Saturday, May 28, 2011


Beware the impulse buy. Last year, browsing DVDs while we were supposed to be doing a food shop, I was chuckling over the tagline to ‘Burning Bright’ (“true tiger terror”) when Paula found something even more awe-inspiringly awful. It was called ‘Army of the Dead’, the cover image was of skeletal hordes advancing menacingly in Conquistador uniforms but clutching modern day hardware, and the tagline was a masterpiece of stand-up-and-applaud cheesy audacity: “never trust a skeleton with a shotgun”. Needless to say, we bought the motherfucker. Two days later we took the motherfucker back, lied and said it wouldn’t play, and got a refund.

It was bad. Reeeeaaaaal bad. To call it a piece of shit would be an insult to excrement, a slur on the good name of steaming piles of turd.

So we should have known better when, doing a post-payday food shop at our local supermarket on Wednesday evening, we came across a DVD with this cover image:

We hesitated. We looked at each. “It’s going to be crap, isn’t it?” Paula said, a lone voice of reason. “But it’s called ‘Sharktopus’,” I replied, a sure-fire argument-winner if ever there was one. “How can you not want to watch a movie called ‘Sharktopus’?” In the shopping trolley it went. At the check-out, the bored and (I suspect) slightly stoned young man on the till looked at us (both straight from the office in rather formal attire) and looked back at our viewing choice in a slack-jawed double-take I wish I could have captured on my camera phone; on YouTube, it would have gone viral.

Last night, having returned from a book launch at the University of Nottingham’s Archaeology Museum of a title on Roman Nottinghamshire, I sat down to watch ‘Sharktopus’ (a Roger Corman production). It was an evening of contrasts.

To be fair, ‘Sharktopus’ wasn’t as bad as ‘Army of the Dead’ (elements of it even suggest that – a few films down the line and with a better budget – there might be a possibility of director Declan O’Brien achieving basic filmmaking competence). But that’s kind of like saying the smelly old guy playing the spoons in the town square is demonstrating better musicianship than Justin Bieber. It’s an inarguable fact, but … y’know …

‘Sharktopus’ starts with Nathan Sands (Eric Roberts) – the head honcho of a marine-biology outfit called Blue Water – demonstrating for the benefit of hardnosed Navy dude Commander Cox (Calvin Persson) the operational capacity of their new development: the S-11. In other words, our titular and tentacled friend the Sharktopus. Outfitted with a gizmo type thing that controls it means of electrical impulses, with Sands’s brainy and standoffish yet still kinda cute bio-geneticist boffin daughter Nicole (Sara Malakul Lane) at the controls (it functions a bit like a radio-control boat … one bigger … and, uh, with teeth … and, y’know, tentacles), things go tits up when it gets walloped by a passing boat, the electro-pulsar-control device thingy malfunctions and the Sharktopus heads down Mexico way to terrorize, terrify and chow down on anyone and everyone.

For “anyone and everyone” read “nubile girls in bikinis”. For its first half hour ‘Sharktopus’ consists of little more than bits of incoherent exposition being partitioned out amongst endless shots of nubile girls in bikinis. There’s the nubile girl in a bikini who goes running into the ocean for the obligatory ‘Jaws’ homage at the start of the movie …

… the nubile girl in a bikini with a metal detector who would have been better off with a Sharktopus detector …

… the nubile girl in a bikini one-piece with a cleavage-revealing slit down the front who inadvisably does a bungee-jump just as the Sharktopus is looking for a light snack …

… the half-dozen or so nubile girls in bikinis who plunge into the sea for no other reason than to frolic in the surf and bump up the bikini/nubile-girl count that bit further …

… and the nubile girl in a bikini who co-presents a pirate radio show hosted by the boorish Captain Jack (Ralph Garman).

The sudden outburst of hybrid aquamarine attacks on perfectly innocent bikini-clad nubiles comes to the attention of local reporter Stacy Everheart (Liv Boughn). Stacy kind of breaks the mould in not wearing a bikini, but she does model a nice line in midriff-baring tops as well as demonstrating a marked disinclination to fastening the top button of her denim mini-skirt.

While Stacy and her ever-nervous and spectacularly ill-named cameraman Bones (Hector Jiminez) track down Sharktopus-attack witness Pez (Blake Lindsey) – a lecherous, alcoholic fisherman – Sands sets out to bring the Sharktopus back alive (after all, a lot of tax dollars and a potentially lucrative defence contract at stake). To this end, Sands reluctantly enlists the aid of cocksure shark-hunter Andy Flynn (Kerim Bursin). Andy is introduced in a scene where he tries to put the moves on two nubile girls in bikinis.

Andy has previously worked for Blue Water and is at loggerheads with Sands. There also seems to be some unresolved tension between Andy and Nicole. All put their differences aside – intermittently, anyway – to go hunting the snark shark. This is achieved by means of Andy and his best bud Santos (Julian Gonzalez Esparza) zipping around in speed boats looking moody …

… while Nicole and Pops exchange portentous and expository dialogue during split screen cellphone conversations:

Subject of Andy looking moody, the dude’s man-pout is astounding to behold. This guy’s pout puts anyone in ‘Twilight’ to shame.

(Interrupting this Agitation of the Mind review, we go live to WWE for tonight’s Pout Bout. First round, Andy the shark-hunting dude versus sulky emo chick:

Boo-yah! Unsmiling bint goes down!

Round two: Andy the shark-hunting dude versus sulky vampire dude:

Boo-yah! Slaphead neck-biter goes down! We now return you to The Agitation of the Mind.)

Eventually the endless montages of pretty people admiring the local colour at seaside resorts, where every establishing shot features the pert derriere of a nubile girl in a bikini sashaying into the frame, must end. And they end in blood. The Sharktopus, not content to keep it real in da water …

… decides to come ashore and walk around on its tentacles and start some shit with the now gun-toting Andy:

Call me unimaginative, but my suspension of disbelief began to experience serious challenges to its equanimity round about this point (in much the same way that the world count facility on my laptop is frankly aghast that I’ve already expended 1,100 words on this cinematic pile of poo).

In short, it all ends the only way this kind of movie can: man and shark resolve their differences, become friends, and fight for the common goal of world peace and environmental concerns, revealing ‘Sharktopus’ in its closing scenes as a poignant and powerful work of cinema by a soon-to-be major talent.

Nah, only kidding.


Aaron said...

Ha! Great review, Neil. I normally don't seek out anything from the ongoing trend of animal hybrid movies, but I somehow ended up seeing this one for whatever reason. It's undeniably bad, as expected, but I found it to be quite charming in its own way. The biggest problem I had wasn't necessarily the quality or the acting, but how repetitive the movie got towards the back end. The highlight was seeing the sharktopus actually go out on land and kill people, especially towards the end when it used its tentacles to climb shit!

BRENT said...

Ah superb, just superb!!!!
' To call it a piece of insulting to excrement...and piles of steaming turd', great turns of phrase..I honestly had tears streaming down my face as I read them!! Has Notts a new Sillitoe in the making??!!!!!!!