Thursday, March 28, 2013

Blue Demon (2004)

Blue Demon is an incredibly silly shark movie about a team of scientists who genetically engineer a new breed of great white shark to use as defense against terrorists. I’m not kidding.

Like all excellent films, it begins with a bit of narration: “It started out as an experiment. The first change was in the eyes… I’d watch them hours on end…Sometimes I swear they were laughing at me…In a world that’s mostly covered with water, we needed a new kind of defense. Just another fish in the sea. But we made a horrible mistake. We meant to take the next step in evolution, but we created a monster.” (Should a woman who thinks sharks are laughing at her be involved in a military project?)

Well, one night three sorority girls decide to torment a pledge by making her swim out to buoy, which is like fifteen feet away. That is, after they cut through a fence with all sorts of warnings posted, including that it’s an electric fence. The pledge is cute, but for some reason they don’t want her in. Why not? The bigger question, of course, is why she doesn’t get naked before getting into the water. The cops arrive, and two of them try to make off in a small boat. But the shark gets one of them. It’s actually not a bad scene.

Then suddenly we’re in a different scene, and it feels like a different movie. The music is goofy, and the tone is different from the first scene. Like the film has decided not to take itself at all seriously.

Lawrence Van Allen, the midget in charge, tells Nathan and Marla Collins (Randall Batinkoff and DeDee Pfeiffer) their project is over because three hysterical college girls are in the hospital. They’re still trying to find pieces of the fourth. A shark breached the steel net. (By the way, it turns out that electric fence had been shut off because of budget cuts.)  Their project, Project Blue Demon, is genetically engineering a new breed of great white sharks capable of living in both salt water and fresh water and “trained to recognize specific targets to defend.” The point is to get an undetectable defense system, not a weapon.

There is lots of silliness, like Lawrence keeping his cell phone in a red-lined case in a locked drawer in his desk. He then calls for Inga, his assistant, who is totally hot. Lawrence asks her to get a box of cigars. And then we never see her again. Why is that? She pops in for one moment, looking all sexy, then disappears forever. Maybe she went over to the next soundstage and found a better film to be in. Or maybe she’s still looking for that box of cigars. Maybe she’s just very slow. These genetically engineered sharks are also very, very slow, as we see when Marla slips into the water.

Six weeks later, they give their presentation before the military folks, including General Remora (Jeff Fahey). It’s done in a deliberately silly style. This film seems to consider itself more of an action comedy than horror. Lawrence says they’re creating a squadron of sharks trained to seek out and neutralize terrorist threats. But the sharks are gone. Someone opened the gate.

Meanwhile the maintenance crew is finally fixing the underwater fence. That’s right, six weeks after a shark got out and killed a sorority girl. Did they ever catch that one? Well, as punishment to the maintenance guys for being so slow, the sharks eat them.

Then the sharks swim in attack formation to populated areas. But don’t worry – these are the slowest sharks ever. Watch those dorsal fins basically standing still. A couple of teenagers have their first kiss in the lake. And then a shark comes up to them. I wouldn’t say it chases them or attacks them because it’s moving slower than a ninety-year-old woman with a walker. Glaciers could outrun these sharks. The teenagers get out of the lake without any trouble.

It’s a lake, but Nathan calls the Coast Guard for help. Lakes aren’t really coasts, but… Well, they don’t pay any attention to his call anyway. And soon the sharks have “breached the lake” and are in the ocean. Do freshwater lakes usually lead to the ocean?

It turns out it was an inside job, turning the sharks loose. Someone reprogrammed a shark to carry a bomb to San Francisco so that the country will then get tough on terrorism again.

I have to say, as stupid as this entire film is, I enjoyed it. It was fun. And it was basically done well, though the sharks look terrible. At the end we get the opening voice over again. And at the end of it, we see Marla speaking in front of a United States flag. It’s enough to make me proud of this great nation of ours.

The movie isn’t quite over, however, because every single actor gets his or own special segment in the closing credits. Except Inga. Poor Inga. No credit for her, as she had no lines. We miss you, Inga. The closing credits move almost as slowly as the sharks. They really wanted this film to be ninety minutes, I guess.

Blue Demon was written and directed by Dan Grodnik. On the box, his named is spelled two different ways: Grodnik and Grodnick.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Shark Hunter (2001)

I love shark movies. That means I love bad shark movies, because only a couple of them are actually good films. But Shark Hunter is particularly bad, mostly because it takes place almost entirely in a submarine. So we miss those wonderful shots of dorsal fins cutting through the surface, and hot girls screaming at the beach. Basically, all those things we love about shark movies are missing from this shark movie.

It begins with a flashback. A family of three is on a little boat on the ocean during a foggy night. The first big question is, What’s up with the boy’s voice? As we’re wondering that, something big attacks the boat, and sadly the boy survives.

Then, in the present, the boy – Spencer – is an adult (and is played by Antonio Sabato, Jr.). He is giving a college lecture, which is interrupted by his colleague, William (Christain Toulali - yes, that is how he's credited in this film). William tells him he won’t be able to use the special submarine that he designed. That couldn’t wait until the end of his lecture? College tuition is expensive, and these interruptions are being paid for by all of those students.

Meanwhile in some underwater laboratory (it’s really unclear what the purpose of this place is), a guy is smoking a cigarette. That seems unwise, and also unkind to the others who have to share that limited space. But then to simplify matters, a giant shark comes and starts eating people. It rams the facility, causing the place to explode.

Spencer and William are hired to investigate. Intense music plays while Spencer looks at slides of sharks. Then they go on the submarine that Spencer was so excited about. We meet the crew of the sub, all the usual characters, including Harrington, who displays an attitude for no particular reason. Playing one of the crew members is Velizar Binev, who also has roles in Shark Zone and Raging Sharks. Good for him.

A diver goes down and finds a body. Nice makeup job on the body’s face. Too bad they ran out of makeup before they got to his neck. Well, the diver finds a giant tooth (just like in Jaws, only bigger, and he’s able to hold onto it). It’s that of a Megalodon, a shark thought to be extinct. Spencer is certain it’s the same fish that ate his parents, and he’s out for revenge.

However, Cheryl  reminds him that they’re scientists, and that they should capture the fish and study it. By the way, Cheryl (Heather Marie Marsden) is the only woman in the movie, but fortunately she’s kind of cute. Except when she does her pouty face. The shark too has a pouty, angry face. Perhaps that’s why she wants to capture it, rather than kill it. She calls it “Meg.”

At one point Harrington says, “Guys, we’re gonna need a bigger sub,” briefly reminding us of a much better shark movie.

Shark Hunter was directed by Matt Codd.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Shark Zone (2003)

I love shark movies. And if you’re going to enjoy watching shark movies, you’re going to have to enjoy watching bad shark movies because very few of them are any good (at the moment I can think of only Jaws and Open Water as examples).  Shark Zone is certainly a bad shark movie. And yes, I truly enjoyed it.

Oddly, this film begins in 1712, when the Santa Cruz, a Spanish boat crossing the Atlantic, encounters a serious storm just off the coast of the New World. According to the opening narration, the boat disappears in an uncharted reef.

Then we are in current times, in San Francisco, where Mr. Wagner takes a group diving to tour the boat’s wreckage. Wait, the boat sailed from Spain to California?  He takes the group by helicopter rather than by boat. I’m not sure why, as they don’t actually go too far from shore. Among the diving group is Jimmy, Wagner’s son. Wagner calls him Jimbo, and so shall I.

They all jump out of the helicopter into the water, and though Wagner reminds them to stick together, they all ignore him and go off in pairs (except for his son, of course). Somehow they can communicate, though on the close-ups you can tell no one is actually talking (perhaps they communicate through telepathy). They find the wreckage of the Santa Cruz, which isn’t far beneath the surface, but then a great white shark attacks and kills them. Jimbo is the only survivor.

Ten years later in San Francisco, Jimbo (Dean Cochran), now a father himself, misses his dad. He is in charge of beach security, and the Beach Fiesta is coming up next weekend. That weekend is also the anniversary of his father’s death.

By the way, Carrie, Jimbo’s wife, is played by an incredibly inept actor. She is shockingly bad, and also completely unbelievable as a mother. She seems more like a porn actor. Instead of delivering dramatic dialogue, she should be shown with semen dripping from her face. And with a name like Brandi Sherwood, she probably was a porn actor.

In one of her early scenes, she and Jimbo are taking a boat ride. The sky is blue behind them, but as soon as they kiss, they’re in a squall. A shark begins eating their boat, and, graciously, eats Carrie. But then, what a bloody tease, it was only a dream. The awful wife is still alive.

Anyway, a shady businessman named Mr. Volkoff (Velizar Bineu) wants to know where the Santa Cruz is, because he believes the stories that there are diamonds in the wreckage.  If a diving team went down there, clearly its location is no secret. Hell, they did it just off shore from a helicopter. Plus, it’s really close to the surface. Are we really to believe that Jimbo is the only one who is aware of the boat’s location? Apparently. Well, Jimbo won’t tell him, because that’s where his father died.

Volkoff is funding the Beach Fiesta, but with the understanding that in exchange he’ll be shown the location of the Santa Cruz. He threatens Mayor Cortell (Alan Austin) that he will withdraw his support if he’s not given the information.  Hold on, the Fiesta is this weekend. Hasn’t the money already been spent? Also, this is San Francisco. Is the entire Fiesta funded by a single businessman?

When Jimbo’s son, Danny, learns that his grandfather was eaten by sharks, he says, “You know, I hate sharks. They suck.” Jimbo replies, “Yes, they do.” And that is a sweet father-and-son bonding moment.

Well, great white sharks start attacking swimmers at the beach. It’s cool that they use footage of actual great whites. But they probably shouldn’t have used the shot with the bait clearly visible in the water. It kind of ruins the effect.  Anyway, lots of people die. But the mayor refuses to close the beach. He tells Jimbo, “I know some people lost their lives out there. I’m not completely insensitive to that, okay? But I’ve got to deal with the people that make their livelihood in this town.” Jaws, much?

Jimbo is really like the Chief Brody character in Jaws, except this is San Francisco, not a tiny beach community, so it’s not really believable at all.  Jimbo tells the mayor that these sharks are bigger, faster and more aggressive than any he’s seen before. Then he goes to hunt the sharks with a team of three friends.

The geography is all weird when they go to hunt the sharks. They travel by boat for a while. But when Jimbo’s wife at home looks out her window, she can see the boat. By the way, beach security must be a high-paying job in San Francisco, because they have a giant beachfront home. I couldn’t even afford a studio apartment in San Francisco. Hell, I can’t afford the parking in that city.

Well, the guys in the shark cages are supposed to be killing the sharks. (And tagging the ones they’re unable to kill.) So I have to wonder why they have big yellow underwater cameras rather than guns. As the sharks attack the cages, one of the divers says “Get away” to a shark. But it doesn’t listen. When the sharks have finished eating the three men, Jimbo (safe on the boat) gets angry and shouts, “Bastards.”

I’m not sure if he’s angry with the sharks, or with his men for taking cameras rather than guns. Either way, he has to get more volunteers for his next fight with the sharks. As anyone would do in that situation, he turns to his bartender.  This time they bring guns.  (In the next fight, that shot with the bait is used again. Geez, once was bad enough.)

Then they get in a helicopter and drop explosives into the water in order to kill the sharks. Apparently they’re successful, so Jimbo quips, “Class dismissed.”  Seriously. I am guessing the line is intended as a joke on the idea of a school of fish. Of course, there were only three sharks, and I’m not sure how many sharks make up a school.

But the film isn’t over. Because Volkoff (remember him?) is still keen on retrieving the diamonds. He threatens Jimbo, and when that doesn’t work, he has Jimbo’s son kidnaped. Jimbo doesn’t tell the mayor or call the cops or anything. Instead, he cooperates. And Volkoff’s divers find the diamonds. And the sharks find Volkoff’s divers.

This film taught me that great whites growl like dogs. Wait, didn’t that happen in Jaws: The Revenge? Wasn’t that one of the things that made that film laughable? What a strange detail to rip off from a film that’s even worse than this one.

By the way, there is a nice bit of nudity with a cute brunette. But she is killed in about ten seconds, and no mention is ever made of her again. So I’ll just mention her here: nice breasts.

Shark Zone was directed by Danny Lerner, who also directed Raging Sharks and Sharks In Venice (and yes, both of those are in my DVD collection).