Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf

Dir: Kevin O'Neill
Star: Casper Van Dien, Catherine Oxenberg, Akari Endo, Mario Arturo Hernandez

Oh, c'mon! Are they even trying, now? Or is there just some random plot-generating machine in SyFy headquarters, which slaps two animals together and spits out a title? Actually, though, I will confess to having enjoyed this more than the last entry, since they've taken the whalewolf concept and had fun with it, rather than just dumping the idea on the screen and hoping that's enough. Thus, for example, you get mad German scientist Dr. Reinhardt (Oxenburd, sporting the most outrageously fake accent since Dick Van Dyke) trying to house-train her giant, semi-aquatice canine, and when that fails, calling up the local animal shelter trying to get rid of it. "Mixed," she replies deadpan, when asked what breed it is, and technically she's not lying. We also enjoyed the stabs at drug-taking baseball players - the Dominican born "Felix Rosa" (Hernandez) is clearly intended to evoke Sammy Sosa - reality television, with a god-awful version of The Bachelor being shot near Reinhardt's lair, and fading actresses. So, yes, there is some indication that the script is putting in the necessary effort for a fun time.

Is that enough to balance the special effects, which are even more woeful than before? On balance, I think it does, since the sheer loopiness of watching both sharktopus and whalewolf roaming Dominican streets, plazas and a shopping mall, before their climactic confrontation in an electrically-wired baseball stadium, is pleasure enough. The human characters, outside of Reinhardt, are basically superfluous and certainly not very interesting, despite the long-winded subplot about a voodoo shaman seeking the power to control the beasts. They'd have been better off letting Van Dien's alcoholic fisherman, Ray, intone dramatically, "Let them fight!" and then get out of the way. Still, that is more or less what happens for much of this, and it's when the film is at its best. Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami once said, "Good cinema is what we can believe, and bad cinema is what we can't believe." By that measure, this is very, very bad cinema. But the movie also proves that pleasure can come from the bad, when this is embraced and appreciated. On that basis, bring on Sharktopus vs. Sealaconda, or whatever. Syfy: call me, let's talk.

[August 2015]

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