Octopus 2: River of Fear (2001)
"Out of time... out of breath!"
Dead bodies begin to wash up on New York harbour with the cause unknown. That is until cop Nick Hartfield sees a giant octopus in the harbour but no one will believe him. With the Mayor wanting to keep the harbour open for the Fourth of July celebration, it spells bad news for anyone getting too close to the water.
This tacky monster film is a sequel in name only - oh yeah, apart the fact that it has a giant octopus in it – to the original Octopus. That one was more Crimson Tide than anything creature feature related. With no returning characters, not even the same octopus, and a complete change of location, Octopus 2: River of Fear goes straight for the predictable monster-on-the-loose jugular which has been done to death many times over with predictably dire consequences. However, there's dire and there's Octopus 2: River of Fear levels of dire.
I guess the writers have seen Jaws, or at least a handful of this ludicrously over-saturated ‘monster-on-the-loose’ sub-genre. So what do we have here: monster-on-the-loose – check; character who sees monster and tries to convince everyone else of its existence – check; local authority figure who wants to keep the town/beaches/harbour open for some holiday/festival/event – check; token set piece at said holiday/festival/event where the monster shows itself and proves the person right all along – check. I could keep going on but no doubt if you’re reading this review, you’re familiar with the tropes of that particular sub-genre. Needless to say, Octopus 2: River of Fear has them all except the ‘great white hunter’ character.
Nothing in this film is original in the slightest but I guess that's your straight-to-video monster flick nowadays. No one can be bothered coming up with creative ideas anymore so they just keep rehashing old ideas. Don't get me wrong, some of these films can be entertaining when done properly with a decent cast, decent script and reasonable looking monster. But here? I don't know where to start. It looks dated, almost as if it was filmed back in the late 70s or early 80s such is the grimy nature of the New York setting. The characters are all so uninteresting so you don't want to root for anyone, especially the ones who are just so ignorant to everything that happens. Sherlock Holmes famously said "When you have eliminated all which is impossible then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" yet the characters here won't accept anything remotely out-of-leftfield to give themselves a chance in stopping the murders. There's no developing these characters and they go through the typical motions that their stock characters usually do. Even the actors know this and so don't put anything into their performances, giving off a real sense of wanting to be elsewhere (the Hudson harbour here actually being location shooting in Bulgaria). The story gives them little reason to put any energy into the film, with the police investigation into the discovery of the bodies taking up the majority of the screen time in the first half. Where’s the flipping octopus?
Well you might regret pondering that question when it eventually turns up. The octopus itself looks awful, with big rubber tentacles being used in attack scenes (the actors wrapping themselves in the props) and the underwater sequences are badly filmed and edited together so you can't see what is going on. I guess they’re good in a ‘old school rubber monster’ sort of way which continues the 70s impression that I alluded to early. Surprisingly, the octopus does attack the Statue of Liberty at one point but this is only during a dream sequence, proving to be irrelevant to the overall story. Thinking back to Ray Harryhausen’s classic It Came From Beneath the Sea only makes me wonder what could have been with this scene, in fact the entire film. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Octopus 2: River of Fear is its use of landmarks and its depiction of the Manhattan skyline – by the time it was eventually released in 2002, the skyline had been dramatically changed by the events of the preceding year and so this makes one of the final films to feature Manhattan pre-9/11.
Whilst you've paid to see a giant octopus tearing New York apart and have been cheated out of such a premise with the distinct lack of the titular creature, the single worst part of Octopus 2: River of Fear comes in the finale with about fifteen minutes to go – the octopus is seemingly ditched and the film turns into some sort of Irvin Allen-style disaster flick as the cop tries to rescue some kids trapped inside a collapsing tunnel. The octopus returns for a brief cameo with about half a minute of the film remaining but the big pay-off finale is sorely lacking. I had to re-check the cover box to make sure I was watching the correct film and that someone hadn’t taped over the proper ending with Daylight. Low and behold, I've checked up and actual footage from Daylight has been inserted into the finale. I would hazard a guess and say that hardly anyone has seen Octopus 2: River of Fear which is why no one has ever thought of suing the director or studio for their plagiarism. Absolutely shameless and I was half expecting to see Stallone pop up.
There’s so much wrong with Octopus 2: River of Fear that it’s hard to end this review without going off on a complete tangent. Nu Image, the brains behind this mess, also made the Spiders films and the first of them was semi-decent so it’s not like they don’t know how to make a good creature feature film. Just not this time around!
Octopus 2: River of Fear
Director(s): Yossi Wein
Writer(s): Boaz Davidson (story), Danny Lerner (story), Michael D. Weiss (screenplay)
Actor(s): Michael Reilly Burke, Meredith Morton, Fredric Lehne, John Thaddeus, Chris Williams, Stoyan Angelov, Paul Vincent O'Connor
Duration: 91 mins