You know, back in the radioactive creature phase of the ’50s, the movies were charming. Sure, they were of monumental ineptitude, but they were innocent, and in some cases, the low budget schlockers did attempt to mimic the major studio releases like Them, a giant ant classic that seriously needs a Blu-ray release.
Now, that’s all changed. SyFy has single handedly destroyed whatever legitimate sensibility the creature feature had going for it. Now you’re thinking, “but monster movies are supposed to be stupid because they’re not real!” Partially right, yet we live in a country where movie watchers flock to the theaters to see giant talking robots from space and men in red iron suits shoot lasers from their hands.
In other words, while they may not be taken seriously, there was a shred of movie credibility in there. Even Roger Corman produced some good low budget stuff like Attack of the Crab Monsters. Now, it’s all in the name: Sharktopus. Yes, the bane of every auto-correcting spell checker ever, Sharktopus is exactly what the title says it is: the unholy offspring of Eric Robert’s DNA experiments gone awry, half shark, half octopus.
These SyFy Channel clunkers shock based on sheer ineptitude, and their ability to initiate a laugh or two by casting some extras with zero acting cred. It is funny, especially the father attempting to recreate the infamous, “Oh my god!” line from Troll 2. Saddled between that is a mixture of plastic effects, deadpan dialogue, and zero attempt at actual horror.
Maybe that’s it. Those ’50s cheapies at least had a goal to put butts in the seats by promising some chills, a rubber crab monster for instance. Stuff like Sharktopus doesn’t even try, gunning right for the schlock because it takes zero imagination past designing a shark/octopus hybrid. The first kill is barely a few minutes in, catering to an audience that doesn’t think long enough to realize they have an attention span.
It’s frustrating because there is no attempt to showcase talent. Ed Wood clunkers at least had someone behind them who thought he knew what he was doing. Saying it’s just cheesy schlock is letting this stuff off too easy. Why try at all if the audience is going to accept whatever you put on screen?
Sharktopus seems to have been shot on a little bit of everything. There’s definitely some film, some HD digital, some SD digital, 16mm, and probably anything else they had lying around. There is no consistency here, the completely out of whack focus changing from shot to shot, or even between edits. Stating it’s sharp or soft doesn’t make for an adequate description because it’s all over the place.
That also means the grain structure fluctuates wildly, and the digital noise is a constant battle. For every clean, richly textured digital shot, there’s another that is so compressed, it’s barely watchable. Never mind the scenes where it looks like the lens wasn’t even cleaned off before filming. Those sequences taken with an actual physical medium push the AVC encode to its limits, and the transition doesn’t always go smoothly.
Even the color wanders around at will. Split screens as Eric Roberts chats with his on-screen daughter are completely mistimed. Roberts exists in a world of exaggerated teal skies, his daughter pale and gray. Beach sequences are flushed with color, nearly to the point of a total bleed. The island photography is loaded with brightly colored beach wear and bronzed flesh tones.
Black levels are fine, if a bit crushy (?) in the early going. Contrast is overly bright due to the digital harshness, and there’s even the occasional sign of edge enhancement on some of the harshest edges. Moving back to the technical issues, you can spot a little banding here and there, especially underwater or in straight digital effect shots.
And yes, you just read the most technical assessment of Sharktopus anywhere on the web. Congratulations?
As if you couldn’t already tell how cheap this thing is, listen to the dialogue. It seems Eric Roberts either never came back to finish ADR or simply didn’t perform any at all. This TrueHD mix can do nothing to block out background noise that dominates some lines. Like the video, no blanket statements apply.
The surrounds serve to capture all of the fleeing crowds who are escaping the wrath of the title creature, and they do that well. It’s not the most impressive effect ever, although it is serviceable to get a mention here. Beaches capture the water pushing onto shore in the fronts as well as the rears. Even the generic, lazy roar given off by Sharktopus is split into the stereos in a few spots.
There’s not much going on in the low-end here. A meager explosion sounds just as bad as it looks in terms of effects. Generic music culled from any one of SyFy’s stock features doesn’t push low much either.
Producers Roger and Julie Corman provide a commentary, surprisingly detailed considering the subject matter. There’s a trailer here too.
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