"This was so hilarious. Greatest movie ever."
Hero Casey, IMDB Poster
OK, 'so-bad-it's-funny' can only take you so far and so far, so execrable. No one willingly buys or rents a DVD called Sharktopus with the expectation of unearthing true filmmaking greatness. Hell, who'd even spend time to review it? Hullo! Couldn't resist it. How can anyone resist a movie called Sharktopus – perhaps a lot of you really, really should. By titling the film Sharktopus, the filmmakers themselves have given up the right (if such a right ever existed) of being taken one tenth of a percent seriously. I suppose that's the point (or the point zero one). What was Snakes On A Plane (OK, not so good) without that wonderful title? Sharktopus promises a monster, a mash up of a shark and an octopus that physically, by rights, should not be able to move. The shark is missing its tail and the octopus its propulsion siphon. But then that kind of criticism is like having a pot shot at Star Wars for featuring sound effects in the vacuum of space.
The shocking (aka appalling) by-products of such an unworthy, made-for-TV project are many; the faux handheld camerawork which grates after about five cuts in; the acting standard knocking hard beneath the trap door of panto (and being refused admittance); the bleached electronic cinematography; surreal continuity from the planet Notevenclose; the on the nose, cliché saturated dialogue; the mistimed cuts and line crosses; monumentally botched physical effects (you can see the mechanism behind the fake shark fin menacing the swimmer in the opening attack – Jeez Louise)... The list goes on. But what takes the principal Razzie in this particular case is the truly, heart-clenchingly abominable CG effects (a SyFy Channel staple so I'm told).
The movie (to be charitable) was made in 2009 for a TV 2010 release. Effects wise, we are now beyond the computerised creation of organic realism (yes, I know a 'sharktopus' is not a real animal) but even the lowest of budgets could inject the tiniest bit of believability. Instead of tantalising glimpses of the creature and a slow burn build up, we get a ridiculous 'in your face' circa late 70s' Atari simulacra of what such a creature might look like trapped in the pixels of a low definition app. Even eating a victim with a white bikini sunbathing out of the water, the CG blood isn't even tracked on to the lower half of the two-set. There's Plan 9 From Outer Space (unintentionally hilarious) and then there's The Celestine Prophecy (unintentionally beyond utterly ridiculous). If you have intention to be 'bad-funny' (as I suspect producers Roger Corman and co. had on this project) then they're halfway there. I'll let you decide which half. Corman's had enough experience in this genre but I guess there are always holes to fall into however amusingly intentioned you are. There's even a post-modern (groan) nod featuring a disbelieving pirate DJ being given the news that there's a strange critter in the local waters. "Maybe they're doing a movie..." says the shapely bikini-clad assistant (almost all the women in the movie are wearing bikinis). The DJ then regurgitates the film's premise and accuses his assistant of being a willing audience member for the supposed movie. "I'd watch it," she says. I sat there, jaw agape wondering how far the irony could go. Is it possible to get irony poisoning?
But again, such (or indeed any) criticisms levelled fairly at the standard of this vapid production are rendered somewhat meaningless by the obvious winking, nudging, tongue in cheek, irony and tacky production values celebrated lovingly (or low budgetly) by the filmmakers. The afore mentioned exploitation-meister, Roger Corman, even takes an acting role as the beachcomber who witnesses a girl dragged to her death and then smiles at the treasure she has left behind which he then pockets. Is that a metaphor for the movie, watching something ridiculous happen and then be able to make a little money off it? I guess that's a large percentage of Corman's oeuvre with some wonderful movies along the way. I was going to say 'happy accidents' along the way but Corman was directly responsible for some real gems, as a director as well as a producer. One look at his IMDB entry and prepare to be awed. This guy just doesn't stop. Corman was almost singlehandedly responsible for giving a whole generation of now-famous filmmakers their start in the business. I must admit to being unsurprised to see his name attached to this tentacled joke of a movie, more surprised to see him acting in it but the pitch must have been a blast. "OK, so we have this shark..." "Yeah!?" "And it has tentacles..." "Cool!" "What's the title?" "Octopark!" "Sign here!" My head is east-westing, Luxo Snr. style as my chin drops to my chest.
OK, so if you have a naff effect, what's best, craft-wise, in terms of revealing the creature? How about a little (a nano-smidgeon perhaps) of restraint? Oh no. Dear sharktopus (apologies, 'S-11') says hullo and then in a number of set pieces (I lost count), it chomps its way through extras and above the line principals. The sheer number of attacks rendered narrative effectively superfluous. Oh, you want to know the basics of the story? You really don't. How about this... I'll list a few words and see if you can rearrange them to make this broadly likeable but hyper-clichéd monster munch make sense.
Genetic mutation, six-pack hero, heroine daughter of crackpot scientist, military weapon, dogged reporter, unbelievably silly monster, death (very little destruction as that's expensive although there was a digital VW that got dragged to its watery doom), explosions, acting that was satellite phoned in and lastly some gorgeous Mexican locations just to give the whole shebang an exotic appeal (I tend to think it was more because it was probably cheaper shooting south of the border). That's really all you need to know. Will you enjoy it? That completely depends on you: if your taste runs to terminally tacky schlock then, maybe. Let's be charitable for the second time; despite the decapitations, gouts of blood and people dragged into enormous maws this is no horror film. It wears its digital plasticity on its sleeve. No censor could possibly object to the film's 'horror' as it's so undercut by the cartoon nature of its effects, it wouldn't be scary to a five year old.
And there are so many attacks. The only real invention is the manner in which some feckless idiots are gobbled up. Bungee Jumpers, wet bikers, flame throwing dancers (yeah...), everyone seems to be grist for the tentacle mill. No star is left unthreatened and some of them are chomped up. The hero, played by Kerem Bursin, is the six-packed beefcake and about as charismatic as the action figure he so dearly wants to become. Depth of emotion is replaced by sharktopus attack breaks and our hero can only scream a cry of "Noooo!" to the heavens (compare with Vader's similar cry at the end of Sith) as his best friend gets swallowed a few feet from him. After that it's all square-jawed gun firing and the extraordinary ability to escape unscathed from an exploding monster about a footstep away. Oh no, I'm giving away the plot! There's also a single 'lapse' into split screen? Why? I don't know! Was there an ex-24 guest editor working that day?
Standing out are three aspects of the production broadly headlined "Julia's lack of generosity", "Best death", and "Post-modern bollocks". Eric Roberts (Julia's brother) is a fine actor, convincing in edgier roles that usually cast him in the scumbaggian mould. I kept on imagining after every take, he'd scream "I was in The Dark Knight, for Chrissakes." And so he was. But here, sheesh. Unkind reviewers of this not quite classic motion picture have suggested he must have needed the money. This presupposes his sister's not helping him out at all. I mean she only makes a squillion bucks a role. Secondly, a loose "Best Death" award goes to the anonymous Queen Mary cruise liner painter, Patrick Lacho (or is it the also uncredited Blake Lindsay?) They play two workmen on a platform discussing what would be a good death. Once a tentacle wraps around the second victim to pull him to his doom, he says (how we guffawed) "Oh no, not like this!" Finally there's the post-modern kick up the ass. Once the monster is despatched and hero and heroine walk away, there's time for a little exchange.
"That thing better not jump out at us again..."
"No. That only happens in the movies..."
Oh dear. I so, so wanted the director to then find a piece of the mutation that had survived the blast. I would watch it scuttling towards the green light that is Sharktopus 2: Still Can't Afford Grown Up 3D Effects. And yet, I think I'd want to see that too. Does that mean there's something wrong with me?
Presented in anamorphic 16:9, the movie looks fine if a little flat in the interior scenes (or is that the low budget production design? The command centre of 'Blue Water' was a small room with two computers in it). I'm assuming the film was shot on tape. It has that electronic feel to it with areas whiting out detail, detail that film would handle comfortably.
Where Sharktopus impresses (yes, it's true!) is its Dolby 5.1 sound track. Despite the artistic quality of most aspects of the film being middling to low, the actual sound quality is very good, atmospheric, clear and clean. The sound options are a choice between the 5.1 and a Dolby Digital 2.0. In comparison, the DD 2.0 is punchier in the mid-ranges but the subtlety of the 5.1 is preferable from this viewer's point of view (or point of audio reception). There are no subtitles or closed captions.
OK, less of a trailer and more of a catalogue of attacks; narrative tease not present, character development, uh... none; Sharktopus attacks, many. Blood, flowing. Well, they're selling it on its perceived 'strengths' at least – bikini clad screamers and ropey CG. Yes, the 'star' gets a mention but even the most ardent Eric Roberts fan is not going to be salivating for this piece of semi-enjoyable hokum.
If you're a schlock/monster fan then this will have its moments (although it was voted the 'worst' SyFy channel movie of all by discerning viewers – you kind of wonder what the criteria were). If you are in the category of anything approaching the mysterious definition covered by the word 'normal' in your cinematic taste you will wonder why we bothered to review this at all. Because I'm in the former camp, that's why. Not sure you need anything more than the title that, I believe, says it all... SHARKTOPUS!