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Sharktopus DVD Review

Sharktopus DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Sharktopus

Original Air Date: September 25, 2010 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Declan O'Brien / Writer: Mike MacLean

Cast: Kerem Bursin (Andy Flynn), Sara Malakul Lane (Nicole Sands), Eric Roberts (Nathan Sands), Hector Jimenez (Bones), Liv Boughn (Stacy Everheart), Julian Gonzalez Esparza (Santos), Blake Lindsey (Ryan "Pez" Kingsberry), Calvin Persson (Commander Cox), Maija Markula (Bree), Megan Barkley (Lisa), Mary Corman (Bungee Jumper), Kyle Trainor (Frat Boy), Lindsay Conklin (Bikini Girl with Bum), Shandi Finnessey (Stephie), Ralph Garman (Captain Jack), Roger Corman (Beach Bum - uncredited)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
DVD Release Date: March 15, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 (Was $19.98)
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($24.99 SRP $19.99)

Buy Sharktopus from Amazon.com: DVDBlu-ray


There aren't all that many filmmakers who started their careers in the 1950s and are still working today. Producer Roger Corman is one of them. Corman began making movies in his twenties and he has produced nearly 400 films since 1954.
In that time, the 2009 honorary Oscar winner has collaborated with many a celebrated director, among them Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, and Ron Howard. Those ventures have always come at the beginning of the directors' careers, with the young unproven helmer accepting the experience on Corman's narrow terms, tight schedules, and miniscule budgets.

Corman, you see, is considered "King of the B-movies." There isn't much of a theatrical market for B-movies today, so Corman's latest work has premiered on home video and television. Recently, Corman was welcomed into the family of Syfy, the former Sci-Fi Channel, whose standards for original programming appear to be as low as any contemporary entertainment provider. Never one to fret over quality or aspire to more than cheap thrills, Corman seems like a perfect fit for Syfy with their amateurish production values.

Sharktopus, which debuted last September, is the first in a number of dirt-cheap creature features Corman and his wife Julie are lending their names and experience to. The hybrid title says everything you need to know about this TV movie and the ridiculous cover artwork echoes it, with the tagline ("Half-Shark. Half-Octopus. All Killer.") hitting it out the park. Clearly, the Cormans and everyone else employed here know that they are not making art or anything that could be misconstrued as it. They're just looking to have fun with a crudely CG-animated invented monster, girls in bikinis, and a semi-famous actor willing to accept an easy paycheck well below those his much more famous sister and now daughter are earning.

The top half is shark, the bottom half octopus, and the whole monstrous CGI creature is hungry for a brainy human doing some computing. Hunky mercenary Andy Flynn (Kerem Bursin) and smart but sexy boss' daughter Nicole Sands (Sara Malakul Lane) warm to each other on their joint mission to reclaim S-11.

Eric Roberts, whose highest-profile credit may still be 1984's The Pope of Greenwich Village but who was more recently seen being roughed up by Batman in The Dark Knight and fighting marijuana addiction on "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew", plays Dr. Nathan Sands. The head of the Blue Water Corporation, Sands has overseen the genetic engineering of S-11, a shark-octopus combination being developed as the next big thing in contracted military weaponry. While trying to impress a Navy commander with a demonstration, Sands and his daughter Nicole (Thai model Sara Malakul Lane, struggling with an American accent) instead run into trouble, with the sea beast shaking free of its gear and evading the remote computer control it had previously been subjected to.

The sharktopus heads to the Mexican coast, just because, and Sands and his daughter follow it down there. Reluctantly, Sands enlists former employee Andy Flynn (Kerem Bursin) to capture S-11 alive for the tall fee of $300,000 (this film's budget, perhaps?). The mercenary joins Nicole and his old pal Santos (Julián González Esparza) on the mission.

Meanwhile, civilian sightings of the giant creature begin occurring, as do civilian casualties. Driven cable news reporter Stacy Everheart (Liv Boughn) is quickly on the scene with her tattooed cameraman "Bones" (Héctor Jiménez). They meet "Pez" (Blake Lindsey), a photo tipster who can lead them to the creature for a career-making story.

As the morally ambiguous plain clothes genetic scientist Nathan Sands, a sunglassed Eric Roberts naturally claims the film's "And" credit. Dressed for success and unfazed by the carnage beheld, determined investigative reporter Stacy Everheart (Liv Boughn) is in Puerto Vallarta with cameraman Bones (Hector Jimenez) to break the Sharktopus story.

You know coming into Sharktopus that you're not going to be getting intelligent entertainment, but it is still surprising just how stupid and schlocky a modern movie can be. The acting is atrocious. I would be shocked if multiple takes were regularly or ever shot. Then there are the visual effects, which are unlike anything I've ever seen. Throughout the film, the creature leaps out of the water to wrap a person (preferably one established as annoying) in its tentacles before devouring them in one big bite. The animation honestly looks like a novice high school student's senior project. You would think that such a shortcoming would inspire director Declan O'Brien (whose other credits include Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead and, for Syfy, Rock Monster and Monster Ark) to use the beast sparingly, realizing suggestion and shrouding would go a long way to give the titular threat some kind of menacing presence. But he doesn't, instead showcasing the embarrassing CGI fish again and again in broad daylight.

There truly is no shame here. The movie is as much about parading human flesh as it is about aquatic carnage. Don't get too excited; despite the lack of an MPAA rating, you don't see anything here you couldn't see on basic cable or network TV at any hour of the day for that matter. But the female form is regularly admired.
Nearly every woman in the cast is seen in a skimpy bikini, with the exception of the two leads, who display their professionalism in midriff-baring low-cut top (that's Boughn's unflinching CNN, er, CNE reporter) and tight tank top with intellect-establishing glasses (Lane's code-writing brains behind S-11). To even things out, Bursin's bounty hunter liberally displays his chiseled, hairless torso, removing his shirt in calls to action.

The one redeeming feature to Sharktopus is that it has the decency to be so bad it's (a little bit) good. There is no way to appreciate this scrappy production for anything but camp value. Fortunately, there is nothing but camp, head to toe. Tension, excitement, and creativity are no-shows, but ludicrous blood-splattering death scenes, rancid gibberish exposition, and buffoonish personalities abound, inviting laughter and derision. It's not enough to prevent the 89-minute movie from feeling like a mild endurance challenge, but it ups the entertainment value to levels above slightly better films that are more boring.

In a Stan Lee move, Roger Corman himself shows up in a cameo as a beachcomber who leers at a metal-detecting bikini-clad woman. If that's not the octogenarian's way of giving this whole production a big thumb up, I don't know what is.

A pirate radio station produced by the string bikini-clad Stephie (Shandi Finnessey) is featured purely to assess the local folks' thoughts on the sharktopus sightings. Better watch your backs, Steven Soderbergh and Danny Boyle! Director Declan O'Brien has some fancy split-screen techniques of his own, which just happen to call attention to Eric Roberts' intoxicating forearms veins.

VIDEO and AUDIO

On DVD, Sharktopus appears in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The picture quality isn't so great, for which I don't blame reliable distributor Anchor Bay Entertainment but the very low original production methods.
The cameras used appear to be the caliber of a high school film class from ten years ago. We encounter some grain, pallid colors, and poor lighting. Three short location shots have a very peculiar defect in which a layer of something stays fixed over the moving imagery. I don't know how low your standards have to be in order to be impressed by this movie's visuals, but recently-cured blindness may be the safest path to enjoyment. The soundtrack fares a little better, with its loud, crisp recordings and mild surround atmosphere.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Sharktopus comes equipped with just two real DVD bonus features. First, from the Set Up menu, is a husband-wife audio commentary by producers Roger and Julie Corman, who are guided and interviewed by an admiring fellow named Perry Martin. The screen-specific track is highly revealing as to the logic behind such a movie. Mr. Corman does most of the talking, explaining his early reluctance to the project, Syfy's preference for showing the monster early and often, his attraction to creatures and the water, his camera preferences, his editing methods, the changing nature of the industry, remakes, and working with (and around) Eric Roberts. Mrs. Corman remarks on stretching the budget, efficient scheduling, spontaneous casting, and her working history with Roger. In the track's few lulls, the movie's preposterous audio is kindly raised to intelligibility.

The second extra is a long, rambling, unnarrated trailer for Sharktopus (2:38), which seems to be missing its title or release information in its empty final graphic.

The DVD opens with promos for "The Walking Dead": The Complete First Season, Dinocroc vs. Supergator, Shout! Factory's Roger Corman releases, and Cyclops.

The scored main menu loops a typical montage of action shots. Other menus are still and silent.

The DVD includes a cardboard slipcover, which repeats everything below but applies a slight texture effect to the title, characters, and other elements.

Fire away all you want, Eric Roberts. Your bullets have as much effect on Sharktopus as being out of water.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I get the sense that some of Sharktopus' busier crowd scenes were shot without permits, paid extras, and signed releases. This Syfy movie is utterly amateur, which makes you wonder how hard up for employment Eric Roberts and his one recognizable castmate Héctor Jiménez must be. Everyone else is either just here for kicks in Mexico or looking to crack into the business. Any who succeed at the latter will come to be embarrassed by this mindless feet-wetting.

Sharktopus is stupid and insanely unpolished, but at least it's good for modest entertainment at its own expense. I do wonder what Roger Corman and Syfy get out of putting their names on something like this. (Just money? Is there much to be made here?) I have more sympathy for the viewers who are able to derive pleasure from such outlandish trash. Based on the warm reviews and somewhat respectable current sales ranks at Amazon, such an audience has got to be a pretty decent size. It's tough to be offended or insulted by a bottom-rung production that knows what it is.

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Reviewed March 9, 2011.



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