Fantastic Junkfood Cinema: Sharktopus
Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; and a very special welcome back to me. I have returned, at least for this week. As I am currently ensconced in the trenches of Fantastic Fest, and doing my best to avoid getting into a broken bottle fight with Nacho Vigalando, it’s been awhile since I have helmed this beloved column of mine. For those unfamiliar with this feature, every week I tend the fields of schlock and harvest an especially bad movie over which I fawn while you sit amazed at my lack of taste. To make matters worse, I pair each film with a disgustingly delicious snack food item to emphasize the so-good-it’ll-make-you-obese nature of these films.
So Fantastic Fest, in its infinite wisdom, provided the perfect fodder for this week’s Junkfood Cinema with the unholy creation that is Sharktopus. Genetic biologists manufacture a hilariously unnatural combination of shark and octopus in an effort get a few more people to pay attention to the Syfy Channel. Things go wrong, unimportant lives are lost, everyone goes home happy…except the aforementioned dead folks.
What Makes It Bad?
Really guys? Do I even need this section for this week’s entry? Do I actually need to communicate the sundry failures of Sharktopus? Does the title not denote the quality enough that you can imagine how terrible this film is? Well in an effort to avoid being accused of shirking my duties, I will deconstruct the few things here and there that may or may not prevent Sharktopus from winning any best picture awards. Much like any film commissioned by the Syfy channel, Sharktopus exists because of its pitch. Some almost perpetually stoned mid-level programming director was under the gun to come up with Syfy’s next movie and opted, the night before, for listening to Rush and playing Halo to doing his job. Luckily, just before the big meeting, this pseudo-executive noticed a year’s worth of National Geographic serving in the stead of a broken desk leg, threw them all into the air, and adopted his pitch based on the animals occupying the covers of the nearest two issues to land face up.
There is nothing good about Sharktopus. It is every bit the Syfy channel original film that you would expect and there is a reason why these films don’t typically meet my very strict criteria for this column. These are the lowest of lowest common denominator in the realm of direct-to-video garbage. If any of these films have ever made a dime, it’s because they spend the entirety of the $16 marketing budget on constructing a DVD cover that falsely promises excitement and stellar monster design. The acting is a mixed bag of crap nuts, the effects are laughable at best, and the story is about as cohesive as a handful of melted icecream. I don’t know if I preferred the woman who sees a shark headed for her best friend and delivers her line “oh my God” with the same inflection as one would say “oh, a frog” or the fact that the sharktopus itself changed sizes from scene to scene because no one bothered with scale or perspective.
The thing that really bugs me about Sharktopus is the plot elements that are so laden with stupidity that they just collectively joined the Tea Party. First of all, why the blue hell does combining a shark with an octopus give the resulting beast the ability to survive on land? What moron thought this one up and could I please direct them to any 2nd grade science book to illustrate (literally with pictures) why this makes no goddamn sense? The result of cross-breeding two marine lifeforms suddenly having the ability to do what neither component of that hybrid can is just shy of chopping up an apple and a pear in a bowl and expecting to dine on chicken wings. By that rationale, I plan on making a film called Jackalraffe about a combination jackal and giraffe…that can fly! Also, I love that our hero – who’s as buff as a Ken doll with half the intelligence – insists on keeping his gun when his girl suggests he drop it as he’s chasing the still inexplicably land-mobile sharktopus only to finally reach his destination to remark, “I’m out of ammo.” Bear in mind he hasn’t fired the gun in the interim which means he was chasing down sharktopus with an empty riffle. Good plan doofus!
Why I Love It!
There is really only one reason this film would even come close to being worth watching, and that reason is Roger Corman; producer of Sharktopus. Roger was at the festival to receive a lifetime achievement award for his decades-long service to b-movies. This column would not exist if not for Roger and his tireless commitment to crafting low-budget, unfettered entertainment and inspiring generations of filmmakers; giving many of them their starts. So I don’t care if it was for Syfy, Lifetime, or the Food Network. If Roger Corman produces a new film that plays in a theater in my town, rest assured I will see it.
Honestly, Sharktopus offers far more ironic laughs and despite-itself watchability than anything I’ve seen from Syfy. There are some highly entertaining kills in the film that almost make up for the fact that many of the deaths are grossly inferior to those in Piranha; a film made in 1978 with no benefit of the bullshit CGI this film leans on like it’s missing a leg. If this film has taught me anything, it’s that spring break thrill-seeking will get you killed…by sharktopus. Homeboy chomps on both a bungee jumper and a guy on a zipline which only further supports the idea that Boggle is an entirely acceptable extreme sport. What is really oddly funny to me is that someone actually took the time to add an octopus beak in the middle of sharktopus’ stomach that they then never mention or do anything with. I suppose they were just shooting for biological authenticity for their land-walking mutant offspring of aquatic creatures.
Junkfood Pairing: Crownie
While not its official name, a crownie is the result of crossing a cookie with a brownie in an effort to make you two separate kinds of fat. Much in the same way that sharktopus is a combo of two great individual sea creatures, the crownie is an unholy amalgamation of two deserts that are in-and-of-themselves wonderful. When you put these two powerhouses of late night snacking together, you might as well eat them two at a time. This of course is fine since the baking process actually radiates gamma rays that will cause a beak to grow on your chest giving you two mouths with which to enjoy.
Sharktopus poster created by Stephen Taubman.