"You are what it eats"
Whilst on a scientific mission to find prehistoric fossils, a marine biologist and her charter boat captain cross paths with a gang of fishermen and smugglers operating from a remote platform in the North Sumatran Sea and who use child labour to keep their operation working. But one of the enslaved children has supernatural powers and uses them to call upon a creature from the depths of the ocean to take revenge for the death of his friend.
For fans of cult horror films, the name Brian Yuzna will be familiar, with an impressive resume of genre credits including producing Re-Animator and From Beyond, as well as directing Society, the Re-Animator sequels, The Dentist and Return of the Living Dead III, among many others. However, by the middle of the 90s, Yuzna’s projects became weaker and his American output dwindled. Having collected a sizeable fanbase in Europe, Yuzna headed to Spain to start up Filmax International to make a series of modestly budgeted genre films supporting local talent and, as a result, produced and/or directed such efforts as Beneath Still Waters, Rottweiler and Beyond Re-Animator. With those films being a far cry from his heyday, Yuzna wrapped things up in Spain and headed off to Indonesia to do the same again and create a series of genre films using local talent. Heralded as the first 3-D Dutch production, Amphibious is Dutch-Asian horror movie utilising talent from both countries, along with a journeyman American actor to sell the film Stateside.
In comparison with the regular Sy Fy or The Asylum dreck, Amphibious is head-and-shoulders above its monster competition. Does that make it a good monster flick? Hell no. The premise is pretty daft, there’s not a whole lot of sense to the script which doesn’t exactly reach out and grab the audience. At its core, Amphibious looks more like an old school 50s monster movie brought to life in modern day, along the lines of The Monster That Challenged the World or The Black Scorpion. The monster itself is very reminiscent of the black and white beasts from the past – a huge scorpion-like creature with a tail it uses to impale its victims or quite simply using its pincers to cut and slice. It is well-rendered in CGI and could have easily slotted into a more expensive film with no major worries.
The inclusion of some practical effects alongside the CGI monster is a welcome addition to add to its believability. Most of the film is set on this wooden platform precariously perched in the middle of the sea. Physics aside (story-wise, how on Earth has something like that has been built in the middle of the sea using only wood?), the location looks great, with the north Sumatran Sea looking really nice and inviting. Keeping the monster confined to this location works both in favour and to the detriment of the film at times, particularly as the monster is shown to easily rip apart planks when it needs to get at people yet fails to break through wooden walls at other times. The whole thing could have been brought down in a few swipes of its tail.
Yuzna has never been one to skimp on the gore either and Amphibious is surprisingly old-school with its practical effects. There are amputated limbs, severed torsos, melted faces and plenty of blood and guts spilling out all over the set. This is not some second-rate bloodless production for safe viewing on TV on a Saturday night – this is a throwback piece in more ways than one. However, once you take the monster and the blood out of the equation, then Amphibious doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The same problems that blighted some of Yuzna’s European work are evident here, namely the clunky script and some horrendous acting. There are a handful of converging plots which don’t click because its difficult to really get behind and empathise with the main characters.
Forcing a largely non-English speaking cast into speaking English was one of the pitfalls of Yuzna’s Spanish productions, with the inability to grasp the language resulting in some wooden acting, and the same is true here. Michael Paré is the only recognisable name on the cast and I’d hazard a guess to say he only took on this role for a nice holiday to Indonesia. When Paré is the best actor in the cast, you know you’ve got problems. He’s adequate in the leading role but mainly because no one else comes anywhere close to delivering a good performance. Dutch actress Janna Fassaert has a large number of credits on her resume - given the predominantly Dutch-centric nature of her work, I’m guessing this is one of her first forays into English language so I can’t be too hard on her as she does her best. But Fassaert, like the Indonesian actors who make up the rest of the cast, struggles to convey emotions and tone of voice, resulting in some really awful line delivery.
Considering most of the characters meet a sticky end, Amphibious is incredibly dull, even during the action sequences. The vague and disengaging story doesn’t keep the interest, the performances are lifeless and there’s a general feeling that everyone is going through the motions. There are some positives to take out from this (namely it’s still better than the majority of Sy Fy and The Asylum monster movies) but that’s not a ringing endorsement of Amphibious in the slightest.
Director(s): Brian Yuzna
Writer(s): San Fu Maltha, John Penney (screenplay), Somtow Sucharitkul
Actor(s): Verdi Solaiman, Mohammad Aditya, Steven Baray, Dorman Borisman, Francis Bosco, Janna Fassaert
Duration: 86 mins