SyFy Original Films are tough to figure out. As much as I like schlock and low budget stuff, I wish SyFy films would decide what they want to be. At the moment, most of the stuff I’ve seen featured on SyFy is trying to be a blockbuster, but failing pretty miserably. Played straight, I think, with the limited budgets, C to Z grade actors, and overly ambitious concepts really aren’t a combination for a lot of winners. Sure there are exceptions, but if the films would reel it back and make the best films with what limited budget and actors they have and focus on creatively using them, I think there’s a potential for some great movies.
I think if SyFy films would go for full-on camp…I mean, full-on cheese with winks to the camera, obvious rubber or bad CGI monsters, and equally bad actors, the films could be pretty fun to watch as well. As it is, the filmmakers of these things are shooting for the moon with a slingshot, utilizing not so great CGI and not so great actors to sell a story way out of their talent set.
SHARKTOPUS is a perfect example of what I’m trying to illustrate above. Obviously by the title, the film isn’t going to be some serious drama with horrific undertones. Just the name SHARKTOPUS is so incredibly ludicrous that it has the potential to circle the world of bad and somehow come out on the other side halfway watchable.
Despite that, there is a lot of good to be said about SHARKTOPUS. There are some scenes in which the camera comes in close and real life effects of a shark head chewing on actors flailing in the bloody water really do exude that visceral fear I speak about at the top of every AICN HORROR column. There’s something about sharks that hits me on a primal level, and there are scenes in this film that struck that chord in me. I was surprised at how much such a ludicrous concept could actually make me squirm at the edge of my seat as many times as it did. For a film called SHARKTOPUS to do that says a lot about it.
As usual, though, which is the case with most SyFy Originals, every time CGI is used, the film falls completely apart. The CGI is just plain bad in SHARKTOPUS, which again, I said above could be ok if you were going for pure cheese. For every close up scene of real terror as the shark’s black eyes close in on a swimmer and the teeth start gnashing and the blood starts flowing, there are a dozen badly rendered CGI effects that detract from the effectiveness of the few. There are creative ways to cover up cheap CGI and still make them look halfway decent, but the filmmakers don’t necessarily seem interested in doing that. It’s a shame that there had to be so many of these daytime scenes with the badly rendered CGI shark out of water eating even badlier rendered CGI people to take away from what could have been a surprisingly scary movie.
Eric Roberts knows what kind of film he’s in here and spends most of his time on a boat drinking scotch and barking orders to his scientist daughter. The ridiculously buff and shirtless scientist dude with a machine gun that never runs out of bullets and the doe-eyed and svelte scientist chickadee of the week are ludicrously appropriate for this film. And there are a few extremely campy bits in here that make for a big laugh or two, especially the silent scene involving producer Roger Corman walking on the beach as he admires a bent over beauty and the scene where a pair of chubby dockworkers are quickly added to Sharktopus’ kill list (one of them screams “NOT LIKE THIS!!!” as he’s being dragged away!).
In the end, SHARKTOPUS tries to be a little campy and a little scary, but I’m not sure if it was wholly successful at either. The camp and the horror were few and far between with the middle bits being pretty blah and repetitious. I was hoping for more, but dumb fun is unfortunately the best way to describe SHARKTOPUS. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “What the hell were you expecting, Bug? The film is called SHARKTOPUS not OTHELLO!!!” But I have a kooky concept; how about a horror film with a goofy title, coaxing folks in and then, to the audience’s surprise, it actually turns out to be good and scary? Excuse me for hoping for the best with this one and being a bit disappointed.