APRIL 17, 2008
Ah, expectations. With a title like Frankenfish, I was expected a Sci-Fi original, and a lot of corny one-liners, bad effects, military guys... the standard SFO package. And with “FROM THE DIRECTOR OF SPAWN!” proudly displayed on the cover, I was expecting unwatchable crap. So I was surprised to find that the movie was pretty decent, with the good ultimately outweighing the bad. Hurrah!
First the bad. No one set out to re-invent the wheel here, which is fine, but still, the structure is a bit too basic. I would have liked a plot complication or two somewhere in there. Also, the would-be lead actress is terrible. None of them are going to win any Saturn Awards, but the rest were believable and reasonably personable. This broad belongs in the “Tara Reid as a Scientist” casting hall of fame; she looks like a stripper but she’s supposed to be a Fish and Wildlife Expert. Sure. Also, they hired the great Mark Boone Junior to play one of the resident “bad guys”, but failed to do anything with him (he doesn’t even get a good death scene!). On the plus side, the creepy Asian dude from Prison Break (season 2) was in it as well.
Otherwise, not too shabby at all. The effects are pretty impressive, and seem to be mainly practical. There are a few blunders in the CG heavy finale (that “blood” is ridiculous) but by then I was already more than impressed by the level of care and actual effort put into what should be the movie’s strong suit, unlike say Lake Placid 2, which didn’t have a single good effect in the entire goddamn movie (other than John Schneider’s hair, which had to have been achieved through digital means). The kills are also great: beheadings, legs torn off, etc.
Which leads me to another “plus” – this movie kills almost everyone! I mentioned the would-be lead female (the one on the cover); she gets half her head blown off halfway through! Also, the kindly New Orleans voodoo woman gets it a few minutes later. Wooo! Kill em all! Again, since I was expecting a Sci-Fi movie, I sure as hell wasn’t expecting such nasty kills (or the occasional boob shot, or profanity, both of which the film also happily contained).
It’s also, quite simply, a well made film. I hate to sound like a broken record*, but it’s worth re-mentioning: when the crew puts effort into the movie, it pays off, resulting in a movie that is considerably better than one might expect from the umpteenth “Terror in the Water” movie. When everyone goes through the motions, doing the bare minimum to achieve a usable piece of film footage, the movie turns out even worse. In Frankenfish’s case, it’s definitely a case of the former – pacing, production value, (most of) the effects, etc. are all solid, and thus the film’s weak spots are easily overlooked.
The DVD package is worth mentioning too. In addition to basically spoiling the “sort of” surprise in the movie (that there’s more than one Frankenfish), the menus are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. From the main menu, when you select scene selection, it scrolls through the trailers/setup menus as well, sort of like the Windows Vista “choose your window” screen. And this came out 2 years before that godawful OS!
All in all, worth a watch. The fact that the trailer before the movie begins is for Anacondas was a good sign (another movie much better than I expected it to be). It’s not as goofy as the title is, but in the end, that’s probably for the better (since the occasional “funny” lines from the stripper expert are pretty bad).
What say you?
*I used to play, and sing, the Refreshments' song "Broken Record" over and over in my car, and my good friend Jeff claimed that the song alone gave him a headache. He's a fool, it's a great song/album. Just thought I'd mention that.