Thursday, March 16, 2006

It Came from Netflix! Blue Demon

First, some caveats. As noted in the past, I watch every single DTV killer shark movie that comes into my purview, of which, a) there are a lot, and which b) almost uniformly suck. After a while, you start grading on a scale, but it should be emphasized that this is like a porno fan trying to explain to a regular film buff how some particular skin flick has better acting or a wittier script than the average example.

Second, the things I (very mildly) liked about Blue Demon are likely to be highly irritating to those who they hit wrong.

Those stipulations made, let’s go forth.

First, I liked the opening credits, largely because they featured an orchestral-sounding “mysteries of the deep” score rather than a John Williams’ Jaws-theme rip-off one. You take whatever minor pleasures and surprises you get from DTV killer shark movies, because those are the only ones you are likely to be presented with, assuming you get any at all.

Things take a more ominous turn, however, with an opening scene that seems even more dogmatically a Jaws -ish than usual, which is saying something. However, there is eventually a minor twist of sorts, and I had to take some satisfaction from that, however modest. Which tells you something about what the average DTV killer shark movie is like.

Soon we are completely ripping off Deep Blue Sea, which is not a good sign. Marla and Nathan Collins are scientists on the brink of a divorce which we can secretly tell neither really wants—not exactly a fresh set-up, especially for a UFO (the company, not the spaceship) film—who are working on a government project to breed super-sharks to act as anti-terrorist security for our ports and such.

Their comic relief pushy boss is played by Danny Woodburn, the dwarf guy who was Kramer’s friend on Seinfeld. Their ‘humorous’ interplay isn’t quite as odious as I expected, although that’s not saying much, and amazingly I did actually chuckle out loud at least one time, as Woodburn interacted with a portrait on his wall. Small blessings. (And no, that’s not a dwarf joke.)

Things take either a turn for the better or the worse with the arrival of the military officer in charge of the secret project, General Remora (!). At this point the film points moving in a more comic direction, although not in an Airplane! sort of way or anything. Instead, the movie just seems to become aware of how ridiculous it is, and runs with it.

As you might guess from Remora’s name, he’s a fully comic figure in the mold of General Jack D. Ripper of Dr. Strangelove, albeit obviously nowhere near as good of one. Still, as played by with obvious relish by Jeff Fahey, he’s still pretty funny, or so I thought, anyway. Fahey has suffered a severe career slide, and now appears in a lot of garbage. Here, however, he is patently enjoying the opportunity to talk like Clint Eastwood and chew a big stogie, not to mention the scenery. Both his entrance and his eventual exit are overtly played for comedy, and I have to admit, I laughed each time. Mileage varies, of course, especially with humor.

Not to blow anyone’s mind, but Ramora proves to be the villain of the piece (oops, sorry). That’s a cliché you’ll see in a zillion of these, but here at least they’re playing it tongue-in-cheek. Amazingly, his Insane Military Guy’s obligatory speech about how he’s about to kill hundreds of Americans because he’s a patriot (a word that for some reason screenwriters generally seem to assume carries sinister implications), blah blah, is the sort of thing that’s still being played straight in a gazillion movies. See, for example, Martin Sheen in Storm Tracker, or, well, a million other movies. Here, however, Fahey’s thoroughly over-the-top performance acknowledges who stupid and tired this material is, and I kind of enjoyed that.

The shark action is very tame, which again is going to be a problem for many. After a few early attacks, the sharks hardly kill anyone. They are (surprise) represented with CGI and a few very cheap-looking prop fins, although I was longing for a prop head to pop up every one in a while. Instead, on the few occasions with the sharks breach the water, extremely bad CCI is employed. Underwater they don’t look that bad, but obviously they just never interact with the cast because of this. Still, there isn’t a really good shark scene in the movie, although there are a few bits of marginal suspense early on.

In the end, Blue Demon is a laid-back, innocuous and intermittently amusing killer shark movie with a degree of violence that would make it fit for broadcast on the PAX Network. (This might be a particularly problem for the causual renter, who may well be taken in by the DVD box art, which obviously is trying to make people think of Open Water.) If only because it was different from most of these things, I kind of enjoyed it. However, I can’t say how someone’s whose expectations are more orthodox would take it. “Better than Raging Sharks!” isn’t exactly a glowing review, but there you go.

Thanks (I guess) to Thanoseid for pointing out that this one was even out there.


At 8:01 AM, Blogger thanoseid said...

Whew! I was afraid you'd hate the movie and, by extension, me.

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous KurtVon said...

"who are working on a government project to breed super-sharks to act as anti-terrorist security"

Just once I'd love to see a movie point out just how incredibly stupid this idea is. How exactly are terrorists going to be thwarted by super-intelligent sharks?

"Do you know," asked Gen. Shearz angrily, "how many terrorists sneak into this country by swimming to a secluded beach with explosives strapped to their back?"

"N-no, sir."

"Not a damn one. Who's the idiot who authorized this research?"

At 9:25 AM, Blogger thanoseid said...

But what about when the terrorists start training seals to carry bombs? At least we'll be ready for that.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Yeah, there was a scene with an animation of a boat trailing explosives under the water...

It wasn't entirely convincing.

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous fs said...

"because he’s a patriot (a word that for some reason screenwriters generally seem to assume carries sinister implications)"

Perhaps because people who make a big deal of pointing out how patriotic they are have often confused patriotism with jingoism?


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