AUGUST 8, 2009
Sometimes I wish I could take a week off of HMAD* and focus on a few studies/experiments I would like to conduct. For example, why was I more or less entertained by Sea Beast (aka Troglodyte), when I was bored to tears by every minute of Loch Ness Terror, which is for all intents and purposes the same goddamn movie (it’s even by the same writer/director, which I didn’t even realize until later)? It would take back to back viewings, research, extensive note taking, etc... and I just don’t have time for that sort of thing.
So I have to go by my ever worthless memory to try to justify why, if asked, I would tell someone that Sea Beast is pretty good, after trashing so many similar films. For starters, I believe this film has the best CGI of the lot of them; at times it even exceeds the quality of theatrical films like Van Helsing. The compositing is good, the design/animation is even better, and apart from some weightlessness, I actually believed that the monsters were part of the scene. The scale even seems correct, something NONE of these movies ever seem to get right.
And yes, I said monsters, plural. Despite the singular title, there are actually like a dozen of the damn things in the movie; the giant one and several baby sized ones. Not only does this mean more action than usual (as the big one can be attacking at the same time as the smaller ones are somewhere else), but it also allows for some variety, a la Jurassic Park. The big one can stick to exterior locales; the tiny ones can get through an air vent and attack someone in a theoretically “safe” storage closet. Plus, it actually makes the decent FX all the more impressive, as there are more shots for the VFX guys to work on.
Another thing I liked about the movie was the complete lack of FBI warnings and studio logos. You hit play movie, and BAM! You’re on a boat (motherfucker don’t you ever forget) and the monster is seconds away from attacking. In fact, my biggest complaint about the film (besides the sort of “goes without saying” that it’s generic and largely forgettable - I expect nothing more from these things) is that it reveals the monster way too early - in this first scene in fact. Before long, a guy is being pulled off into the water by an unseen monster... but then we see it. I like a bit of mystery to these things, but director Paul Ziller doesn’t allow any such suspense.
Also, no one seems really freaked out by the damn thing. A giant sea monster that can walk on land, turn invisible, and spit paralyzing venom at you would freak me right the fuck out, but these folks are like “Huh, I wonder what that is.” One guy is so nonchalant about it that I momentarily thought that he couldn’t see it in its camouflaged state, and that the shiny outline we could see was just for viewer benefit (sort of like when you can see Chevy Chase in Memoirs of an Invisible Man and just have to remember that no one else can). It reminded me of my idea to have an ID4/Mars Attacks type alien invasion film, except set in South Boston, where the colorful (read: impulsively violent and angry) residents would just be like “Ah, faaack you!” and hurl their beer cans and such at the spaceships and generally consider it yet another annoyance of living in New England.
One other, smaller complaint is that too much of it is land-based. I know filming on water is more expensive and time-consuming, which would be a giant headache for a small production (and if more was on boats, then the FX budget would probably suffer), but since the film’s first 15 minutes are almost a scene for scene remake of Perfect Storm (with some Armageddon tossed in for good measure), I was hoping for at least a big water-based, Jaws-type ending. Corin Nemec (who looks nothing at all like a grizzled sea captain) even has the whole “We’re going back out!” scene after coming back with an underwhelming catch, but he never actually does. Bummer.
If you were wondering, the Armageddon thing stems from the fact that one of the guys on Nemec’s crew has been secretly dating his daughter, and Nemec would not approve of her dating a fisherman because it’s so dangerous. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really have the same emotional weight as Armageddon’s; in fact, Nemec never really confronts the guy about it; they only share a single scene together after this, and it’s about the monster, not the girl. The ending is kind of harsh though, and if Willis and Affleck were playing the roles here... let’s just say the ending wouldn’t make me cry.
(What I’m saying is Nemec lives and the boyfriend is brutally and un-heroically killed).
Like the similarly “Yeah it’s meh but the good kind of meh” Hydra, Sea Beast has no extra features whatsoever. I’m not sure why these things never have commentaries - but given the fact that Ziller was essentially remaking his own movie (or, maybe Loch Ness was a remake of this one - this comes first on IMDb but was only recently released on DVD) it would have been interesting to hear his perspective on the matter.
What say you?
*I wanted to finish reading Clive Barker’s “Coldheart Canyon” last May, so I stopped watching Daily Show/Colbert “for a week” so I could have that extra time to finish it. I finished the book, but have not yet resumed watching Daily Show/Colbert. I also quit Oblivion “for a week” so I could have time to transcribe Comic Con interviews... in 2007, and haven't touched it since.