Sharktopus +
Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda

Dir: Declan O'Brien/Kevin O'Neill
Star: Kerem Bursin, Sara Malakul Lane, Eric Roberts, Héctor Jimenez
+ Rib Hillis, Katie Savoy, Robert Carradine, Akari Endo

Even The Asylum, masters of the mockbuster, isn't safe from having their concepts knocked off, For what we have in these two movies is their "dual creature feature" concept, e.g. RoboGator vs. Crocosoid [I completely made that up, but head honcho David Michael Latt just make a note on his iPad], ramped up by the simple method of combining the two. So, rather than a shark taking on an octopus, we have a shark combined with an octopus, and you get the worst of both: shark mouth at the front, slimiy octo-tentacles (with spikes, because... why not?) at the rear. Brilliant! Of course, as the original shows, this could only be the product of top minds in the military-industrial complex, specifically Dr. Nathan Sands (Roberts). The beast wears a device on its skull to allow for it to be controlled, but during a trail run, this breaks, allowing the creature to go on a rampage down the coast to Mexico. His daughter, Nicole (Lane), goes after it, accompanied by former minion Andy Flynn (Bursin), initially trying to bring it back under control, then realizing when that's not going to happen, to destroy it.

It's a lovely idea, especially since it allows the beast to roam both the water and the land, as necessary to the plot. The film doesn't hang around, and moves briskly from attack to attack, the hunters chasing in its wake. This pacing is definitely one of the strong suit, but the makers also don't take themselves too seriously, and aware how ludicrous the entire concept os. [It's a Roger Corman production - he shows up in a cameo as a beachcomber] In particular, witness the discussion between two boat workers, eating their lunch and discussing ways to die, before being plucked off the craft by the sharktopus. Or the bit where a bungee-jumping beach bunny leaps to her inevitable doom: as soon as the scene starts, you know its only a matter of time. Much like Sharknado, it's a film where both makers and viewers are on the same page, having fun with the concept, and rolling with the idiocy. As such, it can only be enjoyed.

The question is, where do you go from there? The answer is a sequel, naturally, which throws another cross-habitat monstrosity into the mix, taking a barracuda and combining it with DNA extracted from a pteranadon [again, because... why not?]. While the sharktopus - and I trust I'm not spoiling this for anyone - was destroyed at the end of the original, the inevitable egg-sac survived, and was found by marine biologist Lorena Christmas (Savoy), who raises it herself. Meanwhile, another mad scientist, Dr. Symes (Carradine), creates his creation, and naturally, it also runs amok, after an East European hacker breaks into the system and hijacks the control mechanism, with the aim of selling Pteracuda to the highest bidder. There's only one thing which can stop it, and so Symes sends his minions out after the sharktopus, currently living the quiet life as an attraction in a shithole Mexican sea-park.

It's just not as much fun, and illustrates nicely the gap between "bad" and "so bad it's good" cinema. There's just too much going on here involving the human element, which is generally the least interesting thing about these movies. You've the military, the hacker, the theme-park, a TV crew covering events... It all just interferes with what we want to see, which is sharktopus attacking things. And the pteracuda is actually a disappointment: I was hoping for a more blatant combination of the two, but what you have here is basically a pteranadon that can swim. I do kinda like the kaiju-esque aspect, with sharktopus now being (more or less) on the side of mankind. But, just as in Godzilla, there's too much time spent on stuff which is not in the title - there's even a Conan O'Brien cameo, for no logical reason - and that's the main difference which makes this not as entertaining as the original. Still, I must confess to a sneaking anticipation for the alleged third part, Sharktopus vs. Mermantula...

[September 2014]

Just when you thought it was safe... turn the SyFy channel back on
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