JANUARY 15, 2011
All I ask from my Maneater movies is that someone dies every 15 minutes, preferably at the hands (paws, claws, tentacles) of a giant monster or mutated animal of some sort. But Eye Of The Beast simply doesn't deliver, saving nearly all of its giant squid action for the film's climax, with only TWO brief attacks in the first 70 minutes. Christ, even Jaws had more action in its first two acts, and that's a legitimately great movie! The Maneater series should be concerned with quantity over quality, since they can't deliver on the latter on their budgets or affordable talent pool.
Hence why this movie has James Van Der Beek in the Richard Dreyfuss role. Nothing against the Beek - I was an avowed fan of the Creek and I enjoyed his work in The Plague. But the script gives him almost nothing to do beyond look at monitors and listen to other people talk, which is kind of shitty for a hero. It's not even clear if he wants to kill the thing or bring it back to be studied - it seems his primary motivation is looking good to the love interest, Sheriff Tomas, who claims to have seen the monster when she was a little girl and has been ridiculed ever since (much like Poltergeist III, I am again baffled by this - hot girl claims to see monsters/ghosts/whatever - I'm even MORE interested in her!).
So is there a Quint? You bet! Plague co-star Arne MacPherson is of course a total asshole to our heroes at first, but grows to respect them after realizing the Beek wants to nail Tomas. Seriously. They "bond" over the Beek smiling after he watches her leave the room. It's actually kind of creepy. Anyway, he's the best thing about the movie, because he gets attacked while sitting on a dock with his girlfriend, which is why he finally stops mocking the others and joins the cause to find it. And he survives, so he's got one up on Quint.
But it's just such a snoozer. There's a rival group of fisherman, and most of the movie is about the two groups claiming that the other group is responsible for the lack of fish lately. And the Beek's got some parental issues, and Tomas isn't experienced as a cop (the sheriff recently died and she just took over), and there are a trio of all-but-anonymous women who get a lengthy scene in a bar that I couldn't even begin to understand what purpose it serves in this giant squid movie; one of them we never even see again. It's a full 57 minutes into the movie before MacPherson's character gets attacked, the 2nd sighting of the thing in the movie after the obligatory opening scene, which features two young lovers getting attacked in the middle of the night (wonder where they got the inspiration for that?).
But that one doesn't really count, because it seems largely CGI and doesn't have a money shot. To give the movie some credit, the squid is mostly depicted via puppet or animatronic tentacles, with CGI limited to the blood spray (understandable, but still annoying) and the one shot of the whole monster that we ever see. But when it's a tentacle thrashing around or wrapping itself around folks (or tearing a dude's face off - yes!), it's either a real prop or the best CGI I've ever seen in one of these things (then again, Netflix's transfer wasn't particularly good, so perhaps the tell-tale signs of CGI were being obscured by low-res imagery). So props for that.
There's also a good example of someone being interrupted before getting to a juicy part of whatever story they are telling at an early point of the movie. I notice in a lot of movies, folks will be telling a story, and right before they get to the important part, they'll be interrupted by a phone call or someone knocking on the door, allowing the writer to reveal this big secret later in the movie. Here, Dawson is about to explain to his lady friend why he had some trouble at his job, when he sees a corpse of someone that got attacked (off-screen). Since they were walking along the beach looking for this person, it makes sense that she'd suddenly lose interest in the answer to her question (and so will we, since a dead body is vastly more interesting than whatever sort of "trouble" a marine biologist can possibly get into on the job. Unless he fucked a fish or something). See the movie The Innocents for a really obnoxious example (a couple of them, actually) of interrupted-exposition writing.
And the climax is actually a lot of fun, since a boat gets destroyed, the squid attacks frequently, and it gets killed by an electric javelin being tossed into its eye. Not too bad. If you were flipping channels and the 20 minute finale was just starting, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was an above average Syfy monster movie. But when you're watching the whole thing... it's almost impossible to be invested enough into the movie's generic story and stock characters to actually care about anything that happens until that point. Too little, too late.
What say you?