptly taken out of proceedings. Thanks for coming. Dee Wallace, a big genre star back in the 80s with the likes of Cujo and The Howling, must be wondering just what her agent is getting her into these days. She looks incredibly bored with everything going on, though she’s not the only one. Even at a lean seventy-seven minutes long, Robocroc is a tough slog.

 

Robocroc is a drab, non-event of a silly premise. Why bother wasting time turning the crocodile into a killer robot if you’re just going to let it do the same things that a normal crocodile horror flick would do? A waste of a ludicrous idea but also a terrible film.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Goblin (2010)

Goblin (2010)

He wants you badly

Every Halloween, Hollowglen, a small hamlet in the deep woods, is visited by a fierce goblin, intent on capturing infants and brutally murdering anyone in its path as part of a curse put on the town in 1831. When Neil Perkins and his family move to Hollowglen, the townspeople react with concern at the arrival of a new baby so close to Halloween. Soon, the goblin returns for its annual visit and sets its sights on the Perkins baby.

 

Sy Fy conjure up another straight-to-TV creature feature with Goblin, a middling strictly by-the-numbers affair which promises little and delivers just as much. Having said that, it makes a change to watch a Sy Fy film that doesn’t involve a twenty-headed shark do battle with a three-hundred-tentacle octopus whilst an eight-foot giant robot attempts to blow them both up with laser beams!

Replace the goblin of the title with any other mythical creature horror-themed flick and you’d get pretty much the same film. Anyone could come along and direct this by picking up the traditional template notes: small rural town in the middle of nowhere; a curse which plagues them; a newcomer with a teenage son/daughter arriving in town with a connection to the curse; said son/daughter falling in with the local teenagers who then start to die; some crazy old townsperson who warns every one of the dangers but is ignored; etc. There is just no ambition right from the start to make this anything but by-the-book. No flair. No imagination. No want to create something a little bit different.

The story runs like clockwork, with predictable plot developments, characters who add nothing except extra bodies to the running count and a finale where things conveniently sort themselves out and the equilibrium is restored. Goblin plays it safe in this respect, with a bunch of haphazard scenes that could have been lifted out of another similarly-themed horror flick, though there is sometimes enjoyment with the familiarity of certain tropes. At least the cast all seem to be putting in as good a shift as possible, despite the lame script, and make the material seem more fresh and original than it is. Gil Bellows, in particular, does what he can to enliven proceedings.

The goblin remains cloaked in black for the majority of the film. Looking like some relic from a ghost train, the hooded monster is large – I always imagined goblins to small, mischievous creatures rather than gigantic ogre-like brutes. The cloak keeps the monster’s real face hidden for a large portion of the film. Conveniently this also means that the filmmakers don’t have to rely on costly make-up effects or the usual Sy Fy standard CGI to create a hideous face. We do get to see it at the end of the film and the CGI-rendered face looks every bit as silly and as daft as you’d expect.

Without any real monstrous elements on show for the bulk of the running time however, the seven-foot tall goblin plays out more like an intimidating, hooded slasher villain. In fact, save for the odd supernatural elements scattered around, the film does play out more like a slasher film, with the goblin’s claws acting pretty handily as a weapon-of-choice. Chasing teenagers through the woods wearing a black cloak…this is a goblin we’re talking about. Anyone could have been wearing that cloak and we’d be none the wiser so why go to the lengths of making it a goblin? This creature was supposed to be out baby-snatching, not teen-slashing.

Surprisingly, Goblin is set mainly during the day, which kind of renders the goblin wearing a black cloak to be something like the single worst mistake ever in horror as you can see it coming for you a mile away. The opening prologue and the ending take place at night and it’s in these scenes where the film has its strongest atmosphere. As soon as the sun comes up, the atmosphere dies off and the film has little to offer. There’s no skulking around the in the shadows, no ominous lighting or anything of the sort – broad daylight kills off any potential mood this supernatural tale had. There’s not even a selection of cheap boo scares to get you going. If this is a horror film, I’d be puzzled to see what the director would consider Halloween.

 

Goblin isn’t a total dud but the fact is that you’ll have seen this clone a million times before, only with a different monster in the human-killing role. At least Sy Fy seem to do better with this type of horror flick than their ever-increasing array of bizarre monster movies, keeping the material on the ground and as convincing as possible to generate some atmosphere and sense of realism.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Larva (2005)

Larva (2005)

A terror that gets under your skin

Host, Missouri is a quiet ranching community where almost everyone earns their living from meat-processing company Huge Tender Meats. The company is secretly testing experimental new feed on the local livestock that is designed to make the meat healthier for consumption. But when local rancher Jacob Long calls out the new vet in town, Eli Rudkus, to come and check on some of his cattle that are behaving strangely, a strange mutant parasite is uncovered inside them that has been eating the feed. His attempts to warn the local community are thwarted by the owner of the company. But things are made worse when the parasitic organisms mutate further into bat-like creatures which deem human hosts as the new stage in the food chain.

 

I promised myself a while back that I would stop watching Sy Fy Originals for a short period of time, just to allow my brain the chance to let go of the resistance that I had built up to their overly repetitive and formulaic selves. I didn’t realise Larva was one when I sat down to watch but as soon as the title credits hit, I knew I had duped myself and had no one else to blame. One of Sy Fy’s earlier films, Larva plays out more like one of those ‘monster-of-the-week’ episodes of The X-Files but it never quite shakes free of its TV shackles.

Unsurprisingly, Larva runs like clockwork as per the Sy Fy norm. If it isn’t snakes which break free of laboratories, its mythical monsters suddenly appearing on Earth or beach resorts being attacked by new species of sharks. Flying parasitic blood-sucking bat monsters make little different to the overall narrative. The chain of events is still the same. The stock characters are still the same. The set pieces are more less the same. And the end result is the same: wafer-thin entertainment for an hour and a half. So let’s see what we have:

New doctor/teacher/sheriff arrives in a small town. Something sinister is on the loose. Random non-characters who appear in a scene only to be killed off at the end of the scene (or in the next scene) begin to disappear. New person is viewed with paranoia and mistrust. Evil corporate types refuse to believe there’s a problem until it’s too late (and usually end up on the receiving end of such problem). Cue some big local event which the evil corporate type had not wanted to cancel (town fete/fair/gala/celebration) but ends up regretting not cancelling as the ‘something sinister’ finally reveals itself to all of the doubters. Then new person takes it upon themselves to sort out the problem (usually after a close friend has been killed off in preceding town celebration). This leads to the inevitable confrontation between man and monster. All ends well for the humans…until a final plot twist where monster has laid eggs/survived/reformed and threatens sequel.

It’s been done to death so much that you could literally copy and paste that narrative into the majority of these Sy Fy films, given or take one or two minor alterations. At least Larva manages to tick off all the boxes without being overly generic and, despite me watching it after having seen dozens of more recent Sy Fy Films first, the material doesn’t feel as forced or stale as it does now. It appears that the cast and crew were at least trying with this one!

Larva features its fair share of splatter, though mainly in the form of mangled animal corpses at first. But then there’s a gory Alien-style chest bursting moment as the parasites finally decide to exit one unlucky human host via his stomach. It’s hardly x-rated stuff but at least there’s enough feeding on show. The monsters themselves are at least different to what you’re used to seeing in this type of film and are presented in a number of different forms. The earlier worm-like creatures are more skin-crawling than anything but the final bat-like form is too heavily reliant on CGI to really be scary.

Leading man Vincent Ventresca makes for a bland and weak hero, certainly not an inspirational figurehead for the film to base itself around. Rachel Hunter (more famous for being Rod Stewart’s ex than anything cinematic) co-stars as the token love interest/blonde heroine/pointless damsel-in-distress. Only she doesn’t become the love interest. She doesn’t save the day. She doesn’t even need rescuing. It’s a pointless part, presumably designed to put a ‘star name’ in the publicity campaign.

 

Larva is solid, if overly generic, entertainment which doesn’t really take too many missteps with its TV movie budget. It’s just that you’ve seen it all before. And, considering this was one of the earlier Sy Fy Originals, it’s a shame to see how cheap and tacky they have become.

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda (2015)

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda (2015)

Crocs on the dock. Snakes on the lake.

Wexel Pharmaceuticals enlists the help of local poacher Jim Bickerman in obtaining a giant crocodile from the famous Lake Placid nature reserve. During a procedure to extract blood, the crocodile awakens in the lab and causes havoc, unleashing a special variety of giant anaconda snake. With both the crocodile and snake on the loose in the wild, it poses further problems for the previously-besieged community.

 

The fifth film in the Anaconda series, and the first to be made since 2008, as well as the fifth film in the Lake Placid series, Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is just about the sort of film you’d expect to get when you combine two fading franchises whose attraction faded long ago. Did anyone really care about either series after the originals? I’m amazed that either series lasted as long as it did, though in reality they’ve been on life-support on the Sy Fy Channel for so long that it’s hard to remember they were originally both big hits in the late 90s.

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is exactly the same sort of nonsense that both respective franchises have been churning out for a few years – only now that they’ve merged into one crossover universe, I’d hope that we are saved from individual sequels from now on. It’s virtually a Lake Placid film with a giant snake added into the mix as the narrative runs almost like the previous few films in that specific franchise. The plot is flimsy at best and I’m not even sure I got why the pharmaceutical company was desperate to obtain a giant crocodile when their snakes were gigantic. I’m not daft and realise it was just an excuse to allow the snake to get loose but I’d rather see writers attempt to give me a convincing reason for all of the carnage.

This isn’t well-written, if written at all – it almost runs like someone just slapped together a load of deleted scenes from the aforementioned franchises and I struggled to really care about anything on show. Predictable death scenes are set-up a mile away. The creatures do damage that they shouldn’t physically be able to do. Apart from a few main characters, the rest are just non-characters who show up only to die in the same scene. Even the main characters have very little to do and rely almost solely on your knowledge of their characters from the previous Lake Placid films. Again, the film is so heavily one-sided with the Lake Placid stuff that you forget there is supposed to be a giant anaconda in there somewhere. Sy Fy has been churning out almost the same film for the last ten years or so across various ‘monster of the week’ guises and it’s all so, so, so, stale now.

Featuring an all-star line-up of Sy Fy regulars including Corin Nemec, Yancy Butler and Robert Englund, Lake Placid Vs Anaconda delivers the expected star power and a sense that at least some effort went into the film. In a rare bit of continuity with Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, both Butler and Englund reprise their roles. Englund’s character is a particular delight to welcome back, with a few less body parts after his last ordeal with the crocodiles, and he hams up proceedings with a typically enjoyable performance. The three of them have clearly been cast to add some names to the front cover, Englund especially trading on his past glories as Freddy. The other members of the cast, particularly the sorority girls, are awful actresses designed to provide mild titillation to the male audience before being eaten (and mild titillation just means they parade around in bikinis).

The film isn’t even that gory. Yes, there is some blood on show but the vast majority is the cheap CGI variety. It’s pretty rare to get anything as nasty as a leftover limb as the crocs and the snake swallow everything they see up. The CGI for both the snake and crocodiles is a marked step down in quality from their previous outings, which isn’t saying much as they were awful then and are even worse now. The crocs fair a little better, presumably because it’s easier to give the skin and scales some form and shape, rather than the long, slender and smooth snake skin that is on show. The creatures are well-fed, though as previously stated, the death scenes are set-up from a mile away and far too predictable. The worst problem is that they’re dull – you’ll not find any excitement or cheap thrills from the attack scenes.

 

Just because two franchises are owned by the same company doesn’t mean to say that a crossover film should happen. To quote Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm character from Jurassic Park, the studio was “so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is a painful attempt to milk the last few drops of money out of the respective franchises before both animals are finally sent to that big pet shop in the sky. One can only hope.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Morlocks (2011)

Morlocks (2011)

A top secret time travel project leaves some U.S. marines stranded in the distant future in which human civilization no longer exists and the Earth is overrun by a vicious species of creatures known as Morlocks. A team headed by the scientist responsible for the project is sent to rescue them and retrieve the time travel device that become trapped with them.

 

You may know the name but you might not be able to place the film when I say Morlocks. One of the most infamous fictional species ever put to paper, they first appeared in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine as one of the two future offshoots of the human race, hundreds of thousands of years after Earth had been ravaged by nuclear war. A cannibalistic species who lived underground, kept the peaceful, docile Eloi who lived in the surface fed and clothed, and in turn treat the Eloi like cattle and ate them, the Morlocks were blue creatures with white hair and big, glowing eyes. Wells’ metaphor for Victorian society where a huge underclass toiled and grafted for a privileged few to live a life of luxury (which still resonates in most developed countries today), the Morlocks became iconic cinematic monsters after their appearance in 1960’s The Time Machine, less so after the 2002 remake. With a hefty literate and cinematic reputation behind them, it is sad to see that Sy Fy has decided to wheel them out in one of their monster movies.

The rights to The Time Machine are in the public domain so anyone is free to use the work and anything written within without permission or the payment of royalties. Trust Sy Fy to find that out! In reality, Morlocks is just another generic Sy Fy Channel monster movie which has simply used the Morlocks as their ‘monster of the week’ and just gone through the usual motions of CGI nonsense, lots of gun-fire and very little story. Take away the name ‘Morlocks’ and call them anything else and the film would work exactly the same. The use of the name simply attaches a greater weight of expectation: people will watch this expecting some sort of link to The Time Machine. How wrong they would be! More Stargate SG-1 or Primeval with a dash of Aliens thrown in, Morlocks sees the usual ragtag bunch of nameless, non-entity marines fed to a monstrous threat with lots of guns, explosions and creature carnage ensuing.

There’s not a lot of story to go with this one and that which is left doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. For every minute of ‘plot’ there are about ten minutes of action. I’m usually fine with this approach as long as every second of the plot makes a difference. But it doesn’t. Nearly every scene involves some sort of action and this gets tiresome after a while. Morlocks has a big fight scene early on in its running time and seemingly spends the rest of its running time trying to outdo that. I’d use the term ‘breathless’ to describe the film but the action won’t leave you gasping for air like, say the remake of Mad Max did after it’s amazing pursuit sequence. Most of these action sequences consist of horribly-animated Morlocks jumping through the air and tossing the nameless marines around like toys. A cut-scene from a computer game has more life and energy than this.

The Morlocks are given the CGI treatment here and look awful, more like some prehistoric-alien hybrid than any of the incarnations we’ve come to know them by so far in other media. They’re rendered poorly, with animation that looks about fifteen years older than it actually is. In fact almost every CGI shot in this film is awful, from the monsters to the splatters of blood to the explosions right down to the tanks and the time machine being activated and emitting light beams. Sy Fy really need to pick up their act when it comes to providing either the cash or the time for the animators to work on projects like this because the special effects borderline on embarrassing. They completely disconnect you from the action as you’re too busy laughing rather than being engrossed and entertained in the sights on-screen.

Ironically, the Stargate SG-1/Stargate: Atlantis comparison I made earlier was deliberate as David Hewlett, who played Dr Rodney McKay in the TV series, stars as the lead scientist here and Robert Picardo, who played Richard Woolsey in a couple of the Stargate spin-offs (also Star Trek: Voyager alumni), appears as a generic gung-ho military colonel. Picardo has taken a lot of these stern authority figure roles of late and it’s no stretch to see him doing the same thing again. I don’t remember too much about the other characters or actors in the film, save for the fact that they’re so badly written they won’t make any impression on you whatsoever.

 

If you were expecting Sy Fy to do any justice to H. G. Wells’ original story, then more the fool you. Morlocks is a shoddy, sloppy affair which goes for broke with the guns and explosions but forgets everything else that makes the guns and explosions necessary in the first place. Forget traveling into the future, you’ll want a trip back to the past before you even considered giving Morlocks the time of day.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sasquatch Mountain (2006)

Sasquatch Mountain (2006)

Believe The Legend

After robbing a small town bank, the group of thieves crash into a car on the road whilst they are making their getaway. Taking the female driver hostage, they venture into the woods to escape the pursuing police. Both groups soon find themselves up against a deadly monster that has come down from the Arizona mountains and they are forced to team up in order to survive.

 

Over the last twelve years or so, Bigfoot has seen a revival in horror with a number of films, mainly low budget, pitting man’s hairy relative against a group of people in the middle of the woods somewhere. Unsurprisingly, the majority of them haven’t been very good. I guess the idea of being attacked by a gigantic walking carpet isn’t exactly up there on anyone’s ‘Top 10 Things to be Scared of Being Killed By’ list. Sasquatch Mountain joins this ever-increasing list of not very good films about Bigfoot. Originally entitled Devil on the Mountain, the title was changed to make it sound more threatening and more sasquatch-orientated – basically a bit more exploitative and focus on a niche audience of monster movie fans such as myself.

The myth about sasquatch/Bigfoot/the Yeti/Abominable Snowman is one of great interest to humans and has been the subject of so much research and attention down the years that it’s hard to understand why no one has really gotten the subject material right (and I say this having seen a few Bigfoot-themed horror films but not all of them so someone may prove me wrong). Sasquatch Mountain throws in a decent opening sequence but this promises that the film will not be anything but a typical Bigfoot horror. Why do filmmakers always have to make these creatures so vicious, angry and blood-thirsty? I highly doubt that such creatures still exist but if even if they did, they’d most likely find the taste of overweight, sugared-up humans to be a little off.

Though I wouldn’t get too worried about the creature in all honesty. Sasquatch Mountain spends most of its time focusing on the troubles between the bank robbers and their hostage, and then the cops when they turn up and is a talky affair as a result. You won’t get to know enough about any of the characters to really care about them and their philosophical bickering and macho tit-for-tat seems to go around in circles as they traipse through the forest. As is always the case, the more time the characters spend arguing with each other, the less time the monster is on display, thus making the production a lot cheaper. Of course, they also need to actually get to the forest first and we see far too much of the robbery and the following chaos. This is definitely not Heat.

This is the film’s major problem. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – having your main characters as bank robbers, murderers, terrorists or any form of ‘evil’ bad guys and then putting them up against some form or monster or threat. Just who are supposed to root for? It’s certainly not meant to be the asshole characters who kill innocent people to get away with some cash. But these characters take up a lot of screen time and generally not very likeable. You can’t even root for the good guys in films like this as they are required to make stupid decisions by virtue of the script in order for the narrative to flow and have them all team up at some point.

At least the monster is a guy-in-a-suit and the makers of the film opted not to go down the CGI Bigfoot route. This adds a nice element of realism to the attack scenes as the creature is happy breaking backs and snapping necks but these sequences are virtually blood-free. We get a few glimpses of the monster but it’s generally confined to the shadows until the big reveal towards the finale. There is that little of the monster that you wonder whether it walked in from another set. Despite the novelty of the suit, the quality of the creation is awful and looks like someone just stuck a load of worn carpet together. Think Chewbacca having to live off the streets of New York for five years and you’ll get the impression.

There’s a decent cast here which is all the more shame for the script being so rubbish. Lance Henriksen gets top billing and must really have a thing for Bigfoot as this was his third such film within the space of four years. As the grizzled truck driver who lost his wife to the monster years earlier, Henriksen chalks up a number of clichés in order to pay his bills for the week. Craig Wasson (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) is the head bank robber, Tim Thomerson (from Dollman) is on hand as the token hunter character and the lovely Cerina Vincent (Cabin Fever) adds glamour as the female hostage.

 

Well Sasquatch Mountain killed an hour and a half on Sy Fy so their investment was well-spent in that respect. It doesn’t go off into mindless monster mode too much and has a few moments where it threatens to get deep and emotional but overall, Sasquatch Mountain is a bore with sporadic moments of Bigfoot which will leave you feeling grossly unsatisfied. Maybe Henriksen could try a fourth Bigfoot film and see if he can do any better?

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Ice Road Terror (2011)

Ice Road Terror (2011)

When workers at a diamond mine located at the end of a long ice road in northern Alaska decide to plant explosives deeper than they ever gone before, they aren’t aware that in doing so they will awaken a dormant prehistoric creature which proceeds to terrorise the camp. This isn’t good news for two ice road truckers taking the dangerous trip up along the road to deliver explosives to the mine and are about to encounter the beast for themselves.

 

It’s been a while since I’ve seen any Sy Fy Originals and boy, I wish I hadn’t bothered. Another one off the monster movie conveyor belt, it’s no real surprise for me to want to wind the clock back and retrieve the valuable ninety minutes I spent watching. Presumably filmed as a response to the international popularity of reality TV show Ice Road Truckers, Ice Road Terror features the usual Sy Fy tropes in abundance and makes sure it ticks pretty much all of the boxes on the ‘Original’ checklist.

Forgetting any plausible reasons why this prehistoric monster has been completely alive for millions of years (like what has been eating?) and is able to quickly scarper out of the uncovered cave when it’s blown open (without any hint of being blinded by the sun or a bit of stiffness in the legs for being caged so long), the story doesn’t really go any further into explaining what it is or why it’s there, save for an obligatory Native American nick name that it’s given later in the film. Whilst this may appease some, I was wanting to know more about the creatures as I’m getting sick of being taken for a ride.

Ice Road Terror does the usual Sy Fy trick of showing us the monster within the opening few minutes of the film. It looks awful, like some sort of komodo dragon, and does the usual things that a Sy Fy monster needs to do: eat all of the minor characters; be unable to break down weak obstacles when the main characters are in peril; seems to hang around the same location for the entire film in order to re-use animation; growls or roars like a normal animal; and is never satisfied with the copious amount of food it gets. The monster is badly animated but it’s only what I’ve come to expect from Sy Fy now. Whilst its design looks fairly unique (though given the climate of the film, you’d expect something cold-blooded rather than a warm-blooded lizaerd), the way it is brought to life through computer animation leaves a lot to be desired. As is the case with a lot of these films, there’s only so many frames of animation and the same shots are repeated over and over again, sometimes using movement which makes no sense given the different situation. But hey, it saves some money!

Bargain basement effects coupled with lots of quick editing and camera shaking to give you the illusion that everything is more exciting than it really is. Thankfully, I’m not that gullible and can see through it. Ice Road Terror is surprisingly dull. There are enough action scenes in the film but as I’ve already said, they’re pretty badly put together with the effects and lack of excitement. You never feel as though any of the main characters are under threat despite the best efforts of the screenplay to throw in some perilous moments. It’s just a case of seeing them survive one scene and getting themselves into another predicament where the monster will kill them if they screw up. We never really get to know of them either as the film just goes straight into the story, unleashing the monster within the first few minutes and then having the undeveloped trio of main characters arrive at the site shortly afterwards. Given Sy Fy’s track record, I don’t think it will have made much difference in the long run but a bit of characterisation would have been nice. It’s for these reasons that the film is unengaging. You literally don’t care what happens to anyone. You won’t remember their names. The film ended and I was sat there shrugging and thinking about the next film I was planning to see. See it, move on.

The monster is well fed at the start, with the construction workers providing a healthy source of protein. Sy Fy do allow their films to get bloody when needed and the red stuff is on show here. Nothing too major but enough of a splattering to keep genre fans happy. There’s even a few shots of intestines and the like but it looks like a lot of the decent practical make-up effects are ruined with daft CGI blood smears on the camera and the use of a red lens when needed.

I’m not even going to bother covering the cast. Never heard of them before watching. Most likely will never hear from them again after watching. They were given impossible tasks to begin with as their characters aren’t developed in the slightest. I didn’t care for any of them. They’re never put into any real danger. And by the end of the film, everything is wrapped up into a neat little package as far as attempted story arcs go. Same old Sy Fy.

 

Ice Road Terror is one of Sy Fy’s worst efforts. Cashing in on a popular television show and recycling the same monster movie garbage that it’s been spewing out for years now, Sy Fy is really scraping the barrel. The formula is stale, the execution is uninspiring and devoid of life and the end result is just a complete waste of time. So I guess the next one off the conveyer belt will be along soon….

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Triassic Attack (2010)

Triassic Attack (2010)

The skeletons are out of the closet!

The dean of the local university wants to expand the campus but this means bulldozing through a swathe of local businesses including a Native American fossil museum. The disgruntled owner of the museum uses some mystical powers to bring to life the museum’s three dinosaur skeletons to life which proceed to wreak havoc on the small town.

 

You should know what to expect by now from a Sy Fy Original with a name like Triassic Attack. The random title generator seems to have gone into overdrive this time around, with a daft name that screams attention and sums the plot up in two words. Why bother with timely exposition when your title can do the job in a split second? (Thanks for setting the trend, Snakes on a Plane). I’ve seen this film dozens of times before, mainly thanks to Sy Fy, with slight alterations made between each one including the type of monster and occupation of the main characters. Is there any point in going into too much detail on this? I knew full well what I was getting myself in for when I sat down to watch.

Triassic Attack could quite easily be chopped up into a brief highlight reel and no one would notice the difference because there is that little to get excited about. You’ve got actors going through the motions in roles that they’ve most likely taken for a free holiday to Eastern Europe. You’ve got special effects guys making dinosaurs in their spare time between takes on more important projects. You’ve got a director who was actually over in Bulgaria filming Lake Placid 3 (in an acting role) for Sy Fy when they must have thought “hang on, let’s save some more money and have this guy direct our next dinosaur flick” and roped him in to taking the hot seat. Ferguson’s direction is as flat as his acting was. This is hardly a director’s film though, more like a cut-and-assemble job which has been rushed along the Sy Fy production line.

The fossil dinosaurs are certainly unique in the fact that the animators didn’t have to spend time in coming up with unrealistic textures and colours for the skin. However they virtually do the same thing as every other Sy Fy dinosaur movie has done including roaring (which is impossible given their lack of muscles and vocal chords!) which is a real shame as the novelty of skeletons coming to life could have been so much better utilised. The T-Rex skeleton swallows a frat boy at one point only to have him fall out of the bottom of its skull because it has no throat. It’s a funny moment as the script at least appreciated the fact that these were only skeletons but it’s one that is a few and far between. You’d have thought that by coming up with the idea for the film, the script would be more inventive in how it treat the skeletons. But that’s asking too much from Sy Fy. They had the same script as they usually do, swapped the monsters around and then forgot to tailor it to the new monster’s needs.

Do I need to comment on the acting? It’s awful across the board, with two Scottish leads (Steven Brand and Kirsty Mitchell) doing their worst American accents and English actress Emilia Clarke as their teenage daughter fairs no better. Game of Thrones fans should take note of this early appearance of Miss Clarke about a year before she became famous as Daenerys Targaryen and began disrobing for the enjoyment of males the world over. Clarke shows none of the same feisty nature as she has on the show and judging by this performance, it’s amazing how she ever got her big break. Though I bet it’s not like she goes around trumpeting the merits of Triassic Attack and has probably slumped to the bottom of her (as it stands) very slim résumé.

I’m not sure that in 2010, we should still tolerate the daft idea of Native Americans having some sort of mystical powers which can do all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff when called upon in television and film. Horror films love the Native Americans and their spiritual and supernatural superstitions and yet again the token ‘medicine man’ character is here to both destroy and then eventually save the white man. I was quite expecting a few smoke signals or a war dance from him at some point. It’s beyond ridiculous but Triassic Attack isn’t the only recent horror film to fall guilty of that (Monsterwolf springs to mind, another Sy Fy flick).

 

Not to be outdone, Sy Fy would make the totally-unrelated Jurassic Attack a couple of years after this. With a whole host of prehistoric eras to go through, it’s only a matter of time before Devonian Attack or Cretaceous Attack go into production! Triassic Attack is just Sy Fy going through the usual creature feature motions…..again. Go and visit The Natural History Museum if you want to see dinosaur bones! They’ll be a lot more interesting to look at than this.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Monsterwolf (2010)

Monsterwolf (2010)

The night has fangs…

A greedy oil company expanding their operations in Louisiana come across a mysterious ancient archway construction in the middle of a new dig. Continuing their drilling, they set loose a supernatural wolf of Native American legend which proceeds to terrorise the town in a bid to stop the company from taking further action.

 

Seems like it’s been a while since I reviewed an out-and-out Sy Fy Original but here we are with Monsterwolf, a cliché-fuelled trip down memory lane. By memory lane, I mean virtually every other Sy Fy Original or other horrors with avenging Native American spirits in them. Monsterwolf doesn’t differentiate itself in the slightest, running like clockwork from beginning to end.

Let’s see: Native American burial ground – check. Something being built on/done to the land – check. Something spiritual and nasty is unleashed to take vengeance – check. Stock characters from the community to throw into the jaws of the monster every ten minutes or so – check. Lazy stereotyping of Native American culture and folklore – check. Naff CGI monster – check. Monsterwolf is the sort of film you can slap on in the background whilst you do something else, go back to it every few minutes and still know exactly what is happening.

Monsterwolf isn’t the worst of Sy Fy’s output over the years, not by a long shot. But it’s got no redeeming qualities, nothing that makes it stand out and nothing that gets your blood pumping or your spine tingling. It is by-the-book filmmaking in which everyone involved ticks a couple of boxes and then moves on to making the next one. I’m at a loss to comment on the film because only a day after watching, I’ve already forgotten most of what happened. Yadda yadda ya wolf gets released, yadda yadda ya people talk, yadda yadda ya wolf attacks someone. I don’t want to watch it again to have to pick out highlights! Even the setting famed for its beautiful bayous, Louisiana, looks rather dull and unremarkable here. The production values don’t convey any sense of place and it looks just like any other Sy Fy flick (in particular all of those filmed in Eastern Europe). I’m not sure whether it’s the type of cameras or the lenses they are use but the films all look the same.

Leonor Varela (Blade II) stars as the smoking hot lawyer drafted in by the oil company to sway the townspeople into selling. Guess what – she is a former resident who has history with certain male characters from the town to add in extra layers of back story and tragedy to proceedings! Well that’s the idea but it all ends up mechanically going through the usual forced romantic sub-plot motions with people falling back in love with each other after initial resistance to rekindling their love. After all, people facing vengeful Native American creatures are instantly drawn to like each other in the face of certain death. Its extra plot padding that doesn’t need to be present because it adds nothing to film.

Robert Picardo, he of Star Trek: Voyager fame and numerous low budget efforts like this, stars as the slimy oil executive. Picardo has a permanent frown upon his face as if he’s just messed his pants and doesn’t want anyone to know, living up to the one-dimensional caricature that he portrays here. He’s an uber-douchebag, or at least as threatening as Picardo can be. Having watched him for years as the holographic doctor, it’s impossible to take him as a villain. Serial Sy Fy offender Griff Furst doesn’t helm this one but he stars in it instead. The man behind 100 Million B.C., Swamp Shark, Lake Placid 3, Ghost Shark and Arachnoquake (see a pattern emerging) lends himself to the comic relief role. I’m not sure whether he should stick behind of or in front of the camera – maybe do us all a favour and try both for a bit!

I don’t comment enough on scores and incidental music but I feel the need to do so here. It’s almost as if there is a soundtrack playing in the background to every scene, pumping some ominous music continually through my speakers. Yeah I get that the script isn’t doing a great job at creating tension or fear and they need something cheap to substitute for it but sometimes silence is the best way to go about it. I don’t need to have some creepy tunes running through my head when a character is exploring a dark house, I’d rather it be deadly quiet so that the only thing I can hear is my heartbeat.

 

Monsterwolf isn’t one step forward or one step back for Sy Fy films, it’s just standing still. Swap out the wolf for a crocodile or snake, swap the oil company for a real estate company or gangster and role reverse the hero and heroine and you’ll have exactly the same throwaway film as Sy Fy has been pumping out for years.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆