Tag Aquatic Monsters

Frankenfish (2004)

Frankenfish (2004)

Welcome to the bottom of the food chain.

A brutal attack in the Louisiana swamps leaves local police mystified so they call in outside help. A coroner and a biologist travel to the swamp where they find that a group of genetically engineered Chinese snakeheads are munching their way downstream towards a houseboat community. Meanwhile the big game hunter responsible for breeding them is in hot pursuit of his prey.


Based on a real life incident in 2002 where a bunch of snakehead fish were found to be breeding in a pond in Maryland, Sy-Fy decided to churn out two snakehead-themed horror films for their regular Saturday night creature feature slot. I’m not sure whether there was enough material to stretch over one film, let alone two almost identical films but that’s Sy-Fy for you. Between this and Snakehead Terror, I think all bases have been covered.

Frankenfish isn’t a complete bore and is one of the better monster-on-the-films I’ve seen in recent years. Think Tremors but only replace the desert with the swamp, houses for houseboats and the Graboids with the snakehead fish. Only this sorely lacks the wit of Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, replacing them with the usual array of token characters and cutting out any of the off-beat humour. A huge chunk of the film takes place aboard three houseboats in a remote lagoon where the characters stranded aboard the boats are unable to get to proper dry land because of the fish in the water. So you can get a gist of the sort of set pieces you’re going to be confronted with – people making attempts to flee the boats, sometimes falling into the water and being killed off and other times being rescued in the nick of time. Even though the set pieces reek of familiarity, they are still directed with a competent flair to make them seem fresher than they have any right to be.

Frankenfish is a film which is highly unpredictable too and puts it cast through the ringer. Though the film is populated by a largely-unsympathetic bunch of characters, there are a few likeable characters in there but the film shows no mercy to whether the audience wants to see them live or die. If you think you know who is going to get it next, then you’re mistaken. Sadly it’s this unpredictability that, at times, gives the film somewhat of a bumpy pace as the shock of some character departures sometimes causes the film to grind to a halt. The cinematography looks great too, with the shots of the swamp really hammering home the fact that this is in the middle of nowhere and adding to this notion that these characters are facing an uncertain future. Generally speaking, Frankenfish certainly comes off a professional effort, not some cheap second-rate straight-to-video flick – when stuff like Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid gets released in the cinema, you’re grateful that these so called second-rate flicks are more polished at a fraction of the cost.

The snakeheads themselves are pretty deadly – they’re nasty, aggressive fish in real life and so make the perfect foil for such a film like this. CGI is mixed in well with animatronics to create the illusion that these creatures do actually exist in the same physical universe as the characters – a trait which many of its ilk have often failed to convey. Not only content with using some model fish, there’s a nice old school vibe to the gore as well with plenty of blood and limbs thrown around. The finale in particular is a gruesome explosion of fish guts as the fish problem is dealt with in devastating fashion.

There is a reasonable cast of “you’ll know the face, not the name” actors including Muse Watson (the fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer), Reggie Lee (probably more famous for his role in TV’s Prison Break) and Thomas Arana (as Russell Crowe’s second-in-command in Gladiator) on hand to portray the usual array of businessman assholes, backwoods rednecks, dumb fishermen and the like.


As far as films about man-eating genetically engineered monsters go, Frankenfish is no better than all of the rest, nor is it any worse. It sits about middle ground. It’s not overly satisfying yet once it’s finished, you get the feeling that it could have been a lot worse. Is that how low my expectations have become for Sy-Fy Originals? It seems so.





Piranha 3-D (2010)

Piranha 3-D (2010)

This Summer 3D Shows Its Teeth

An underground earthquake sets free scores of man-eating prehistoric piranha fish which swim down river towards a small town on the shore of Lake Victoria, a popular spring break destination for college students. With hundreds of booze-fuelled and horny teenagers in the water, can the piranha be stopped in time?


Do you want a thought-provoking film which challenges the meaning of life, gives rise to question our existence and will make you change the way you live your life? If you do then clear off now. If you want boobs, blood, boobs, low brow humour, boobs, more blood, killer fish and then more boobs, you’ve come to the right place. Piranha 3-D is a silly, moronic and extremely juvenile horror flick which wears it’s exploitation heart on it’s sleeve…..and I loved every single minute of it. The film is pitched squarely towards fan boys – actually males of any demographic – with its focus on hot young females shedding their clothes at every opportunity. Sort of like a horror film crossed with one of those MTV shows in which they pitch a DJ and stage on a beach somewhere and just let chicks dance for an hour. Piranha 3-D is gloriously self-aware and self-indulgent. I can’t remember the last time I was this entertained in the cinema.

Alexandre Aja has helmed some pretty serious and brutal films during his directorial time including the remake of The Hills Have Eyes so it’s nice to see him ‘relax’ and go for something more light-hearted and trashy. The first two Piranha films back in the 70s were helmed by Joe Dante and James Cameron no less, two men who’ve got on to much bigger and better things (more so Cameron). So Aja is in good company. He knows what modern horror fans want to see and delivers. Let’s face it – 3-D is a gimmick, pure and simple. It’s not meant to be the next coming of cinema. It’s meant to add enjoyment to your viewing experience. Aja knows that and puts the 3-D to uses that James Cameron would never have considered for Avatar. The 3-D is used effectively throughout the film with all manner of things popping, erupting, exploding and jiggling on the screen. Memorable moments include a piranha emerging from someone’s mouth, Ving Rhames’ defiant stand with a detached outboard motor and, well, I’d never thought I’d say this but the 3-D severed penis probably got the biggest laugh from the cinema audience I was sat in with. There’s plenty of 3-D blood and 3-D boobs too. I actually think there were more boobs here than fish.

The flick keeps its promise of blood and delivers it in buckets during the gruesome attack scene in which the piranhas finally get to chomp down on some drunken teenagers. Bodies with flesh-stripped limbs try to drag themselves out of the water. People are ripped in two. Some young woman even has the skin ripped clean off her face. The cameras get right up close and personal during the attack scenes, thrusting you straight into the heart of the action as if you’re almost stuck in the water waiting to be devoured. The deaths are played mainly for laughs (check out Eli Roth’s hilarious cameo), adding to the absurdity of the sheer amount of gore on display. But you can tell that Aja is used to gore flicks and loves the red stuff. He knows how to milk the blood for all of its worth and the camera lingers on each moment with childish glee. The tone of the film is never in question from the opening scene and a nice rich vein of humour flows through the film. Be it funny dialogue or simply the perverse situations that the characters find themselves in, a laugh or chuckle is never more than a few minutes away (tucked in nicely between boobs and blood!)

Its official – 3-D wasn’t designed so that James Cameron could bring to life the world of Pandora in Avatar. It wasn’t to show My Bloody Valentine’s copious amounts of gore in a new and disgusting way. It wasn’t so that kids could gawp at Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 3. 3-D was designed purely for heterosexual males the world over to enjoy the absolutely glorious sight of Kelly Brook’s 32-E chest the way that God intended it to be enjoyed. And enjoy it we shall. Funnily enough she’s not that bad an actress here although her role is to cavort naked and look good and she does both with aplomb.

This is hardly a character-driven film though and the flimsy plot does little to make us care about most of the characters but the main cast do fine in their roles. Elizabeth Shue gets to act tough as the female sheriff, Jerry O’Connell is hilarious as the sleazy porn producer and steals every scene he’s in, Ving Rhames does his typical bad ass persona as the deputy and there’s a welcome cameo part for Christopher Lloyd, channelling some of his Doc Brown character from Back to the Future into his role as the marine biologist. Richard Dreyfuss spoofs his appearance in Jaws with the film’s most throwaway scene and will bring an instant grin to the face of any fan. Spot how many times Jaws can be referenced within the few minutes that Dreyfuss is on screen.


Piranha 3-D is unashamedly cinematic trash but it’s proud of it and hard to resist it’s simple charm. Those who adore high-brow subtitled French art house flicks will no doubt be disgusted at what’s on display here but this film isn’t aimed at you. Inception may be a lot of critic’s choice for best film of 2010 but Piranha 3-D can’t be too far behind for pure unadulterated entertainment.





Piranha (1995)

Piranha (1995)

Lost River Lake was a thriving resort… Until they discovered…

A girl and her boyfriend go missing so a private investigator is hired to find them. So enlists the help of a local mountain man to help her search near to the old army test base where they believe the teenagers to have headed. Assuming them drawn in a large pool, they drain the water into the river, accidentally releasing a horde of flesh-eating piranhas which escape into the river system. The fish proceed to munch their way down stream, heading towards a kid’s holiday camp and a newly opened holiday resort.


In my view, remakes are generally pointless exercises in milking cash from an established film. I don’t buy the ‘we need to update it for a new audience’ rubbish because if a film is that good, it doesn’t need an update because it will stand the test of time (The Godfather, case in point). If it could use a remake, then is the film that good enough to deserve one in the first place? When you remake a film, what route do you take? Do you change everything, contemporising it for a new time period? What elements of the original do you save? What do you pay homage to? Or do you simply follow it almost shot-for-shot, word-for-word? We could ask ourselves these questions when we witness big budget remakes of classics like Psycho and Dawn of the Dead. But who in their right mind ever thought about remaking Piranha, a decent but forgettable parody of Jaws from the late 70s?

Roger Corman – that’s who! The legendary producer oversaw a handful of remakes of his old films for cable TV and Piranha was one of them. But somewhere along the line, the writers made substantial changes to tone and content of the original. The screenplay is still virtually the same, with minor alterations to characters and story, and the film runs exactly the same as it did in 1978. Where the problem lies is that they have substituted the wit and humour of the original with more emphasis on gore and violence. This serious tone doesn’t help because at its core, Piranha was a parody and needed this light-hearted tone to make it work. Without the humour, it turns into another generic monster flick with something on the loose in the water.

The pacing of the film isn’t too bad. There’s not a lot of waste in the running time and the piranhas don’t usually go too long between meals. It’s not just semi-naked blondes who the piranhas tend to feast on either because it’s open season here so kids and dogs are also on the menu. Footage of the piranhas from the 1978 version is re-used here despite the obvious improvements in technical advancement. Rather than shoot new footage, they’ve simply ‘recycled’ footage from the archive and it shows. There also seems to be a few more breasts thrown around here than there was in the original which is a good thing. The increased focus in these two elements would be taken to the extreme in Alexandre Aja’s infinitely superior remake Piranha 3-D.

William Katt and Alexandra Paul share little chemistry as the two leads but on their own, they’re more than capable of handling themselves. Katt, in particular, at least keeps things ticking over with a likeable character you can get behind. Monte Markham has his turn as the businessman who refuses to believe that there’s a problem and won’t close his resort for fear of losing business…….you know the score by now with this stereotype. Mila Kunis makes her debut in this but you’ll be hard pressed to recognise the sweet little girl here as the stunning young woman she’s is now. Cast-wise, the film is no better or worse off than the original, though Kevin McCarthy’s barmy scientist was sorely lacking from this one.


Piranha is an unneeded remake which hardly breaks any new ground but at least it doesn’t damage the original too much. It’s hard to really sum up: if you’ve seen the original, you’ll have already watched this. But out of curiosity, you’ll watch it anyway. If you haven’t seen it, you’re better off with the original. But then you’ll watch this as well out of curiosity. So yeah, just watch this as well. It’s pretty solid on its own two legs.





Sea Beast (2008)


It’s a feeding frenzy!

No one will believe fisherman Will McKenna when he tells everyone that a sea monster snatched one of his crew off their last fishing trip. However the amphibious man-eating monster has followed his boat back to shore where it begins feasting on the local populace for the benefit of it’s recently hatched offspring.


The Sci-Fi Channel strikes another blow to the heart of the creature feature with Sea Beast, another unimaginative and derivative schlocker which delivers what one has come to expect from their output (ie. very little). What we get is some bizarre cross between Jaws, Predator and any number of the trashy aquatic horrors that the Sci-Fi Channel has released over the past couple of years. Don’t they know when to quit? Obviously not judging by this. But whereas before, their creature feature films were based upon real creatures, the Sci-Fi Channel turned to mythology for inspiration (Yeti and Hydra spring to mind) and is now just making up whatever they want on the spot (Rock Monster? Sea Beast?). It seems with this mindset, there are no limits to how many of these films will be churned out and more worrying, how much worse they will get.

Anyway Sea Beast runs like clockwork. There’s the small fishing village setting. There’s the token fisherman / local town hero who needs to take matters into his own hands to sort the monster problem out. There’s the town drunk who claims to have seen the creatures before but no one believes him. There’s also a token female scientist who is on hand to provide the scientific mumbo jumbo needed to fulfil the ‘we explained the monster as best we could’ quota. There’s the teenage daughter of the town hero who predictably must disobey her father’s orders at some point to hold a party with her friends and to which the creatures will gate crash. There are a few minor characters who hang around simply waiting to be killed off. With a film as routine as this, it’s almost pointless watching in many respects.

The only reason you keep watching is the possibility that the film might actually spring a few surprises – that isn’t the case here and gets as predictable as the lousy summer weather in the UK. The script, if you can call it that, doesn’t do anyone any favours at all – from the fact that the creatures attack in the most ridiculous of places (which means that the CGI looks way more ropey that it needs to be) to the idiotic things that the characters do. The cast isn’t too bad with Corin Nemec making for a passable hero but they’re given a thankless task in trying to make the mundane dialogue actually mean something.

The sea beasts actually look a little like Venom (from Spider-Man 3 and the comics). It’s got a weird ability to stealth itself like the Predator and can jump massive distances into the air in order to escape its prey. They can spit out slime which paralyses their victims and are generally a nasty piece of work. The creature itself is such a bizarre creation that it takes believability to the next level and it’s actually hard to stomach it actually existing. I can picture the thought of a giant octopus, mutated shark or even 30ft eels but to create a whole new breed of monster and give it almost comic book-like powers is just taking it a little too far. You also get plenty of monster P.O.V. shots of it homing on its victims. All that the thing needed was the shoulder mounted cannon and it would have given the Predator a definite run for its money.

They’re very well fed too but that’s another problem I have with these recent monster flicks – there’s too many people being eaten. The older monster flicks never had massive body counts and mainly a few insignificant characters were killed off before one or two main characters. But at least when characters were killed off, it felt special. We had emotional bonds to the few main characters who got killed off (come on, everyone hated it when Quint got killed in Jaws). Here there are that many people getting killed left, right and centre that the novelty of the creatures are taken away and the deaths just become routine. The characters killed off are generally just extras with no dialogue and we get the feeling that the main characters here are going to be ‘invincible’ and make it through to the end.


Some of the Sci-Fi Channel’s aquatic horrors have been reasonably entertaining (I’m thinking of Loch Ness Terror here) but this one is just scraping the barrel. Sea Beast stoops to a new low of ridiculousness and tedium that will be pretty hard to beat. But knowing the Sci-Fi Channel, they’ll be able to beat it!





Barracuda (1978)

Barracuda (1978)

You Can Almost Hear The Screams! as the water below becomes a CHURNING DEATHBED of FLASHING TEARING TEETH!

In a top secret government experiment, the drinking water of a whole city is mixed with a chemical which makes people aggressive by depriving them of blood sugar. But the dodgy chemical plant doesn’t think straight and pumps the waste out to sea. Naturally there are still chemicals in the water and a school of barracudas are turned into man-eating killers.


You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was just another of those mainly crappy Jaws rip-offs released in that classic film’s wake, right? Wrong! Barracuda could win the award for ‘film that goes off on a tangent the most’ as its plot strafes from the creature feature cheapie to some sort of The X-Files conspiracy flick. Its Jaws meets The Crazies in a bizarre mixture of genres which may have worked had they not completely forgotten about the fish when the cover-ups begin.

This one starts off like Jaws as the barracuda swiftly take apart a few random divers and swimmers without any real purpose and significance. The barracuda themselves look very cheap and rubbery and the attacks aren’t done very well. We only get to see some bloody water instead of the barracudas actually chomping their way through their victims although there is a severed head shown in one scene. They attack in packs like the piranha from Piranha and although I’m not familiar with barracudas in real life, I’m sure they’re not anything like this. Coupled with the traditional underwater monster point-of-view shots that Jaws utilised so well, the barracuda might as well be any other fish with teeth because they’re not really the focus of the film. In fact the characters spend more time away from the water than they do near it. It’s the most obvious thing in the world to do – if there’s something killing people in the water, then don’t go near the water. But this is a film, not real life, so I expected to see more dumb people going for swims or fishing.

At about the halfway point, the film switches to it’s The X-Files mode as it turns into a government conspiracy and cover-up mystery film. Once this is given priority, the barracuda are hardly mentioned for the remainder of the film and there’s no resolution to their plot. They’re not killed off or dealt with in any way. I guess they’re still swimming around there, with their low blood sugar levels. It looks like they were just a cheap plot to attract ‘monster on the loose’ fans such as myself. You can actually see by the other title it went by, The Lucifer Project, that this has obviously been renamed to cash in on Spielberg’s masterpiece. I actually wanted there to be some form of ‘local festival taking place in which the local mayor wanted to keep the beaches open despite danger’ plot like there is in all of these Jaws rip-offs. But that was just a cheap ploy and the barracuda are only secondary to the real plot. It’s blatantly cheap, false advertising.

The conspiracy plot is a complete waste of time and you just know which townspeople are in on the cover-up from the way their characters have been portrayed throughout the rest of the film. The film also ends with a real twist which came as a bit of a shock to me but looking back I should have seen it coming. If Barracuda had focused on the title fish a lot more much like Piranha did and then had the cover-up plot as the secondary theme then its overall quality would have been greatly enhanced.


It’s funny that in Jaws, the mayor tells Chief Brody that “You yell barracuda, everybody says ‘huh, what?” Barracuda is a cheap cash-in which has little to do with killer fish and more to do with shady federal agents. Barracuda – “huh, what” indeed.





Razortooth (2007)

Razortooth (2007)

Death From Below…

Four college students head down to a swamp in a small Southern community in order to gain extra credits by helping a scientist with his research into Asian swamp eels, which are threatening the local eco-system. However they soon find out that, in an attempt to make the eels sterile, the scientist has in fact created a giant mutant eel which has an appetite far greater than the fish in the lake and is soon eating it’s way through the local population.


Here we go again! Another straight-to-DVD creature feature flick comes crawling out of the swamp, bringing with it a pungent smell of nasty swamp water and squelching it’s muddy feet all over the ground. Razortooth is the ultimate craptacular mix of two of the most over-populated creature feature sub-genres: the giant snake flick (come on, an eel is a snake in all but name) and that of the aquatic creature sub-genre (you really struggle to find suitable monsters except sharks in this genre). This means that there are double the clichés, double the possibilities and double the rubbish. You’ll see eels do things you could never dream of. You’ll see special effects so bottom grade, that it’s like watching a game of Pong after playing on Gears of War. You’ll see a never-ending supply of stereotypes foolishly hang around the swamp. The list is endless. Needless to say that Razortooth is hard going for those of who us who have been weaned on this sort of staple creature feature diet. There’s just no story left to tell in these films anymore. Simply swap the creature and you’ve got an entirely new film.

Right from the opening scenes of the eel munching its way through a group of cops chasing after some escaped fugitives, the film becomes more of a endurance test than an actual pleasure. How many times have you watched your favourite film? Have you got to the stage where you can recite lines of dialogue and you know the exact scene that is coming up next? Well watching Razortooth for the first time almost feels like you’re watching your favourite film for the fiftieth time. Dialogue is predictable. Characters do what you expect them to do. The film pans out in the precise manner that it should do and why is that? Because it’s so predictable and you’ve seen this before, just under names like Frankenfish and Sea Beast. I keep watching them because there’s an odd one or two that actually do something slightly different with the material. But to find that gem, you’ve got to sift through way too much rubbish.

So go on then, roll out the creature feature character clichés please……….wildlife expert and local authority figure team up to stop the eel. Check. ‘Southern’ community stereotypes including the trailer trash clan, the gun nut and the fat redneck that just eats Southern fried chicken. Check. A couple of jocks, a nerdy girl and a nerdy guy. Check. Loads of random townsfolk to provide monster fodder. Check. The scientist who has created a monster and is trying to protect it. Check. There’s just no one to root for – the two leads are more bothered about rekindling their marriage than they are trying to kill the eel. Give us some sympathetic characters we can associate with and then maybe you have room to work with the script.

The dialogue is terrible and at one ironic moment, one of the students says that “I’ve seen this movie before.” So have we, mate! The moment in question is probably the highlight of the film for me as it spoofs a scene from Tremors (where they pick up the old farmer’s hat and find his severed head lying underneath). Being that the highlight has been lifted from another film, it’s a sad indication of how little I enjoyed this.

The eel itself looks like one of the leftover heads from Hydra with its huge teeth and shiny, dome-head. I could almost imagine this thing popping up in Finding Nemo as it’s not scary in the slightest. Once again, the eel moves way too fluently and quickly for you to suspend your belief for a moment and accept that it is real. After all, that’s the intention isn’t it? This thing glides through the water with ease, climbs up trees to perform overhead ambushes and is able to squeeze through tiny water pipes in order to suck it’s victims through shower holes. In one laughable moment, some poor schmuck gets pulled down into his portaloo. Having something crawl out of the toilet to bite you is a pretty common fear but it’s handled here in such a ridiculous manner that the next time I suspect something is coming up, I’ll drop a few more pounds down to finish it off!

There’s plenty of CGI gore too as the eel likes biting body parts off some victims and swallowing others whole. It does get well fed although plot holes crop up like crazy when the eel kills off some people almost instantly (the fodder characters) but decides to swim around others for a bit, playing with them before letting them go.


Enough with the creature features already! Razortooth isn’t as abysmal as I’m making out, especially if you haven’t seen too many of this type of film. But for anyone else, just buy the damned film, stick it on your shelf and make a note never to watch it unless the end of the world is nigh.





Evil Beneath Loch Ness, The (2002)

The Evil Beneath Loch Ness (2002)

Sixty Feet of Prehistoric Terror

Researchers on Loch Ness think that they have finally found the fabled Loch Ness Monster. However, when people start to die mysteriously around the Loch, they come to realise that Nessie is the least of their problems.


To say that it’s one of the world’s most widely-recognised mysteries of the world, the Loch Ness Monster has been given a relatively wide berth by the horror genre. You’d think that the idea of an aquatic dinosaur living in a lake in the middle of Scotland would be the ideal material for a decent creature feature flick but cinematic depictions of Nessie had been few and few between. In fact I can only think of two genre pieces (the recent Sci-Fi flick Loch Ness Terror and an earlier one called The Loch Ness Horror) – not counting Ted Danson’s gushy family film, Loch Ness. With Nessie films being in short supply, one would at least hope that the few films about it are actually decent. Despite a cast of familiar faces, The Evil Beneath Loch Ness will do nothing to change that under-representation and if they all turned out to be this bad, then it’s one mystery that is best left unexplained.

You can’t really have a proper film about Loch Ness when the film isn’t shot there! The Evil Beneath Loch Ness was filmed at a lake in California, poorly doubling for the Scottish Highlands. As local landmarks such as Urquahart Castle are part of the legend of Nessie, then surely some effort could have been made to incorporate them into the film. A second unit seems to have taken some token shots of a Scottish loch to scatter around the film but this isn’t the real deal. The problem that the Californian location is vastly different to that of Scotland is emphasised with the different vegetation on show and the fact that it’s just way brighter and sunnier than Scotland. Where are the murky, grey skies? Where’s the fog? I know that Scotland isn’t like that all year around but it’s the sort of images we conjure up in our heads when we think of the Highlands.

Not only does the film skimp on the ‘Loch Ness’ part of the title, it also skimps on the ‘beneath’ part of the title as it doesn’t look like any of it was filmed underwater. The scenes we get from beneath the surface look like they were filmed on a soundstage with the actors moving in slow motion. Slow seems to be a recurring theme though as the film is deathly sluggish and there’s a lot of exposition and unnecessary sub-plots bubbling over. It takes way too long for the monster to get down to business and even then, the kills are few and far between. In fact the monster is hardly seen, despite the blatantly obvious twist mid-way through the film which reveals that there isn’t just the one underwater menace. The same CGI shot of the monster is re-used over and over again but from different directions to give you the illusion that what you’re seeing is new footage. It’s about all you’ll see of the monster as it’s not on screen for long, which is probably for the best as it looks ropey when you do see any of it. When it does attack people, the scenes are shot so frantically that its hard to see what is going on…..not that you’ll really care.

Patrick Bergin gets top billing but doesn’t show up until half-way through and even then he just does a feeble imitation of Quint from Jaws. He gives some half-assed back story about how the monster killed his son and then for the final hunt, he dresses up in blue war paint and a kilt like Mel Gibson did in Braveheart. But the daft thing is that he’s only going underwater in a wet suit so all of the ridiculous get-up is quickly covered over! Vernon Wells, the campy bad guy from Commando, pops up as the local Scottish constable despite the fact that he has an Australian accent. With the lack of a town mayor or any form of civic governance, Wells’ fulfils the necessary role of being the one who wants to keep the lake open to tourists to save the local economy. I was wondering where they were going to cram that old chestnut into proceedings!

Brian Wummer makes for a damp squib of a male lead and Lysette Anthony co-stars as his ex-wife/TV producer boss. Their bickering is just one of many of the unnecessary sub-plots that I mentioned earlier on. Coupled with another side story about some people trying to create a hoax monster and it’s clear that the script is full of these human plots which are designed to pad out the time and avoid anything remotely expensive….or exciting.


The Evil Beneath Loch Ness does the legendary monster a great disservice. Featuring weak special effects, being overly talky and with a chronic lack of action and excitement, its probably a good thing that this thing wasn’t filmed on location as everyone associated with Loch Ness can forget about this blemish and pretend it never happened.





Snakehead Terror (2004)

Snakehead Terror (2004)

The fish are really biting

A small town put poison in their lake to get rid of snakehead fish that were eating everything and thus ruining local fishermen and tourism. After the snakeheads were apparently killed, some locals began dumping human growth hormones in the lake in an attempt to quickly repopulate it with fish and save the economic fortunes of the town. However some snakeheads survived being poisoned and the hormones mutate them into huge killing machines, with insatiable appetites for human flesh.


I’d never heard of snakehead fish before but along came a couple of similarly-themed low grade horror flicks which featured these weird fish as the main predators Frankenfish certainly wasn’t the worst genre film ever made and now comes Snakehead Terror, another formulaic but entertaining attempt to turn these fish into man-eaters. The Sci-Fi Channel was going to be quick to swoop on any new creatures for their trashy ‘monster on the loose’ flicks to feature and this is their offering. Considering the quality of their films over the last couple of years, Snakehead Terror is like The Godfather of monster flicks.

You’ve seen it all before with a film like this. Snakehead Terror follows the same formula: in fact THE standard formula for 90% of the monster-on-the-loose flicks released since Jaws created it back in 1975. It doesn’t matter whether its snakes, piranhas, spiders, crocodiles – you name it, there’s hundreds of films out there which follow this simple formula and the Sci-Fi Channel has the monopoly on them. Some can be quite effective when handled correctly – others just look like pathetic rip-offs. Well thankfully Snakehead Terror does a bit of both. It manages to rip-off countless other films and it’s predictable as the sun rising but at least gives a go of itself in the meantime. I think it’s down to the title creatures and not knowing much about them.

These films are only as good as the monsters that star in them and I’m not in a minority to say I’ve had my fill of crocodiles, sharks and snakes. Apparently this is based on a true story about a town in Maryland which suffered from an invasion of snakehead fish, a species not native to the area, which caused havoc. So the town poisoned and drained the lake to get rid of the menace. I’m sure these real fish didn’t grow to alligator-sized man-eaters and started stalking victims on land but the real story is weird in its own right. The snakehead fish themselves aren’t the most menacing monsters throughout this film but with the help of some decent gore effects, you’re able to see the damage they can do first hand and the threat they pose. They’re amphibious too which spices things up nicely when characters think they’re safe on dry land. Sadly the CGI effects let the fish down in a big way and the more we see of them on land, the worse they look.

The film has a reasonably short running time and it zips along very quickly, not leaving too much time between someone being snacked upon by the fish. It’s played straight from the start which was probably the wisest thing to do given the story about killer fish which can walk on land! Not one to stray from formula, the film follows the beaten path as expected with an odd curveball or twist thrown in for good measure (it’s not a good time to be someone’s boyfriend in this film). The acting is solid too, with no one really bringing their one-dimensional characters to life but on the other hand, not just sitting back and getting a pay cheque.

Bruce Boxleitner is the faded ‘star’ attraction of the film and ticks all the boxes as the local sheriff. The only other casting note worth mentioning is that the town’s doctor is played by none other than William B. Davis, most famously known as the sinister ‘Cigarette Smoking Man’ from The X-Files. It’s amusing to believe he’s playing the same character here as he did on that show and that the snakehead invasion is all some secret government experiment and cover-up! The film is not one to play around with formula though so he’s just there to give his medical opinion on matters of a decomposing body nature.


Snakehead Terror has more of a story and original feel to it than the majority of similar films. It follows exactly the same formula as it should, ticks all of the necessary ‘monster on the loose’ boxes and runs like clockwork. But there’s something fresh about it and I believe it’s simply down to the snakeheads themselves. They are nasty pieces of work which are made all the more deadly through a series of gory moments. One of the Sci-Fi Channels better films.





Loch Ness Terror (2008)

Loch Ness Terror (2008)

It’s hunt or be hunted

James Murphy is a crypto zoologist who, when he was twelve, accompanied his father on an expedition to find the Loch Ness monster. They had a fatal encounter with the creature and his father was killed. Thirty years later, his search for Nessie leads him to the town of Pike Island, on Lake Superior. He hires a local guide to take him a trip across the lake where he hopes to prove the existence of the creature, now responsible for a series of local deaths.


Quite why this is called Loch Ness Terror when it’s got little to do with Loch Ness and is set in a lake in North America is about a big a mystery as Nessie herself. That aside, Loch Ness Terror is yet another of the Sci-Fi Channel’s ‘monster on the loose’ films where they pretty much throw the same story into the grinder, only with a different monster of the week. Pterodactyls, sabretooth tigers, sharks, snakes and a whole lot more have been given their own features so it was obvious that one of life’s most infamous monsters is given the spotlight. Whether you believe the story about the Loch Ness monster or not doesn’t really matter here. All you need to know is that it’s a big-ass dinosaur and so the Sci-Fi Channel was obviously going to put their own spin on it.

I’ll be honest, I found this film semi-decent. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many snakes, sharks and everyday animals be mutated, genetically enhanced or just set loose to really give a damn anymore. But a new monster gives hope for a few new ideas. You’re not going to see any of them in here but at least there was the underlying chance that the rule book may be re-written. I think that the hope of seeing something different kept me going right until the end when I realised no one at the Sci-Fi Channel is that smart to change the formula of their previous hundred monster films. One of the big groans I have with it is the fact that the monster spends more time plodding around on land than in the water. If they were going to do that in the first place, why bother with Nessie? Why not just pick some land-based monster? The monster also looks a bit silly. It’s totally CGI but would be more at home in some kids cartoon like The Family Ness than a horror film.

Thankfully this Nessie isn’t the gentle giant that she’s been made out to be in real life – this one will bite you in half and spit out the bits she doesn’t want to eat. She will kill and eat anyone or anything in her path. So needless to say the film has plenty of moments of gore although most of them don’t fit in well with the CGI. In one scene, Nessie bites the head off her victim but the resulting CGI blood splash is so badly animated that I had to watch it again to make sure what happened.

If you’ve seen Lake Placid then you will probably be more at home here than any of the other Sci-Fi Channel pictures. The setting is the same. There are pretty similar characters. All this needed was some smart-ass like Brendan Gleason or nut like Oliver Platt squirming around. The cast do what they can with their shallow roles. Brian Krause is pretty decent in the lead role as the crypto zoologist with a burning desire to get even. I have to laugh at the end of the film as well. The poor deputy (I marked him as Nessie-bait as soon as he set off with the main characters to hunt for the monster) is savaged and killed by Nessie’s offspring. But in the final rolls, the remaining characters gather around and start cracking jokes and planning for the future, seemingly unaware that the man who just saved their lives has been brutally butchered by a plesiosaur! Show a bit of respect for crying out loud!


I hate to admit this but Loch Ness Terrorwas a pretty fun, entertaining ride which certainly blasted the rest of the Sci-Fi Channel’s movies out of the water. It’s got plenty of Nessie action, has a decent pace and above all didn’t suck in all of the major departments. A step in the right direction for Sci-Fi.





Mega Piranha (2010)

Mega Piranha (2010)

They were created to save mankind. Something went wrong.

A mutant strain of giant piranha escape into the Amazon and head down river, eating everything in their path on their way towards Florida.


It’s hard to review a film such as Mega Piranha. I mean come on, just look at what I’m up against here. On one hand the film does it’s job well in that it’s ridiculously over-the-top, uber-cheesy, makes no sense whatsoever and just bombards the viewer with anything and everything in the hope that something sticks. On the other hand, it’s ridiculously over-the-top, uber-cheesy, makes no sense whatsoever and just bombards the viewer with anything and everything in the hope that something sticks. It’s a no win scenario for some, a winner takes all scenario for others. Mega Piranha follows hot in the heels of other such ‘Mega’ monster films and could well be the worst of the lot…..although that’s like saying you’d rather die by electric chair than lethal injection.

Not coincidentally made at the same time as Piranha 3-D, the Asylum deliver another of their truly atrocious ‘mockbusters’ slap bang with all of the usual nonsense and hokem. Don’t worry about the story. Or script. Logic? That doesn’t exist. Physics – yeah whatever. They’re all inconsequential as these films are on a completely different playing field. Not even daft drinking games can make these films enjoyable. I read it somewhere else that Mega Piranha can best be described as a ‘hyperactive’ film and that is true.

There’s not a moment’s let up in anything and the film has been edited to the point of nausea. There’s no suspense building, slow build-up or gradual picking up of the pace – everything is light speed from the opening scene. Scenes are not dragged out for any more than basic necessity. Characters shout and rush their way through dialogue in order to move onto the next scene as quickly as possible. Images of mutant piranha, explosions, helicopters and military guys running around like headless chickens are there one minute, gone the next. There’s no point in even trying to sit back and enjoy everything because you won’t get chance. It’s just rapid fire filmmaking at its most basic. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that epileptics have been banned from watching this – if you’re not prone to fits before watching, you’re sure to be afterwards/

The effects for the piranhas are feeble but it was to be expected. Funnily enough, these piranha don’t have wings to fly (Piranha 2: The Spawning, I’m looking at you) but that doesn’t stop them from gracing the air like eagles, soaring through the sky and then slamming down into their victims on dry land (which then begs the question of how they manage to return to the water). As the film goes on, the fish get bigger and bigger due to the incomprehensive science mumbo jumbo so that by the time the film nears its conclusion, there are piranha leaping into the side of buildings and taking down battleships. It has to be seen to be believed. Like the case with the majority of these cheap and cheerful monster flicks, the story spends most of its time with the human villains, this time a Venezuelan general and his army of guerrillas. As I always state in these type of film, human villains simply take up unnecessary screen time. If I want to see commandos and South American mercenaries fighting each other, I’d watch an 80s action fest. It turns out that I came here to see mega piranha fish and I’m being denied that chance.

Paul Logan is the muscle-bound hero of the piece and he must have strained his vocal cords when he was bench pressing in the gym because he sounds terrible. It’s like he’s trying to channel the spirit of Arnie but without any sort of charisma and less of the muscles (though the guy is still stacked). 80s pop singer Tiffany stars as the token female scientist and its hard trying to picture her as some sort of intellectual when she spends more time positioning her silicon-enhanced chest towards the camera. Truth be told, in such films like this, the low quality of acting talent is hardly the worst crime committed given what else is on display. A mute would have as much trouble with the script.


Mega Piranha is a terrible film but trying to tear it apart is an impossible task since it’s this very nature that the film embraces. It’s just ninety minutes of pure insanity, full of examples of bad filmmaking at its most explicit and does it care? It wears this like a badge of honour on its sleeve.