Watching SyFy original movies so you don’t have to!
Hello and welcome to SYFY SUNDAYS, hosted by yours truly, Gabriel Ruzin!
As this is my new column’s initial installment, allow me a brief introduction. I am a huge movie fan. That’s why I write for Screen Invasion, after all. And to a movie fan, few things convey as much intrinsic pleasure as viewing a film that has been constructed with a master’s touch, with deft editing, beautiful lighting, expert acting, and the other earmarks of a job well done.
Of course, there is a different kind of pleasure to be had from the ‘other’ kind of film: movies so terribly done in all aspects that the mere fact they exist strains credulity. SyFy’s line of original movies fits this description to a T. Infamous for their lack of coherence, low budgets, terrible special effects, bizarre creatures, and hammy acting, SyFy’s monster movies truly have to be seen to be believed.
But maybe you don’t want to suffer through 90 minutes of dreck. Maybe you’d rather someone else do it and just tell you how awful it is. Or maybe you watch these movies too (shudder) and have been looking for someone to laugh about them with. Either way, I’ve got your medicine.
So here’s the plan: I will watch one SyFy original movie, every week, and my thoughts will appear right here every Sunday (or thereabouts), in as hilarious and enlightening a fashion as possible. I don’t plan on watching them in any kind of order, but will gladly take recommendations if there’s a particular film you’d like to see ‘critiqued’. I hope to have a lot of fun with this column, and I hope you do, too. Tell your friends.
And for God’s sake, wish me luck.
The first SyFy movie I’ve decided to tackle is 2011′s Sharktopus. Why Sharktopus? Because I DVR’d a bunch of these movies over the weekend and picked it at random, that’s why.
So what’s this week’s monster? The sharktopus is, naturally, a half-shark, half-octopus that has been genetically engineered for “combat” by a government-commissioned group known as ‘Blue Water’. (This offers some quick insight as to the level of care shown to the script. I eagerly await the SyFy movie where a Giraffopatamus is created by a top-secret shadow government cabal known as ‘Brown Dirt’). The beast’s size is a bit hard to pin down, as it tends to appear twice as big out of the water than in it, but these movies are hardly the forum in which one insists on continuity. Suffice it to say that the sharktopus is far bigger than any shark.
Anyhow, why anyone would think that a sharktopus would be genetically predisposed to be a useful means of attack just goes to show the level of financial malfeasance that the federal government will stoop to in this day and age. Is Sharktopus a clever takedown of said contemporary corruption in disguise? No.
I’m sorry, but a sharktopus sounds awesome. What further awesomeness can I expect in the first 5 minutes? Well, as this is the 783rd time that Jaws has been ripped off in some fashion, the film starts at the Santa Monica Pier, where approximately 359 boob, butt, and crotch swimsuit shots are shown over the opening credits. With that out of the way, the camera slowly pans up over a beach-lounging girl’s assets while she’s texting on her cell phone. Her similarly-proportioned friend asks if she wants to go swimming in the ocean. First girl’s response: “I don’t wanna go in the ocean. There are fish in there.” Awesome.
The second girl shakes her head and jogs to the beach, while the camera stares at her receding and jiggle-tastic rear end for five full seconds. After diving in, she is almost immediately pursued by a shark. But it’s not a sharktopus, just a run-of-the-mill great white; right off the waters of Santa Monica. That would be a story in and of itself in the real world, but this is SyFy. Regular great whites are for sissies.
The first girl sees the shark fin and screams to her friend to get out of the water in her best Joe Cocker voice impersonation. Somehow, the second girl, who appears to be a quarter mile offshore by now, hears her and begins feverishly swimming back to shore. (Interestingly, nearly every shot of her swimming in the water is focused straight on her ass. It’s like she’s only in the movie for one particular reason or something.) Just when it appears that she’s about to be turned into chum, several gigantic tentacles suddenly shoot out of the water, grab the shark, raise him 30 feet above the water, and slam him to the surface. SHARKTOPUS! The swimming girl escapes.
We don’t see the sharktopus eat the shark, because that would cost some money. But the shark is not seen again. So either he’s eaten or given a stern talking-to off camera. We get our first look at the sharktopus. It’s huge and has some weird contraption on his head that has a big red light on the top of it. The light turns blue and the sharktopus suddenly turns and swims away, as if by command.
The scene shifts to some horribly lit set that appears to be either some kind of government agency building or a hastily re-fitted Romulan warbird. Nah, it’s a government building (dang it). You know it has something to do with the U.S. Navy, because some guy who looks important is wearing a naval uniform. And he’s talking to…
Hold on! You’re about to mention what fairly well known actor bizarrely appears in this movie, aren’t you? Who is it? Eric Roberts.
My God! I know, right?
Alright, lay it on me. What “happens” in this “movie”? Well, as I said, the sharktopus has been created to kick ass for the U.S. government. Officially known as “S-11″, the superweapon is controlled via a helmet on its head through electric impulses. The head honcho from the Navy orders Eric Roberts, the sharktopus’ designer, to stalk a couple of dudes in a speed boat as a test run. The test goes horribly wrong (of course); the speed boat accidentally knocks the sharktopus’ controlling helmet thingy off and frees the monster from outside control. Alarm bells go off. Navy guy angrily asks what the hell is going on. Eric Roberts silently calculates how far he’ll be able to stretch his paycheck.
The rest of the film deals with the sharktopus rampaging his way down to the Puerto Vallarta area and eating a bunch of people, while a group consisting of a TV reporter, her cameraman (played by Hector Jimenez (Nacho Libre)), and Sharktopus‘ version of Quint try to scoop the story. A separate group of Roberts’ character’s daughter Nicole, Iraq War veteran Andy, and all-around sorta-badass Santos slowly become the focal point of the plot, deciding that the beast must be killed.
As the sharktopus chews up tourists, everyone attempts to puzzle out why Sharky just goes around killing people and not hunting for food like a ‘normal’ predator. Turns out that Roberts’ character changed S-11′s “subroutines” (his words) in the lab to make it more aggressive and, thus, more attractive to the Navy bigwigs. While everybody else is trying to kill it, Roberts is trying to capture it so that he can return it to his lab and get rich off it.
How does that work out? Not well. Roberts ends up being Sharktopus victim #20, via an octo-arm stab to the jugular.
Final body count: 26
Is the monster killed or does it “win”? The monster is killed. Roberts’ character’s daughter finds a way to reactivate the creature’s implanted ‘kill switch’. At the film’s ‘climax’, she triggers it in the nick of time, just as the sharktopus is hovering above Andy at an oceanside water park and about to eat him. The monster explodes in a shower of CGI gore. Andy, literally two feet from the explosion, is miraculously unscathed.
Who survives? Andy and Nicole. Pretty much everybody else dies.
Are the words “Trust me, there is no such thing as a sharktopus!” spoken by a character and then immediately followed by that character being killed by said sharktopus?
Awesomest death besides that one: A lone sunbather who is laying a good 30 feet up the beach is snagged by the sharktopus’ tentacles and slowly dragged down to the water, screaming for her life. A nearby creepy old beachcomber searching the sand with his metal detector, played by producer and legendary purveyor of cheese Roger Corman, watches her death with an expression that suggests either supreme indifference or that nobody told Roger that the cameras were rolling. After her death, he spots the fakest looking gold doubloon in film history with his metal detector and breaks into a wide grin.
Most ridiculous moment: During the search for the eponymous monster, it attacks a boat out at sea containing Santos, Andy, and Nicole. Santos is pulled into the water by the sharktopus and proceeds to flail around, screaming for help. Andy, who has a submachine gun (remember this), attempts to pull Santos out of the water. When this proves impossible, he stumbles backwards a few feet, then moseys back towards the action and sits on the side of the boat nearest the monster, watching while Santos surfaces five feet away.
Still sitting down, Andy quietly observes the sharktopus pull itself out of the water, hover over Santos, and bite his head off. Only when the sharktopus slides back under the water with Santos’ body does Andy decide to stand up, scream angrily, pick up his machine gun, and ineffectually pepper the water’s surface with machine gun fire. Up until that moment, Andy showed zero reaction to anything seen on screen, nor did he appear to even be looking in the proper direction. Special effects acting FTW! (Nothing you pictured while reading that description approaches the sheer hilarity/awfulness of this scene. Trust me.)
Second most ridiculous moment: When you find out that the hybrid of two aquatic, non-walking animals has the ability to walk on land.
Worst actor: Difficult to narrow it down. Roberts sleepwalks through his role, but hilariously so, especially knowing that he almost certainly took the role purely on the basis that his character does nothing but sit on a boat and drink scotch for nearly the entire movie. Peter Nelson as naval Commander Cox is completely wrong for the role and really awful, slightly surprising considering his fairly decent role in the 1980s television series V. But Kerem Bursin as Andy takes the cake. As a near non-entity in the first half of the film, the second half suddenly sees the script attempt to fit him with the moniker of action hero, to the film’s detriment. His expression of fierce concentration is akin to Little Rascal Spanky’s expression when he tries to think his way out of a sticky situation. Even worse, Andy literally begins uttering Arnie-isms in the last half hour (“I’ll be back for you!”, et al). And to top it off, he spends the entire film with his shirt unbuttoned to give us a constant view of his rock-hard abs, so screw that guy.
Final thoughts: It’s difficult for me to parse my thoughts regarding this movie, as Sharktopus is the first SyFy original movie that I managed to watch from start to finish. It was dumb and amateurish, to be sure. And yeah, the plot made no sense and the acting was pretty atrocious. But it wasn’t legendarily bad. Many of the deaths were amusing and a couple of them made me laugh out loud at their absurdity.
So since this is my first foray into SyFy movie land, and will thereby be my control group in this particular experiment, I give it….2.5 out of 5 Bewildered Gabes. (Official Bewildered Gabe images to come in the next installment!)