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Friday, March 11, 2011

Van of the Dead Movie Review: Sharktopus

2011 Anchor Bay Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

To quote Princess Leia to Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: A New Hope, Mr. Corman, only you could be so bold!

In today's horror scene, the chief focus is either on zombies, vampires or torture grind. Anchor Bay has waved their sails in the past couple months on the winds of each with The Walking Dead, The Bleeding, Let Me In and I Spit On Your Grave 2010. Yet one of the video acquisition empire's understated specialties is their perpetual love of creature feature revivals. The Rig comes recently to mind and now, Anchor Bay really locks it down with Roger Corman's "comeback" horror film for the Syfy channel, Sharktopus.

Granted, upon mere greeting, Sharktopus prompts the groans and the rolling of the eyes. Sharktopus, are you serious? Carnosaur, Lake Placid, Python, Anaconda 2, they just keep on coming and people still support these knucklehead monster mashes. Why? Because you know what you're getting yourself into, the expectations aren't high, there's very little brain matter required and so long as the mutated monstrosity kicks ass and has the grace to be blown to smithereens after entertaining its audience for an hour and a half, then at the end of the day, everyone goes home happy.

Sharktopus is pure Corman. If you're a fan, you're in for a treat. Bikini babes every three minutes, crummy dialogue, campy acting (even from Eric Roberts, whom we hope is camping it up in this chomp and strangle vehicle) and a ripped-up shark-squid hybrid with no moral fiber and an attitude fathoms-deep. Sharktopus is B Benchley, as in Jaws-meets-Beast. Everyone look out, in the water and on land.

This is straight out of fifties' heaven with a CGI upgrade that works for the most part. Some scenes in Sharktopus are effectively blended, such as when the leviathan propels itself on its tentacles high above a boat and hovers a couple seconds before striking. Killer visual. Sometimes the computer animated blood paints the screen in a cartoonish manner (only Ninja Assassin looks more fake), but in other spots, Sharktopus' victims are doused in stage blood, which helps keep the film landlubbed where it needs to be. Minus a riotous beheading effect which looks borrowed out of a zombie video game, most of Sharktopus' casualties (and there are many in this film) are nailed, spiked, impaled, ripped and devoured within bloody seconds.

The story is standard schlock: the U.S. navy commissions the genetic splicing of an aquatic killing machine they want to use against drug runners and pirates. Eric Roberts plays Nathan Sands, an egomaniac scientist (though he carries himself in the film less as a man of science and more of an unscrupulous pissant), and Sharktopus' creator. His daughter Nicole (Sara Malakul Lane) is a biochemistry genius and a robotics expert. Engineering a remote control device on Sharktopus that gets wrecked in the midst of an impromptu demonstration, the tenancled ripper gets loose and causes havoc on a California beach before swimming away to a Mexican resort. We learn later that Daddy's been tinkering with the programming, and Sharktopus is more serial slasher than defensive predator. Ohhh, Daaaa-ddyyyyy....

Naturally, Sharktopus is going to tear apart a supporting cast gleefully served up for Corman's chum bucket. Save for the recruiting of Andy Flynn (Kerem Bersin), a former bioscientist turned mercenary (he once worked for Sands, don'tcha know) to help pin down Sharktopus for a salvage operation, there's not much more you need to know in the way of characterization. Sharktopus has various side characters like a gung-ho reporter and her leery cameraman, "Bones," (Liv Boughn and Hector Jimenez) their slovenly eyewitness, Flynn's buddy Carlos (Julian Gonzalez) and Captain Jack (Ralph Garman), a boatside DJ who plays techno and street punk instead of Billy Joel. Don't count on any of them making it to the final credit roll. Look for a cameo by Corman himself in a really nutty kill sequence at the Cali tide.

The majority of the cast snuffs it while vacationers work on their tans and flaunt their hardbodies on the beach while Sharktopus leaps out and terrorizes, then disappears. Vacationers go back to their non-business and fill the camera's lens with their goodies. Resume cycle until the final showdown when Nathan Sands' greed gets him gored, while his "pumpkin" and Flynn corner the beastie and pop his great white brains apart. One of Sharktopus' creative kills involves a bungee jumper which is really rad, despite its obviousness.

Sharktopus is better than the name implies. Hardly in the league of Let Me in, this is the kind of popcorn and cheese doodle chill-out flick that takes itself as seriously as most of Corman's films, Rock 'n Roll High School, Piranha and Death Race 2000 notwithstanding. Roger Corman is a low budget entertainer who knows how to dab out sleaze with class and lunatic horror romps with an undying teenager's inclination to goof it up like his class clown status depends on it.

Rating: ***


The Real Cie said...

And here I always thought that was kidding with the Sharktopus!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

LOL, no it's a real film. Well, by Corman B standards, anyway. :)

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