APRIL 23, 2008
"Sci-Fi Original Movie" isn’t a television show, is it? Like, I understand why House is the exact same thing every week (albeit awesome), but I can’t quite understand why all of these Sci-Fi original monster movies follow such an exact template, especially considering it’s a story outline no one likes anyway. Sharing more than just a few plot elements with the abysmal Lake Placid 2, Loch Ness Terror (it aired as Beyond Loch Ness, as if that makes any goddamn difference at all) is not much better; inching above LP2 due to two whole good effects and a hotter girl.
And I want to make sure I am assigning blame correctly – was Emmerich’s Godzilla the first monster movie to introduce the concept of a bunch of baby (title character)s to terrorize our group while the big baddie just sort of took a smoke break or something? Like, I know in Jaws they didn’t have to fight baby sharks, and the truck in Duel didn’t pull over for a bit and let a Corsica chase Dennis Weaver for a bit. Because it’s really an awful concept, and never used for even the slightest good. Cloverfield is a minor exception – because they were wise to use baby Slushos in a scene in which the real monster could not have appeared, and then more or less forget about them. Needless to explain – when the baby “Nessies” show up in this movie, I more or less checked out.
It’s even more of a problem in these movies than in Emmerich’s, because at least his LOOKED good (ish). The VFX guys once again blow their wad in the first scene or two, so by the time the babies show up, the budget is clearly gone, and they look like shit, on top of not being particularly threatening to begin with due to their size in relation to their mother (who also looks fake). Like I said, there are a few good effects (a step up from the “good effect free” LP2), but none of them are in shots of the monster attacking (save for a few close-ups in which rubber monsters were clearly used).
A big part of why the effects look so bad is that no one bothers to have the fake things interact with the real world. The monster’s head comes up or goes back into the water, and no water is displaced. It walks around on loose soil and leaves no footprints. The design itself isn’t too bad, and the compositing is above average for the most part, but this giant goof renders their efforts more or less moot. Effects Without Effect – sounds like a bad emo band, no? On that note, the color timing is also terrible – the opening scene has about four different color temperatures. Whenever I go to a test screening, the crowd is reminded that the film isn’t finished and thus the color timing might be off – I have never once seen it as bad in an unfinished film as it is in this allegedly complete movie.
There’s also a problem of putting the monster in places where he couldn’t logically fit. In that same opening setpiece, he apparently swims up to a foot or so off the shore in order to retrieve an egg, but not as much as a scale on his back breaks the surface of the water. Later, he walks around the dense forest without knocking over any trees (or making any noise at all, for that matter – he’s a borderline slasher in these scenes). Come on now.
And back to LP2 – some of the plot similarities are a bit too close for comfort. Quick, which movie am I talking about – some kids, including a foreign girl, go camping in the woods, and two of them are killed almost immediately. The others, one of whom is the son of the sheriff and pines after a girl who’s with another guy (who is eventually killed without any real concern), narrowly escape a few times before finding refuge in a tree. Christ. Again, they should have just combined the best parts (script, cast, crew, effects) and made one decent (if generic) monster movie with a bigger than usual budget, rather than spread the already lacking funds across two movies that both suck.
This tickled me – it’s odd to see credits with abbreviations anyway in a feature film (way to rise above your television roots!), but why is this one girl given a bonus “E”?
The badass in the movie is kind of unique. He plays a rogue cryptozoologist who dresses like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western, but he’s also incredibly nice. He expresses genuine interest in our Jake Gylenhaal-y lead (he’s the sheriff’s son), what his plans are, what his family is like, etc. Also, he has a penchant for reminding people that he is a cryptozoologist – I think the word pops up more than most of the character’s names. Furthermore, he’s played by the guy from Sleepwalkers, which means he is the speaker of one of my favorite lines in all of movie history: “Stop looking at me... stop looking at me you FUCKING CAT!”
If you’ve never seen a Sci-Fi original “Monster in the water” movie, you could do worse, but not much better. The only benefit to seeing it on DVD (the making of featurette is abnormally dull) instead of on the network is the lack of commercials. Otherwise, if you missed it on Sci-Fi, just wait for the next one to air.
What say you?