Director: Jack Perez
The Asylum are some collection of chancers. The film studio are famous for taking current blockbusters and cranking out their own version; or “mockbusters” as they have been dubbed. “Transmorphers“, “Snakes on a Train“, “The Terminators“, “I Am Omega” and “2012 Doomsday” can all be easily reconciled with recent movies, even by those with only a passing interest in cinema. A relatively small budget – probably considerably less than a million dollars – means that no one should expect to see familiar faces, quality writing or editing, or mind-blowing special effects. But it matters not – it’s said that three months after release (occasionally in theatres but typically on DVD and cable) the movies usually break even.
“Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus” generated more buzz than usual, partly because of its unsubtle title and partly because of its viral trailer which sees a very big shark jump 30,000 feet in the air and chew on a passenger jet. You have to admit – that’s genius.
On face value that’s probably as far as the genius goes. The plot is fairly standard stuff. Marine scientist Emma (80s cutie Debbie Gibson) is filming underwater when she gets caught up in a military experiment that inadvertently frees two prehistoric creatures – a megalodon and a very big octopus – frozen in a glacier. Some time later an off-shore oil drilling facility is destroyed by the octopus, bringing it to the attention of the government who bring Emma, her old college professor Lamar Sanders (Lawlor) and Japanese scientist Dr. Seiji Shimada (Vic Chao) in to assist with capturing the creature. They reveal a videotape (filmed by Emma) to government official Allan Baxter (Lamas) that shows the two creatures swimming away from the glacier and, together with the military team, they set about trying to find a way to capture the dangerous sea creatures before they kill a lot of people.
There are two ways that low-budget special-effect driven movies can go: they can ham it up for laughs or they can take themselves seriously. The Asylum usually go for the latter.
It is of course an abomination in just about every respect. The sequences involving the shark and octopus (it’s not a squid, repeat, it’s not a squid) are – I would suspect for budget reasons – deliberately short and make no attempt to generate any drama. The script and direction (from Jack Perez, director of the well-received “La Cucaracha“) is insipid and flat respectively although he is not helped by the atrocious editing. The acting is mainly awful although there is something likeable about Gibson who is the most competent on show. Lorenzo Lamas (looking well for a man in his fifties) is more wooden than I remember him from “Renegade” and my fellow countryman Sean Lawlor (sort of a cross between Colm Meaney and Dennis Hopper) swings from being fine (when shouting) to dreadful (when not shouting).
In spite of all that I have certainly seen worse movies than this. For all their shortfalls (and they do spit these movies out in a few months from conception to wrap) The Asylum have got the production fundamentals down and if they can get their hands on a good script they can probably produce some good direct-do-DVD movies. This, obviously, is not one.