Shark Week (2012)

The Asylum.  Director: Christopher Ray.

Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Cleverest Title.

“Shark Week” is pretty typical Asylum schlock.  It gets points for the surprise ending (wait for it!), but can otherwise be skipped.  If anything, “Shark Week” stands out because it falls more on the “torture” end of the spectrum.  That is, “torture” in the sense of what is depicted on screen, although it goes without saying that this sharksploitation flick will cause you viewers agony as well.  Unfortunately, the cleverness stops after the witty title, which refers to a week of premeditated shark attacks.  If you were hoping for a Discovery Channel program gone horribly wrong, “Shark Week” will disappoint you (but come a little closer and we’ll discuss “Shark Night 3D,” my friend).  In fact, if you were hoping for anything other than a waste of 90 minutes, you’ll be disappointed as well.

Wealthy sadistic criminal Tiburon (Patrick Bergin) kidnaps a bunch of people and brings them to his private island.  Equally as obsessed with sharks as he is with exacting his revenge, Tiburon forces the eight people to run a gamut of shark challenges.  Each day, they will face a new species of shark.  If they succeed in killing the shark, he will provide them with some supplies and—if they are clever enough to recognize them—tools to help them defeat the next shark.  Along the way, some will die, but all must play his sick game.  Through the course of the film, the victims learn to work together to defeat the sharks and puzzle out why Tiburon has chosen them for this torture.  What do they have in common?  Who will survive till the end?  Does anyone really care?

An early version of the DVD cover?

While some might describe “Shark Week” as gross and disturbing, I find that many factors detract from the film’s overall ickiness.  For one thing, it’s an Asylum film.  We’re not talking about a carefully-crafted examination of the schadenfreude that twisted humans derive from watching others struggle and die.  Let’s face it, the Asylum doesn’t have enough money to even use words like “schadenfreude,” “examination,” or “and.”  Yes, I know that some of the most classic disturbing films had low budgets, but “Shark Week” isn’t one of them.  It comes to us from the director of “2-Headed Shark Attack,” for Pete’s sake!  Plus, the overuse of incredibly choppy edits really takes you out of the movie.  This technique was probably supposed to be unsettling, but I honestly just thought my DVD player was skipping.  And as if this were not enough to keep away your heebie-jeebies, the screen that tracks which characters have died looks like it came out of some kid’s video game.

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

Roger has died of dysentery.

I do like the little joke they slipped in about someone being eaten by a giant sloth, though.

I wonder if we were supposed to notice it.

Bottom middle.

I probably talk about Bruce Willis too much, but the male lead in “Shark Week” (Joshua Michael Allen) really tries to channel a young Bruce Willis.  With the face, the attitude, and the (lack of) hair, he does a pretty good job of it, too.  So unless we get an exceedingly successful letter-writing campaign going, I think we’d better enjoy Allen’s performance as much as we can— it’s the closest we’ll ever get to seeing Bruce Willis fighting sharks.

Yippie-kay-yay.

Yippie-kay-yay.

Of course, this being an Asylum film, many things don’t make sense.  For one, the kidnapping victims are initially bound around the wrists, and must figure out a way to free themselves.  Yet, their fetters are obviously just chains loosely wrapped around their wrists.

"HOW CAN I ESCAPE???"

“HOW CAN I ESCAPE THESE CHAINS???”

In another scene, junkie Layla (Valerie K. Garcia) briefly shifts her tattoos from her right arm to her left arm.  There aren’t any mirrors around to explain the switch, which occurs between shots of the same scene.

sharkweek-right

sharkweek-left At least she looks properly disconcerted about it.

And finally, it’s never quite clear whether Tiburon is supposed to be drunk, or whether the actor just couldn’t take it anymore.

"Ish okay, I'll be ready in a minit."

“Ish okay, I’ll be ready again in a minit.”

The trailer includes the film’s best line: “I might feed you to the sharks as well!”

“Shark Week” is available on Amazon.

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2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)

The Asylum.  Director: Christopher Ray.

Creature Feature Bleachers Awards: Most Sexual, Most Faux-Lesbianism.

“2-Headed Shark Attack” is about equal parts sharksploitation and sexploitation.  It’s not quite at “Tintorera” levels of wanton tastelessness, but people who prefer to look at actor’s faces should probably give this one a pass.  Asylum fans know that the studio basically has three genres of films: ridiculous sci-fi (“Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus“), highly derivative mockbuster (“Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies,” “Transmorphers”), and sex comedy (“Barely Legal,” “Celebrity Sex Tape”).  “2-Headed Shark Attack” is a little of each.  (While all sharksploitation films are derivative, this one specifically borrows the water-skiing and bouncing-butt-girl scenes from mainstream contemporary “Shark Night 3D“).  In a sense, the blending of genres should make “2-Headed Shark Attack” the ultimate Asylum film, but I wouldn’t necessarily call that a good thing.

When these students signed up for a semester at sea, they thought it would all be fun in the sun.  Too bad Professor Babish (Charlie O’Connell) didn’t get the message.  He tries to make them learn things!  When a dead shark jams up the propeller of their floating classroom, Babish decides to lead an expedition to a nearby atoll while the boat is repaired.  Since fishermen sometimes live on the atoll, the kids find a small abandoned village and couple of old motorboats.  Unfortunately, a two-headed shark is after them!  To make matters worse, the atoll begins sinking.  Worst of all, Lyndsey has been in the sun too long and is starting to burn!  Can loner Kate (Brooke Hogan) unify the kids long enough to think up a plan, or will the bikini fun and frivolity come to a grinding halt?

The DVD Cover
Note that neither of the named actresses actually goes topless.

Perhaps that caption is a good place to start: trying to figure out Carmen Electra’s purpose in this film.  Nominally she plays Anne Babish, wife of Professor Babish.  All things considered, however, the “Baywatch” veteran and Playboy model doesn’t really bring much to the movie, just sort of drifting aimlessly through it.  She can’t act, nor does her character perform any vital or even supplementary plot functions.  And when you consider that Electra is mainly known for her sex appeal, her presence becomes even more puzzling.  She doesn’t take her clothes off, and her physical charms are pretty much drowned out by the gaggle of younger, bikini-clad co-eds.  What is her purpose, then?  All I can figure is that Electra was the cheapest celebrity the Asylum could get, and the Asylum was the best paying gig that Electra could get.

One of her better-acted scenes.

One of her better-acted scenes.

Another weird fit is Brooke Hogan, the daughter of famous wrestler Hulk Hogan.  You may remember her from the masterpiece “Sand Sharks,” in which she also had a leading role.  In “2-Headed Shark Attack,” Hogan plays relatively pensive social outcast Kate.  Kate signed up for a semester at sea in order to overcome her shark-induced fear of the water, thus providing a sad attempt at characterization or something.  I say she is a weird fit for the film because I often laugh at the fact that actors in high school and college movies range from their late twenties to their early forties.  Similarly, you may wonder why the Asylum cast Brooke Hogan, a woman in her thirties, to play a college student.  The scary thing is, that’s not true.  Hogan was only 23 at the time of filming.

Surprise!

Surprise!

Rounding out the cast of losers is Charlie O’Connell (Professor Babish), who was the Bachelor on season seven of that show.  Admittedly I’ve never seen “The Bachelor,” but I am having difficulty picturing a situation in which a female would want this man for anything other than his looks.  I’d hate to depend on his “acting” career as a source of income, and I don’t think I could ever trust a single word he said.  In “2-Headed Shark Attack,” every sound that emerges from his mouth reeks of insincerity, from his feigned professorial enthusiasm to his monotonic yelps of melodramatic pain.  The 24 women he rejected should consider themselves lucky.

Note the kids grimacing at his awful acting.

Note the kids grimacing at his awful acting.

Okay, one more note on the cast.  I can’t decide if the linked article from the Columbia County News-Times is funny or sad.  Apparently Anna Jackson (Haley, a small but memorable role) told her hometown paper that she plays a “good girl” who “keeps everybody in line.”  If by that she meant that her character takes her top off and makes out with another topless girl for the amusement of a stoner boy before being eaten by a 2-headed shark, then yes, she does play a good girl who keeps everybody in line.

But to be fair, I probably wouldn’t tell my family and friends the truth, either.

I’ve noticed that people often have an aversion to older films.  Given the choice between a color film and a black-and-white one, they will usually choose the former.  In my experience, this mental block unnecessarily prevents people from enjoying older films (“Casablanca,” “The General,” “Mildred Pierce,” etc.).  Yes, it may take a few minutes to adjust to the lack of color or even sound, but a good movie is still a good movie, regardless of its production capabilities.  When a filmmaker creates something truly wonderful, it transcends the feeble trappings of moviemaking technology.  And by the same token (as “2-Headed Shark Attack” demonstrates), a bad movie with bright colors, high picture quality, and CG effects is still a bad movie.  Better equipment can only do so much.

Not that the cinematic qualities of this film are particularly high in any event.  Consider the vessel chosen for the supposed “semester at sea.”  Now, I recognize that there are only 18 students and 5 faculty/crew, but this boat seems awfully small for its purpose.

Where do they sleep?

Where do they sleep?

Similarly, the fishermen’s atoll raises some questions.  Most of the crude clapboard shacks have mere sheets for doors, and it’s obvious that the absent fishermen only inhabit the atoll for short periods of time.  So exactly when and why did they install a thorough system of planked and railed walkways?

2headed-rails

All told, “2-Headed Shark Attack” is not my favorite sharksploitation film, nor would I necessarily recommend it.  Although, if you’re looking for a movie to talk over, this one’s a pretty safe bet.

The film is not quite as scary as the trailer makes it seem:

“2-Headed Shark Attack” is available on Amazon.

Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus (2010)

The Asylum.  Director: Christopher Ray.

Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Most One-Dimensional Characters.

It’s often said that the sequel never measures up to the original.  Surprisingly, this axiom holds true even for sharksploitation drek like “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus” and its sequel, “Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus.”  Honestly, who would think you could possibly lower the production values and decrease the amount of heart in a film like “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus“?!  Well, the Asylum managed to pull it off somehow.  If you’re having difficulty imagining just how monotonous and lame this film is, allow me to paint a mental picture for you.  Take the most boring 1950s creature feature you can think of, strip it of any characterization or emotional content, replace the fake monster suits with even faker CGI, fire the continuity editor, and you’ll end up with “Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus.”  And if you’re smart, your next move will be to throw it out.

A giant crocodile demolishes a slave labor diamond mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Adventurer Nigel Putnam (Gary Stretch) eventually subdues the beast and arranges to have it transported to America.  Meanwhile, a gigantic shark attacks a Navy warship, killing all passengers except Urkel… err, Lt. Terry McCormick (Urkel… err, Jaleel White).  Unfortunately for McCormick, the death toll includes his fiance.  Crocosaurus escapes shortly thereafter, stranding Nigel on an island.  Finally convinced that Megashark has returned, the US military assigns Special Agent Hutchinson (Sarah Lieving, of “Super Shark” ‘fame’) to turn McCormick and Nigel into a top-notch monster-fighting team under the command of Admiral Calvin (Robert Picardo).  Discovering that both Megashark and Crocosaurus gravitate towards Crocosaurus’s eggs, the team lures the beasts from the Atlantic Ocean into the Panama Canal with the intent of containing them.  The beasts break free, however, and continue to wreak havoc on the west coast and Hawaii.  Will Nigel and McCormick be able to outthink these indestructible monsters, or has humanity breathed its final breath?

Pretty Sweet Russian Poster

In case you had forgotten what sort of movie studio the Asylum is, the trailers on the DVD quickly remind you.  Ah yes, how satisfying to know that “Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus” rests in the hallowed halls of classic cinema among such tasteful and well-developed masterpieces as “MILF,” “8213: Gacy House,” and “1st Furry Valentine.”

I’m not making this up.

If you haven’t completely blocked it from your mind, you may remember that relationships and character development were some of the few endearing elements that made “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus” bearable.  Unfortunately, this film has none of that.  Admiral Calvin wants to smoke a cigar, Lt. McCormick lost his fiance to the shark, Nigel doesn’t like authority, and Special Agent Hutchinson owns a pair of binoculars.  In the world of the Asylum, this counts for characterization.  It’s hard to believe, but every single character in this movie is utterly and completely flat.

Well, not in the sense that most Asylum fans care about.

Well, not in the sense that most Asylum fans care about.

Perhaps I’m not being entirely fair.  The engineers at the Turkey Point Nuclear Facility do an excellent job hamming it up for the camera.  I completely believed that they were little dweebs with limited social skills.  In fact, I like to think that all of our nuclear facilities are run by such cute nerdy people as those depicted in the film.

Such as this guy.

Like this guy.

For sharksploitation fans who couldn’t get enough of SeaWorld in “Jaws 3,” “Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus” keeps the ball rolling, as Crocosaurus pays a destructive visit to Orlando’s SeaWorld… err, “Mega Park.”

And I STILL don't get my underwater tunnel movie...

Yet I STILL don’t get my flooded underwater tunnel movie…

The subject of locations brings us to one of the film’s major faults: sensible continuity.  Taken as a whole, the disjointed cinematography, slapdash writing, and erratic pacing all leave the viewer vaguely confused as to what is happening at any given moment.  For example, the croc starts in Africa, goes to Florida, and is then lured through the Panama Canal along with Megashark.  So far, so good.  The creatures battle through the canal and continue battling once they reach the Pacific Ocean.  Yet without any transition, someone suddenly says that the creatures are now fighting everywhere that the croc has laid eggs.  What?  How did Crocosaurus have time to lay eggs on the coast of California while it was constantly shown on screen in the Atlantic Ocean and the Panama Canal?  And furthermore, how could it lay eggs during a battle with Mega Shark?

It doesn't help that Miami

It doesn’t help that Miami

looks suspiciously like Hawaii.

looks suspiciously like Hawaii.

Perhaps the saddest part of this film is that— according to the interviews in the “making of” featurette— the cast seems to think that they have made a good movie.  No.  “Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus” is not a good movie.  It is not even a humorously bad movie.  It is just awful.  Thoroughly and irredeemably awful.

There’s not much to be said for the trailer, either:

Doritos fans, however, might enjoy the movie.

“Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus” is available on Amazon.

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)

The Asylum.  Director: Jack Perez.

Creature Feature Bleacher Award: Greatest Number of Establishing Shots.

I’d like to begin this review by welcoming our special guests: the massive fan-base of early ’90s pop star Debbie Gibson!  Still hot from her appearance on a single episode of “That 80s Show” in 2002, Ms. Gibson really brings the star power in “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus!”  So, welcome fans; I know that like you, I’m eagerly awaiting the next bold move in Ms. Gibson’s stellar career.

With that out of the way, let me say that “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus” is an okay movie, but not one that I’d watch again.  Frankly, it isn’t outrageous enough to earn a place among the sharksploitation classics.  For an Asylum film, it should be much worse— much hilariously worse.  Sadly, it’s more ‘mediocre’ than anything else.  A good film to rent, but not to buy.

The destruction of an Alaskan glacier releases two ancient enemies: mega shark and giant octopus.  As maritime disasters on both ends of the Pacific Ocean increase in frequency, the U.S. government arrests oceanographer Emma MacNeil (Debbie Gibson) and her old professor, Lamar Sanders (Sean Lawlor).  Emma and the prof agree to help capture the monsters.  Equally affected by the attacks, the Japanese government secretly sends Dr. Seiji Shimada (Vic Chao) to assist in the research.  When conventional weapons fail to harm the beasts, Emma proposes pitting them against each other.  The respective Japanese and American submarine teams lure the beasts back to the Alaskan glacier, where they have a really lame fight.  The End.

The DVD Cover

If seeing “The Asylum” written on the DVD case wasn’t enough of a clue, “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus” quickly establishes the kind of film that it is.  Those poor schmucks can’t even go 10 minutes without a continuity error.  Take a look at Emma’s nails in this still from the first scene.

megashark-nails1

A moment later, they’re no longer painted.

"Are you BUYING this baloney?!?"

“Can you BELIEVE this baloney?!?”

But if “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus” leaves you adrift when it comes to painted nail continuity, the film strives extra-hard to give you a clear idea of where you are at all times.  In addition to your standard exterior establishing shots, the 89-minute movie contains 17 titled establishing shots.  That’s about one every five minutes!  The worst part is that most of the shots look just like the one below.  Literally.  Not only is this same shot of Treasure Island US Naval Laboratories repeated, it’s sometimes repeated consecutively.  That is to say, the film cuts from an establishing shot of Treasure Island to an interior scene at Treasure Island, back outside to another establishing shot of Treasure Island, then back inside again.

In case you forgot where you were.

I guess if you’re an Asylum fan, your memory only lasts about 5 minutes, anyway.

Such frustrations aside, however, this film holds a special place in my heart for its childish idea of what science looks like.  In two protracted research sequences, seasoned scientists carefully perform highly sophisticated experiments using state-of-the-art technology and methodology.  In other words, they pour colored liquids from one test tube to another.  And, as anyone knows, the best result you can hope for is a glowing green substance.

SCIENCE

SCIENCE

The film also attempts some sort of political commentary, but in general Asylum fashion it’s rather half… hearted.  In the long tradition of movie scientists who blame sci-fi disasters on humanity’s shortcomings, Emma suggests that Mega Shark and Giant Octopus are humanity’s comeuppance for global warming.  Think about that next time you leave the hot water running, or drive to work instead of walking.  If you don’t reduce your greenhouse emissions, a monstrously huge shark and a gigantic octopus will destroy the Golden Gate Bridge.

If anything makes this film bearable, it’s the gentle lilting of Sean Lawlor’s Irish accent (at least to typical Americans who find foreign accents unreasonably charming).  I also enjoyed the throwback idea of prominently featuring a Japanese scientist, even if the actor is really a fellow native Chicagoan.  At first the evil light in which the Japanese government is shown seems surprising, considering that the days of grousing about “Made in Japan” stickers are mostly over.  But have no fear; the film makes the U.S. government look even more evil.

In the background, the Asylum's idea of how government agents look.

As you can see on the right, there.

I won’t ruin the ending for you, but I’d like to take a moment and say that THIS IS THE MOST BORING FIGHT BETWEEN A MEGA SHARK AND A GIANT OCTOPUS THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN.  I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but a movie named “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus” should have a pretty decent fight scene, right?  No.  Basically, the octopus grabs the shark, they wiggle for a little bit, and then the shark bites off a tentacle.  And because this is the Asylum, that same exact scene is shown a second time.  Come on, guys!

Wait, I take it back.  I think the movie “Eagle Versus Shark” was an even bigger disappointment:

The trailer for “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus,” however, summarizes the film nicely:

“Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus” is available on Amazon.