FEBRUARY 1, 2011
Sometimes I consider adding a new genre tag: “Nonsense”, for movies that aren’t exactly “Crap”, but are in no way worth your time due to a completely inane script. And if I did, Sea Of Fear would probably be the example I’d point to most often when someone asked me to explain the tag. Because it’s well shot and has a fun, droll performance by Edward Albert, making it better than the average Crap entry, but my god, what a horribly stupid movie.
Right off the bat I knew this was going to be a mess, because while I knew it was a slasher movie on a boat, I didn’t know how SMALL the boat would be. It’s roughly the size of the Orca from Jaws, but with 7-8 people on board. So not only is it going to be difficult to split our characters up properly (unlike say, Jason Takes Manhattan, which for all its faults at least used a giant ship that the kids could easily be isolated on), but it also makes the central mystery even less interesting. Obviously the killer can’t slash away with others nearby, so he/she needs to wait until someone is off on their own (sitting on the stern, for example), which usually requires showing where the other folks are in the meantime. After two kills there’s only two possibilities for the killer’s identity, a problem made worse by the fact that ALL of the characters are dull, one-dimensional morons.
Writer/director Andrew Schuth then makes matters worse with the weakest and unexciting climax in slasher movie history, featuring the killer and the final victim just sort of wandering around the deck of the boat talking to each other; the victim doesn’t seem afraid and the killer doesn’t seem particularly interested in killing her. They just talk and talk (and both are fairly shitty actors), explaining potential plot holes and talking about pirates... and then they start making out. Yes, it seems the “final girl” actually hired this guy to kill everyone. I’ve already forgotten why they had to keep the act up when no one was around, but I’m sure it was just as stupid.
And then, another, even stupider twist! After she turns on the “killer” and smothers him (more on that in a bit), we find out that one of the victims wasn’t really dead, and the whole thing was actually a big birthday present for her? The captain was an actor, and the pirates were helping him fake his death... it’s all needlessly complicated and requires far too much planning on their parts to work, which is the type of thing I always hate. This shit makes Roman Bridger’s 5 year plan to ruin Sidney’s life look logical. A movie like Wild Things (which also revealed its final twist on a boat) can get away with these ridiculous double crosses/triple twists, because the movie as a whole was like a full season of a sleazy soap opera condensed into two hours.
Back to the smothering thing. Early on, the characters all explain their greatest fears, which are quite astonishingly (read: impossibly) almost all related to the ocean: being eaten by sharks, drowning, being lost at sea, getting fish hooked, etc. Thus of course, this is how every character dies (nice of the shark to cooperate with this plan – did they hire him too?). The smothering thing is about the only non-nautical related issue, unless you count the girl who fears “being murdered” the most, which is laughably generic enough to fit. I must say, the killer really lucked out with this crew – what if one of them feared spiders or scarecrows or airplanes? Or did he realize his fortune after they explained their fears? “Hey, I have all this stuff at my disposal! I can make this wonderfully ironic!”
Well, to be fair it’s a good thing that they explained how everyone would die right away, because sometimes it’s too dark to see much of anything (the PG-13 rating also prevents much in the way of blood). The shark kill in particular is a pinnacle of “What the fuck is happening” cinema, with the dark footage added to useless slo-mo shots and the obvious fact that the shark is not with the actor, creating a mini-sequence in which almost nothing is discernible. Well done! Hilariously, the girl who fears being murdered probably wouldn’t have been scared by her own death, a clunky, single shot sequence of her being stabbed from behind, a scene we watch “through” the sail. Riveting.
But like I said, Albert is a delight. The reveal that his character was a bad actor just makes his performance all the more enjoyable, and he provides the most entertaining moment in the film when he sings a pirate shanty. Sadly he’s also the last to die (not counting the killer), so in order to enjoy his performance you have to watch a good chunk of the movie, which is not recommended.
What say you?