Tag The Asylum

Sharknado (2013)

Sharknado (2013)

Enough said!

Hurricane David approaches the Southern California coastline, bringing with it every shark in the Pacific Ocean along for the ride.  The hurricane hits land and, as the violent storm rages throughout Los Angeles, with each crashing tidal wave comes a bloodthirsty shark, carried throughout the city by storm drains and waterspouts everywhere.

 

You must have heard of Sharknado by now, a film so infamous that it has transcended our pop culture thanks to the ‘benefits’ of social media – during its initial screening on Sy Fy, Twitter nearly imploded with hashtags and it became an overnight sensation, even securing a limited theatrical release as a result. It’s not like Sy Fy (who produced it) and The Asylum (who distributed it) hadn’t been making dozens of really awful sci-fi monster movies for the past decade or so but for some reason Sharknado just caught on.

I’m sorry but it’s impossible to view Sharknado as anything but truly atrocious filmmaking which attempts to mask it’s sheer awfulness by pretending to wink at the audience. There is no way in hell that the guys behind Sharknado would have ever thought it would get to the point of infamy that it has and so the utter stupidity of the film was not planned to be ironic as it’s now made out to be. Even as ridiculous as the concept is, there were always possibilities that the film could succeed to embrace the camp but it’s a case of throwing in a load of generic killer shark and disaster flick tropes together in the hope they somehow stick. Funnily enough, the disaster scenes work slightly better than the shark scenes because it’s not as difficult to flood actual sets as it is to replicate a hurricane or get a shark to do what you want it to do. But this is definitely a case of the studio hedging all of their bets on the silly title and featuring enough clips of extravagantly over-the-top shark action to get vloggers using clips from the film on their “OMG look how bad this is” highlight videos.

And it does look bad. The CGI effects are awful. I know this was made-for-TV but there’s so much pixilation in every single frame of computer-generated footage that you’ll think your television is going on the blink. It looks so out-of-focus during some of the daytime scenes and the amount of fuzz that fills the screen is nobody’s business – this is a grey film and the filter goes into overdrive, meaning the screen is devoid of energy and life. The sharks look like every other single The Asylum / Sy Fy shark out there, which means little in the way of realism and plenty of fake grey blobs with teeth. Even the storm looks pathetic. Actors try desperately to emote in front of a green screen but there’s little the effects department can do to prevent these scenes from coming off as anything but pure comedy. Director Anthony C. Ferrante even looks to throw in some real footage of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina to try and fool us into thinking that what we see is as realistic as possible. However, he utterly fails on every single count. Sharknado cost around $1m to make which is a fair price for a film made by either The Asylum or Sy Fy – but it somehow comes off looking like one of the cheapest films The Asylum or Sy Fy ever produced.

Sharknado is surprisingly boring. You’d think with all of the crazy goings-on that the film would keep the pace firmly set. But there’s a few periods of exposition and attempted character development which comes off as awkward padding to kill time between shark attacks. The script is woeful, with the series of events in the film never really meshing well. For instance, shortly after a swarm of sharks has attacked an entire beach full of people, the beach bar is still absolutely teeming with visitors who seem totally oblivious as to what happened earlier on. Even the main characters just brush it off like nothing really happened. But this happens a lot in the film, when characters are killed off or some seriously silly stuff has just happened. Also count the number of Jaws references that the script fires off. It’s a reminder that you’d be better off watching Spielberg’s all-time classic for the one millionth time than attempting to tackle Sharknado.

Finally, we come to the cast, and surprisingly I’m not going to be too harsh here. There’s not a lot anyone can do when faced with such mediocrity – Pacino and De Niro would struggle to get a rise out of the script. So, it’s probably for the best that a load of lesser known C-actors fill the main roles. You’ll recognise John Heard as the dad from Home Alone. Tara Reid looks a million miles away from her breakthrough years in the American Pie films but is surprisingly not the worst thing about the film. Cassie Scerbo does little but dart around in a bikini for the duration of the film (I’m not complaining as she’s literally the only thing worth looking at in the entire film) and former US soap opera star Ian Ziering plays everything as straight and serious as possible – it’s almost as if the in-joke completely passed him by.

 

A truly woeful film which pretends that its irony was pre-meditated creative genius, Sharknado is even worse than the usually-dreadful Sy Fy nonsense that it continually spews out. Don’t be fooled by the hype, Sharknado is one of the worst films you’ll never see – a film so desperate to become a cult classic that its embarrassing.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Planet of the Sharks (2016)

Planet of the Sharks (2016)

When the world sinks underwater, one predator rises to the top.

In the near future, glacial melting has covered ninety-eight percent of Earth’s landmass in water and the human survivors are forced to live in floating shanty towns on the surface. Sharks have flourished, and now dominate the planet, operating as one massive school led by a mutated alpha shark.

 

I knew this one would be trouble when I read the synopsis and boy, was I right. Even worse, this was another of the unholy unions between The Asylum and Sy Fy, the two biggest sinners when it comes to the sheer number of ridiculous killer shark flicks that have been rolled out over the past ten years. It’s probably their most high-concept film to date but the underlying problems of their previous films are still evident here – the shark stuff is just woeful. They’re all trying to be as stupid and silly as they can to try and capture the lightning-in-a-bottle frenzy that Sharknado created – and they even did that to death. I’m still waiting for the day that The Asylum or Sy Fy make the inevitable ‘Sharks with Frickin’ Laser Beams Attached to their Heads’ schlock fest.

Planet of the Sharks is basically Waterworld with sharks. No Kevin Costner or Dennis Hopper. And about 0.001% of the budget (remember Waterworld was the most expensive film ever made at the time). It plays heavily on this fact and offers little else in the way of a plot. There’s a distinct lack of a story and I’m sat watching and trying to piece together the little bones the characters throw the way of the audience every once and a while. I’m guessing the script thought the audience would just sit and assume this is the end of the world as humans are all living on floating cities and wearing bedraggled clothes, and so avoid the necessary plot exposition usually delivered by a character. There’s some half-baked story about trying to refreeze the polar caps to reverse what has happened but this is really second nature to the novelty factor of sharks looking like becoming the dominant species on the planet – though Planet of the Apes (with sharks) this definitely is not!

Despite doing it’s best to try and immerse the audience in its post-apocalyptic future, during one scene, it appeared that two holidaymakers wearing Bermuda shorts were standing by idly in the background watching the costumed-up actors spear fish imaginary sharks (which would have been added in post-production). Talk about completely taking you out of the film. There’s little attempt to sell this post-apocalyptic world and establish any sort of rules or logic that we can recognise. For all we care, we’re watching some marooned tourists on a makeshift island who are trying to survive, rather than the remnants of the human race slowly dying off.

Shock of horrors, none of the sharks actually look or feel real in any scene they’re in. There’s no sense of realism or of actual physical presence, just bland computer sprites floating across the screen. I know there’s only so much you can do with killer sharks but considering the number of shark films over the past twenty years, there’s literally nothing new you can do with them. Even the recent big budget The Meg had the same problems with how they can feature this giant shark without regurgitating the same old tropes. And because there’s only so much you can realistically do with killer sharks, filmmakers are now getting them doing highly unrealistic stuff to keep the material fresh. Remember the shark jumping into the air and snatching a plane in Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus? Well there’s a lesser version here, with one of the sharks jumping up to attack a microlite.

There’s stuff about an alpha shark controlling the rest but it’s rather vague and how the sharks came to be like this is never fully developed – again it’s expected that the audience will just sit and buy it without questioning it. Planet of the Sharks also features the obligatory shot of a CGI shark cleanly biting the head off someone with hardly a flinch by the victim – this now-common death scene annoys me more than anything in the world. Sharks can’t just slice off body parts like they’re a Samurai sword, they have serrated teeth which saw bits of flesh off as the shark violently shakes its prey in its mouth. But hey, people think this looks cooler, so filmmakers are just throwing this into every killer shark film out there (and it’s even crept into killer snake and crocodile films too).

 

I’ve spent way too much time writing this review than the film deserved. The worst film I’ve seen this year by a long way, Planet of the Sharks is truly atrocious filmmaking. Sharksploitation has reached the ultimate low. I fear there is no return from this.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Ice Sharks (2016)

Ice Sharks (2016)

Just when you thought it was safe in the Arctic

A team of scientists are studying the effects of climate change on marine life at a research station deep in the Arctic. Responding to reports of missing hunters in the area, the scientists discover that a new breed of aggressive, ravenous Greenland sharks have begun to crack through the thinning frozen ocean floor of the Artic, devouring all who fall through. As the ice breaks apart and the station sinks into glacial waters, those alive must band together, and fight off the killer beasts before it’s too late.

 

OK, so I totally knew what I was getting myself in for here with a title like Ice Sharks, especially coming from an unholy alliance between The Asylum and the Sy Fy Channel. Yet another absurd killer shark flick which sticks to a bog-standard formula of having a bunch of young actors being terrorised by a group of abnormal sharks. Sharks with two/three/five heads. Sharks that live in sand. Ghost sharks. Zombie sharks. Flying sharks. You name it. This time they’re not so much abnormal, just hungrier and bigger than usual. And Greenland sharks? They’re really scraping the barrel, but I guess when great whites, makos, hammerheads, bulls, blues, goblins and tiger sharks have all had their horror outings, they need to keep working their way through the list of shark species. It’s only a matter of time before dwarf sharks are given their own Sy Fy flick.

As per usual, an ethnically-diverse group of individuals, most of whom look way too young and inexperienced to be scientists, are subject to a horrific ordeal at the hands of some breed of shark not quite like anything we’ve seen before. The science is questionable. The physics are all amiss. The improbability of the situation is just immense. Your tongue won’t just be in your cheek, it will have forced a gaping hole in the side! The worst thing is that Ice Sharks is played totally straight and at 100 miles-per-hour so you’ll not get much of a chance to sit back and take it all in until the very end. There’s practically no set-up or slow-build and the sharks start doing their thing within the first five minutes, quickly making it to the station and cutting it loose from the ice. What follows is a number of scientifically-preposterous scenes in which the characters try to escape from the sinking building and make it back to the main ice sheet. Only you won’t really care about anything that is going on because the characters are sketchy and barely register on any level of emotive response – I couldn’t even remember the names of any of them, let alone care when one of them is killed off.

I don’t think too many people will watch the film, so spoilers aren’t exactly going to end the world. But a few random musings from watching: If the ice is thin enough for a shark to break through with a fin, then why is a big building still standing in the middle? With the research station being located deep in the Arctic, how come so many people swim in the ice-cold water yet don’t suffer from immediate cold water shock? Sharks can growl? Research stations are built like submarines in the off-chance that they end up 90ft below the water? I could go on but Ice Sharks is too easy a target.

CGI sharks were the worst thing that ever happened to this sub-genre. Give me a cheap-looking rubber shark any day of the week. With CGI sharks doing their CGI thing, you need CGI backgrounds and environments for them to interact with. So the ice breaking looks terrible, the shots of the research station floating off on the ice and then sinking look terrible, and the scenes of the station sat at the bottom of the ocean with the sharks circling look terrible. At no point did I feel threatened or scared or anything when the sharks were around – they’re such anonymous monsters that I was more worried about the rising water than anything.

 

I know that they’ve actually made a low-grade sequel to Deep Blue Sea but Ice Sharks desperately tries to capture some of that same ‘sinking building under siege’ mentality with absolutely no success whatsoever. Despite all of the on-screen carnage, I was bored silly throughout and kept pausing to see how long was left – never a good sign. I know it has been a while since I subjected myself to one of these killer shark flicks but I’ve now got to try and regroup for Zombie Shark, Five-Headed Shark Attack and Planet of the Sharks. I sincerely hope things don’t get any worse…

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Mega Shark Vs Kolossus (2015)

Mega Shark Vs Kolossus (2015)

Nature’s deadliest creature against mankind’s deadliest weapon!

In search of a new energy source, Russia accidentally reawakens the Kolossus – a giant robot doomsday device from the Cold War – which goes on a destructive rampage. At the same time, a new Mega Shark appears, threatening global security.

 

The fourth instalment in the Mega Shark series (and that’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say) sees The Asylum return to their crazy nonsensical shenanigans, devising the most ludicrous films out of the most preposterous ideas and throwing them out there, knowing that their outlandish titles will always generate some buzz. Granted, the first Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus did garner a lot of undeserved media attention when the trailer was released, only for people to realise how truly awful it actually was when the full film hit. It wasn’t just the silly concept, it was everything about the production. Despite critical scorn, The Asylum have gone on to make an ever-increasing number of these type of films ranging from Mega Python vs. Gatoroid to the Sharknado films.

With Mega Shark Vs Kolossus, it doesn’t look like The Asylum are going to change their ways any time soon. Cue the usual cardinal sins: ridiculously fast editing where scenes literally last no more than ten seconds before another cut hits; incidental music which attempts to make the film more exciting than it is; a couple of ‘famous faces’ who have been lured in to starring in such low budget nonsense (Illeana Douglas and Patrick Bachau this time around) where you see them and say “I remember their face but not their name” before going onto IMDB to find out; lots of scenes of military types standing around talking about the shark; lots of scenes of people looking into computer screens in small rooms (presumably the only set); lots of scenes of science-type character talking a lot of science fiction gobbledegook; ropey CGI graphics which don’t even appear to be at PlayStation One level yet; and plenty of camera shaking. I could go on but if you’ve seen one Asylum film, you’ve seen them all.

The major issue, and an obvious one, with Mega Shark Vs Kolossus is that it is clearly the unification of two separate films or ideas. Kolossus was obviously designed for its own film but Mega Shark got slapped in to add some name recognition to proceedings in the faint hope of selling more copies. It’s clear to see because the two monsters exist almost in their own little films for the majority of the running time, with Kolossus being reawakened with all manner of Soviet spies and mercenaries chasing it around and Mega Shark reacquainting itself with the American navy. It’s only in the final third where the two plots begin to crossover and even then the linking material is sketchy at best.

Mega Shark doesn’t actually get to tussle with Kolossus until the end of the film, though this is nothing new as the majority of these big ‘VS’ films rarely deliver until the finale (this goes all the way back to the early Godzilla films where the Big G would spend most of the film travelling to fight the monster-of-the-moment before engaging with it at the end). The fight is as pitiful as you’d expect given that one monster is organic, the other one is a robot with a big-ass laser beam weapon.

It’s a scant consolation prize for someone who has had to sit through the mind-numbingly painful scenes of the human cast emitting what seems to be dialogue from their mouths. But I thought dialogue was meant to develop characters and add something to the story, rather than just seemingly pass the time between these inane sequences of characters talking about the shark or Kolossus. They’re not engaging characters who you want to see prevail. You’ll not remember any of their names at the end. You’ll not see any of them develop as a character from the opening to the ending. They’re literally talking clichés, designed to act as a transition between the frames of footage. It’s awful filmmaking and that’s not a criticism of just Mega Shark Vs Kolossus but of The Asylum films as a whole. I know that few people go into these films hoping for an Oscar-winning performance but isn’t it funny how the most memorable monster movies are those with decent casts, decent scripts and identifiable characters who make the monstrous threat appear more realistic and more threatening (Tremors, Jaws, The Fly, King Kong, The Thing, Aliens, An American Werewolf in London, Predator, etc. – I could go on).

 

Like sitting and watching your best mate play a rubbish computer game for hours upon end, Mega Shark Vs Kolossus is a terrible way to pass the time. Best to hop onto Youtube, search for the best bit and watch it without having to endure the torment of the journey there. Please stop this franchise. Stop it right now!

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

3-Headed Shark Attack (2015)

3-Headed Shark Attack (2015)

More heads, more deads

A group of scientists are attacked in their underwater lab by a killer 3-headed shark. Then the shark moves on to attack a cruise ship full of partying teenagers. The survivors must band together to try and stop it.

 

I really can’t be bothered wasting my time trying to make the plot sound more exciting than it was because it’s just a mess of appalling writing. OK, so 2-Headed Shark Attack was hardly a high art concept and sold itself on the ludicrous premise alone with predictably dire results. How do you top something so silly? Just add an extra head of course! 3-Headed Shark Attack is somehow even worse than its predecessor. It’s a film which exists solely based upon its premise and where the makers of the film clearly thought “we don’t need to bother with making a coherent narrative which logically moves from A to B because there’s a 3-headed shark in it.” Whilst 2-Headed Shark Attack revelled in its absurdity, treating proceedings with tongue firmly in cheek, this one tries to be too serious.

3-Headed Shark Attack falls straight into The Asylum’s typical formulaic approach – no real plot exposition, gets right into the thick of the action from the opening scene, throws a load of characters with no development into the mix and then just attempts to butcher it together with some awfully choppy editing. There’s literally something going on in every frame of film and it’s a constant assault on the eyes, with some frames lasting seconds before the next edit kicks in. In Asylum films, there’s little room to take time out, get to know characters or build plot – it’s just full steam ahead and it’s so annoying. All you see are people on the screen running away or swimming away from something that’s so badly rendered in CGI that it isn’t even funny. Names? Backgrounds? Relationships to other characters? Nope. Forget that. They’re just faces on film. All they have to do is look into the camera, pretend to stare at something off-screen and then attempt to emote when the time dictates…and they even fail at that.

There are almost three separate films crammed in here and all could have been expanded further. There’s the opening twenty or so minutes with the shark destroying the underwater lab (again, there’s no real point in introducing a load of these one-note victims to kill them off a few minutes later) and forcing the characters to leave the safety of dry land and into a boat (I know, it makes no sense). It’s almost like watching Deep Blue Sea but rushed through in a quarter of the time. Then the few survivors from this end up on a boat full of partying teenagers and the next ‘mini-film’ commences. Finally the survivors from this part then meet up with Danny Trejo’s fisherman character for the last ‘mini-film.’ But that’s what you get with the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach from The Asylum. Just take a chill pill and stretch things out a little more to generate some suspense or tension. At no point during this film did I feel remotely scared, tense or even worried because there’s so much going on, and so much that doesn’t make sense, that it’s hard for your brain to compute. Films need to retain some element of realism in them to allow the audience to comprehend even the silliest of storylines, characters or special effects yet 3-Headed Shark Attack is devoid of realism.

The shark just turns up in the opening scene with no explanation or build-up and then just wreaks havoc, smashing up the lab and eating as many people as possible over the course of the film. It gets to the point of overkill because the shark is always killing people. Remember when only four people (on-screen that is) were killed in Jaws? You don’t need to keep feeding the shark to make it a threat. In fact the opposite happens and it becomes almost a drinking game to see how many people the shark will eat within the next ten minutes of film. The shark looks reasonably good when it’s swimming around doing nothing – the heads are pretty scary and it does look freakish. However as soon as it’s required to do something like breach the water, bite someone or flip into the air, the ropey CGI kicks in. Coupled to this is a soundtrack which doesn’t fit the action and is just there to artificially generate tension and excitement.

Danny Trejo and professional wrestler Rob Van Dam are the two ‘names’ in the film. Trejo is seemingly on a quest to star in every single low budget straight-to-DVD film made in the last two years and has clearly been cast in this for one particular sight gag involving the shark and a machete. RVD proves he should stick to wrestling.

 

It’s like pulling teeth trying to enjoy 3-Headed Shark Attack and considering that there are a lot of teeth on display, that’s a lot of pain to suffer. Those who like The Asylum’s specific ‘brand’ of filmmaking will find more of the same here but for those who want something a little more down-to-Earth, realistic and generally better made, the hunt for a decent killer shark flick continues.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Scarecrow Slayer (2004)

Scarecrow Slayer (2004)

He cuts to the chase

Dave and Karl are two friends looking to join a fraternity and are given the initiation task of stealing a scarecrow from a nearby farm in order to join. However, when the farmer finds the friends moving the scarecrow, he shoots and kills Dave. But he doesn’t die and his soul is transferred into the scarecrow, bringing it to life. The scarecrow then sets about killing anyone who gets in the way of his quest to turn his former girlfriend into a fellow scarecrow so that they can be together forever.

 

Sequel in name only, Scarecrow Slayer is just as bad, if not worse in some respects, as the original and even the presence of legendary horror actor Tony Todd can’t save this one from the farmer’s bonfire. I’m not sure who deemed Scarecrow sequel-worthy – certainly the title character had potential to be scary if he hadn’t been totally the opposite by opening his mouth and spouting one-liners and doing all of those silly back flips and combos that he did in the original. Well he’s sort-of back in this one, be it a different scarecrow, and at least the kick ass cover art returns, easily the only part where a bit of talent was noted in the whole production (Todd aside).

Some films just don’t click right from the start and once the credits have rolled and the main story begins, you just know that Scarecrow Slayer is going to be one of those films. Fair enough there are the sub-plots about the college initiation and the story about the scarecrow killing Caleb’s father which kick us off. If only these sub-plots had been dragged out a little more and allowed to run separately for a little longer (or even if Todd was allowed to make more than an extended cameo), then maybe the scarecrow coming alive and killing everyone would have a little more impact. As it stands, these two mildly interesting sub-plots converge too quickly and the scarecrow is unleashed.

The revenge mission that the scarecrow sets out upon is wound up far too quickly and then what is left is a below-par slasher flick with a killer scarecrow slicing up his former friends. What made him so bitter and twisted towards them, since he was supposed to be a ‘good guy’ before he was shot dead? Why kill his best friend and his girlfriend’s mates? If he loves his girlfriend that much, why bother turning her into a scarecrow? It’s almost as if he’s killing people simply because he’s meant to be a killer scarecrow, not a friendly scarecrow. I can’t see any other reason behind it.

Thankfully, the acting across the board (Todd being the exception) is as abysmal as one would expect so when the scarecrow does kill off a few of the characters, you feel like it’s a mercy killing. The gore factor seems to have been toned down from the first flick too, with some cheesy-looking CGI gore moments substituting badly for true make-up effects (though some of the kills are a bit more elaborate overall). Even the scarecrow seems to have been photoshopped in to some scenes via some bad computer animation. He attacks a lot during the day too, totally ruining any sort of suspense or scares that a semi-lit scarecrow might have created in the dark, turning the character into something of a lost party-goer on his way to a fancy dress ball.

I’m still not sure why Tony Todd is in this. Granted he’s hardly the most famous actor in the world and would find more mainstream roles harder to come by. But….that voice! He’s got one of the most commanding, sinister voices I’ve ever heard from an actor so it’s a shame he’s so underused in cinema in general. But back on topic…..why? What did he do to deserve this? Is the family going hungry? Did the producer have incriminating photos of Tony? Did he sign the contract drunk? It’s a baffling choice but by default, Todd is the single best thing about the film. Even in his short role, he manages to lift the material way, way higher than it deserves to be (before it crashes down with a thud after his exit).

I think the worst thing about Scarecrow Slayer, and something that I’ve only found out since watching, is that it was made by The Asylum. You know – the ‘mega-monster’ specialists who bring the world ‘mockbusters’ for a fraction of the talent and budget of Hollywood blockbusters. Even when they’re not ripping off big blockbusters with rubbish like this, their low production values and general lack of interest in making decent films is evident.

 

Scarecrow Slayer is worse than the original but better in some respects i.e. the fact it had Tony Todd in it. I hear that they’re making another couple of sequels to this dire series. Move over Leprechaun because a new “worst franchise ever” has seemingly stepped in your first place spot.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Shark Week (2012)

Shark Week (2012)

7 days, 7 sharks… 1 survivor!

A wealthy sadist traps a complete group of strangers on his secluded island compound where they are force to compete in a horrifying gauntlet against a relentless onslaught of man-eating sharks, each species more deadly than the last.

 

Saw meets Jaws or that’s what The Asylum would lead you to believe with in Shark Week, their latest CGI killer monster flick and next one off its production line of straight-to-DVD offerings. With its assault of colourful cover posters, catchy tag lines, sound byte-heavy trailers and generally over -indulgent self-promotion, Shark Week was never going to live up to anywhere near expectation. But having watched my fair share of Asylum flicks over recent years, those expectations were rock bottom to begin with and, as the case was with the utterly bonkers Nazis at the Centre of the Earth, Shark Week manages to mildly impress – though only because I’m setting it against the Asylum’s own benchmarks of bad film making rather than any feasible rating scale!

At first glance, Shark Week looks the part. In fact it may well be The Asylum’s best looking feature to date. The cinematography is crisp. The location work is top drawer with a variety of desert island settings and dank underground caverns really coming to life. The CGI-rendered landscapes of some of their previous outings have been mainly dropped in favour of actual location shooting which makes all the difference. The production values have definitely been stepped up a notch. Finally, The Asylum make a film which….well actually looks like a film.

Shark Week plays itself seriously, which has been met with some criticism by other reviewers, but I find that the material wouldn’t have worked with a straight-laced approach (not that it works that much better as it stands). There’s a decent idea waiting to come out of this but the muddled manner in which the characters have to go from watery location to watery location is a bit flimsy at best, all the while the motivation for their entrapment is a feeble revenge plot. The constant need to get the characters into the water just reeks of a one-note idea being stretched for all its worth over eighty-six minutes. In the end, you really get the sense that this idea, as absurd as it may seem in this one, would have worked with a bigger budget, better writers – well generally away from The Asylum’s grasp! Or it could have worked with other ‘creature feature’ whipping boys like crocodiles or tigers which would have made the situations seem less forced with the characters being based on land and thus the script needing less reasons to throw them into danger.

Once again The Asylum don’t quite ‘get’ what effectively works in killer shark film – namely the sharks. I was expecting lousy CGI effects and even lousier integration with the natural environment and human actors and that’s what I got. No surprises because my expectations were that low to begin with. Aside from the hammerhead attack, the rest of the attack scenes consist of the same thing: badly illuminated shots, dreadful CGI sharks, characters struggling and thrashing around in the water before they start stabbing at the shark with whatever sharp objects they have and all in the midst of some rapid-fire editing so that you haven’t got the foggiest clue what is going on. It might work once but the repetitive nature of the attacks soon get boring. They’re meant to be the selling point of the film but each encounter with a shark is virtually the same thing despite the novelty of different sharks being used.

I will give Shark Week some credit in that it’s got a decent pace. It seems like The Asylum are learning their lessons and not constantly bombarding the viewer with scenes that last a maximum of a minute before rapidly moving on to the next one. The film tries to draw itself out a little bit, introducing the overall problem quickly but then settling down a little to try and flesh out the characters and develop some sort of story. Whilst the attempts at characterisation and the story being a little ‘deeper’ than normal miss most of the time, it’s nice to see the studio actually trying for a change and they’ll only learn from this in future.

The token ‘names’ amongst the cast come from Patrick Bergin and Yancy Butler as the two antagonists of the piece. Bergin (Patriot Games) does his most-blatant Jigsaw-like impression as wealthy Tiburon – well I’m guessing that’s who he’s supposed to be modelled on, preaching to his victims before their next shark encounter and letting them know of ways out. Bergin chews the scenery well so it’s a shame he has little screen time with anyone else apart from his assistant. Yancy Butler co-stars as said assistant and seems to have the exact same expression on her face throughout the entire film, looking bored and in desperate need of some sleep.

 

Having read the above review, you’d assume that I hated Shark Week and you’d be more or less right. The idea itself isn’t awful, just the execution. But there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on which makes it stand out more than the other Asylum films. It’s not the cast. It’s not the effects, that’s for sure! It’s not even the script. There’s just something here which promises a brighter future for the company. I’ll give the folks over at The Asylum a little bit of credit. Their films are getting better, little-by-little, but getting better nonetheless.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)

2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)

1 Body, 2 Heads and 6,000 Teeth.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Snakes on a Train (2006)

Snakes on a Train (2008)

100 Trapped Passengers.. 3,000 Venomous Vipers!

A powerful zombie curse causes a young woman to be devoured from within by snakes. Her only chance for survival is the shaman uncle of her runaway lover and the two hop aboard a train destined for Los Angeles. Unfortunately for the rest of the passengers, the snakes hatch inside her and spread throughout the train.

 

The internet phenomena known as Snakes on a Plane conjured up such a whirlwind of interest that it was only a matter of time before some bright sparks came along and decided to spoof what was pretty much a spoof anyway. And it wasn’t going to take much to come up with the cheesiest title possible. Snakes on a Train probably took all of two minutes to think of. What’s next? Snakes on a Bus? The sheer stupidity of the title of the bigger budgeted flick is going to open the floodgates in the future for these type of names. I mean the original story didn’t exactly take ages to write did it – throw a bunch of snakes on board a plane with Samuel L. Jackson and you’re set. So it’s not like the writers here were going to try and top that with anything. And they don’t even try.

The problem here is that the over-simplified plot of Snakes on a Plane has been meddled with. Now there are Mayan curses to contend with, transformations and magic. It adds more stupidity to the film, especially when plenty of things happen out of left field simply because they have to in order to further the film. Guys: keep it simple and easy and you wouldn’t have that problem.

The bigger budgeted Snakes on a Plane (commonly known as SoaP) was simply a B-movie with a big budget and an A-list cast. That was pretty much the whole novelty value. So when you replace the big budget and A-List cast with no budget and Z-List cast, you’ve taken out anything that people would remotely want to watch your film for. The Asylum isn’t known for their high budgets and production values and it shows. The snakes look like Playstation sprites and the film has a grungy, handheld camera feel to it which cheapens everything. You never get the feeling that these people are on board a train. The sets are dimly lit and sparse. Only at the beginning and the end of the film is it based outdoors. You’re never even given a glimpse out of a window at the passing scenery. The train is grotty and I wouldn’t want to shell out my cash travelling on something that looks like it belongs in India (you know the sort of trains where hundreds of people clamber to hold onto the sides).

“100 passengers…3,000 venomous vipers!” goes the tag line. Exaggerations don’t come much bigger than this. I counted about ten people on board the train but at least there was a variety of stock characters with pointless subplots that go nowhere. There’s a bunch of illegal immigrants hiding on the train, a conductor with a ridiculous moustache, some stoner guys, a pair of hot chicks, a family, a rather seedy-looking cowboy and an even more sinister-looking Middle Eastern. They’re all given a brief few moments to talk about some subplot and gain minor character development before they’re put to the back burner. At least one of the hot chicks gives some much-needed gratuitous nudity in a rather pointless scene with an undercover cop.

But where are the damned snakes? There were no where near three-thousand vipers either. They were supposed to be rattlesnakes too! But since when did rattlers grow to about the length of a finger? These tiny pitiful snakes could be stood on, let alone considered a threat, and they remind me of those sweet snakes you can get in the shops. The snakes do get bigger as the film goes on but I want to see big snakes to begin with, not little jelly snakes. Completely underwhelming is the snake quota here. At least SoaP used plenty of CGI snakes to fill up the background to make it look like the plane was crawling. Here it looks like the outbreak is confined to one measly compartment.

The film is reasonably gory though which does add a little extra exploitation factor to proceedings. There is a heart ripping moment (pretty slick) and the snakes have an annoying habit of tunnelling into the wrists of their victims (quite a few gooey times I have to add). The finale beggars belief too with a giant snake and a magic necklace coming into play. It has to be seen to be believed.

 

Snakes on a Train is a terrible cash-in. It ditches the tongue-in-cheek stupidity and novelty value of Snakes on a Plane and tries to play it as straight as possible with devastatingly bad consequences. Low on budget, low on talent and definitely rock bottom on entertainment.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Supercroc (2007)

Supercroc (2007)

It’s 50 feet long… It’s 25 feet tall… And in 14 hours it will be HERE!

A military unit is sent to stop a giant crocodile before it reaches Los Angeles.

 

That’s the best plot outline I can give for this piece of absolute dreck. From the front cover which looks like you’re getting some Godzilla-like monster movie where the crocodile is smashing cities to the exciting tag line and promises of ‘non-stop action’ on the back, Supercroc promises the world. What it delivers is less exciting and more disheartening than waking up on Christmas Day to find a pair of socks and a pink t-shirt waiting for you from Santa. This is a film where nothing happens for eighty five minutes and you’re expected to class it as ‘non-stop action.’ This film is made for a very specific audience – the likes of me who thrive on these creature features. So when the makers of these films flip off their target audience by defrauding them with promises they can’t keep, well that’s not good business is it? Well we are not entertained or amused in the slightest…..

This is supposed to be a film about a 50ft crocodile that is heading on a rampaging path to Los Angeles. What you get is about seventy minutes of the crocodile skulking around near a lake and some woods before finally heading into LA right at the end of the film for some token ‘monster on the loose on the streets’ shots. Actually when I say the crocodile spends seventy minutes skulking around near a lake and some woods, I mean it’s supposed to be skulking around near a lake and some woods…..you don’t get to see a lot of the crocodile so you just assume that’s what it’s doing. Either that or it’s talking to it’s agent to try and get it booked in Crocodile 3. Stare at the cover for a few minutes or just read the title aloud a couple of times and that’s more crocodile action than you’re going to get here.

The film spends the bulk of it’s time building up this unseen menace, clearly prepping it for the inevitable carnage when it finally reaches LA. Hang on a minute: didn’t they do this in about half an hour in the American Godzilla? And hang on a minute: I thought it was supposed to go on a rampage when it got to LA, not just plod around the back streets for a few minutes without anyone noticing? The crocodile just doddles along, slowly walking from  one place to the next and then occasionally hiding in the ‘dense’ woodland outside LA whilst gun ships and helicopters fly overhead looking for it. They can’t find a 50ft crocodile? Did it suddenly turn into a 50ft chameleon? (note to self – don’t give studios any ideas)

As for the non-stop action, well I think I have found it. Oh there’s plenty of thrilling scenes of people back in the headquarters AGGRESSIVELY talking into their headsets. Or even better there are plenty of shots of characters STANDING around looking like something is about to happen. I mean you just can’t beat the tension! I can’t honestly even name one character from this film – they’re more like narrators than actors as they continually divulge the apparent location of the crocodile and organise units to intercept. We even get to see some of the soldiers SHOOTING at something but most of the time what they are shooting at is off-screen. It’s a film where the soldiers are told that the crocodile’s skin is so thick that bullets won’t pierce it so said soldiers spend the next half of the film pumping it full of lead. Having said this, the crocodile does take out a chopper in the film’s only highlight right at the end. But even then the scene is so badly put together and blurry that it may be the crocodile taking it out or it may just be a really fat seagull, I’m not quite sure (note to self – stop giving studios ideas please!).

 

Supercroc is a giant monster movie without any of the giant monster in it. It’s a film that instead of putting padding around a giant monster, it throws in some giant monster around a lot of padding. In fact this film is the most padded film ever and could easily sustain being squashed underneath a giant 50ft crocodile and survive intact. If you know where to find one or even a 20ft crocodile, please let the makers of this film know so that they can put some footage of it in. And to think I could have fed a family of five in Africa for a month instead of wasting £8 on this inane nonsense!

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆