Monday, March 21, 2011

SHARKTOPUS (Blu-ray)

Despite a truly nifty monster creation, the Roger/Julie Corman-produced "SyFy Original" movie, SHARKTOPUS (2010) is a tired, uninspired effort that, sadly, epitomizes the state of the modern "B" monster movie. It's so cynically contrived and self-consciously "bad," that one has to wonder why it was made at all. Is this truly what the SyFy Channel - our only remaining market for low-budget creature features - thinks its audience wants?

The plot - if I may dignify the threadbare "Mad-Libs" framework upon which the soggy story sags with the term - is the same one as every monster movie on the network: a corrupt corporation working for the government creates a genetically-engineered bio-weapon which they lose control of. The bloodthirsty creature then goes on a rampage, pursued by the scientists who created it. In this case, the creature is a delightfully-designed shark & octopus hybrid (hence, a "sharktopus") that engages in a feeding frenzy off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

(Maybe I'm just delusional, but I seem remember a time when there was more than just one plot for monster movies....)

The script by Mike MacLean (DINOCROC VS. SUPERGATOR) is utter hackwork, without an original idea nor clever twist anywhere to be found. The dialogue is banal and even the psuedo-scientific technobabble is halfheartedly conceived. It's too dry and witless to be funny and too predictable and cliched to be exciting. In other words, it sucks. The pedestrian direction of Declan O'Brien (WRONG TURN 3 & 4) also fails to find a single thrill or intentional laugh in the material. As with his previous DTV flick for the Cormans, CYCLOPS, it appears that his primary accomplishment was shooting enough footage to fill the required running time as blandly as possible.

The ubiquitous Eric Roberts (also in CYCLOPS) picks up a check in the role usually reserved for the only "name" actor in the cast of a SyFy flick: the corrupt businessman responsible for the beast who monitors the hunt for the creature from a safe distance for most of the movie. In that limited role, he's fine. The rest of the cast is underaged, unconvincing and underwhelming.

Ultimately, SHARKTOPUS has only two things going for it: 1) seemingly limitless servings of luscious, sunbaked, bikini-clad eye-candy, and 2) the titular beastie itself. Although never remotely convincing as a real animal, the CGI  Sharktopus is cleverly designed and reasonably well-rendered, and the animators manage to infuse the toothy, tentacled terror with a modicum of personality. I like the way it used its tentacles as "stabbing" weapons and to propel itself out of the water. Too bad it's not in a better movie.

Anchor Bay's nearly bare-bones Blu-Ray of SHARKTOPUS sports a razor-sharp HD transfer of the shot-on-digital video flick, presented in 1080p resolution at its original, 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Audio is a robust Dolby Tru-HD 5.1. Extras include a TV/web promo "trailer" (which features a fun, 60's-styled "surf" tune that should have been in the movie itself, but wasn't) and a dry, "we're obligated to do this, so let's make the best of it" audio commentary by the Cormans.

So... cool monster, bad movie. Not really a surprise, I guess. If you happen to enjoy these kinds of flicks - or this one in particular - and are HD-equipped, Anchor Bay provides a flawless video and audio presentation of the movie. Me, I really wish that if the money and effort was going to be put into making a monster movie - even a direct-to-SyFy one - that someone involved would actually at least try to make it good (or at least fun), instead of settling for just filling out a Saturday evening time slot.

BUY: Sharktopus [Blu-ray]