monster movies

KONG: SKULL ISLAND

2017 – A group of scientists and soldiers launch an expedition to an uncharted island and are quickly beset by its monstrous inhabitants and its legendary protector, Kong.

You’ll be relieved to know that this movie is not a remake of the original 1933 King Kong (or of the 1976 remake, OR of the execrable 2005 Peter Jackson remake). It’s actually more akin to the Faro Island sequences from Toho’s 1962 King Kong vs. Godzilla.

Yes, it’s a reboot, which in 2017 means that the studio is trying to do the Marvel thing and create yet another multi-movie “shared universe” (alongside the 2014 American Godzilla [not to be confused with the 1998 American Godzilla {which itself was a reboot of the 1954 Toho Godzilla (which was rebooted with 1984’s The Return of Godzilla [and subsequently rebooted again in Godzilla 2000])}]).

Instead of having an obsessed director helm the expedition, Skull Island gives us obsessed scientist Bill Randa (John Goodman). He recruits tracking specialist James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), requisite “girl power” photographer Mason Weaver (the willowy-yet-surprisingly-large-breasted Brie Larson) and Samuel L. Jackson-like angry black army guy Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). There are about a billion other characters, but rest assured that every ethnic group is solidly represented.

The trip to Skull Island turns out to be somewhat more challenging than initially believed, and our protagonists have to confront every danger that this prehistoric land has to offer in order to make it back to civilization. If you’ve seen a Kong movie before, you’ll know that these dangers have to include land and air dinosaurs, enigmatic natives, giant bugs, and a huge octopus / squid.

One of the best things about this movie is that it wastes very little time getting to the Kong-induced mayhem. There are a few split-second attempts at characterization, but the filmmakers knew that people come to a monster movie for the monsters. And Kong is clearly a monster this time around – hundreds of feet tall, like the Toho version, and walking mostly upright, like the 1933 version.

As you might expect from a 2-hour film, things sag a bit toward the middle despite the addition of zany castaway character Marlow (John C. Reilly). The film’s lack of character development becomes a real liability here, because suddenly all these people – most of whose names I couldn’t remember – are supposed to be very important to us. But I didn’t particularly care about any of Samuel L. Jackson’s soldiers, or the whiny scientists, or Hiddleston’s nearly useless tracker character.

Fortunately, the climax more than makes up for these minor deficiencies. Compared to other cinematic monsters, it’s pretty rare to see King Kong matched up against an opponent who is his equal in size and strength; Skull Island gives us a fantastic showdown that makes the most of not only Kong, but of the island terrain as well.

The human acting is about what you’d expect from a movie like this. And unfortunately I just can’t take John Goodman seriously anymore (when he talks, all I can think of is Dunkin’ Donuts). Kong moves about with appropriate majesty and savagery, but similar to his 2005 incarnation, the filmmakers try to do a little too much with his face. He stares wistfully at the moon, for instance, and dabbles with his own reflection in the water.

That is not the essence of King Kong. In the 1933 version, we have no doubt that Kong is an animal – a pretty intelligent one, but still just a big gorilla who only spares the heroine because, like his native worshipers, he’s never see a blonde woman before. In the 1933 version, the wilderness beyond the natives’ wall was a land of danger, with Kong being the biggest danger of all. Here, the natives build their wall to keep out the other monsters, and Kong is some kind of spiritual protector. When you remove that fear, the King loses something.

The CGI creatures are also not as effective as the 1933 stop-motion (or even the 1976 guy-in-a-suit). The human eye can easily tell that Kong and the other monsters are simply not real – there is no way a computer image can convey real size and scale. Plus, it doesn’t help that Kong is able to sneak up on people multiple times, without so much as a tremor in the ground to indicate his approach.

Still, these are my own quibbles. Kong: Skull Island gives the viewer ample monster mayhem for his money, delivering a viewing experience that, while it falls far short of the original, still out-does the Peter Jackson version by a wide margin. This is the kind of movie that must be seen in a theater. My advice is to do so.

3-HEADED SHARK ATTACK

3-Headed Shark Attack Poster

2015 – Do-gooder environmentalists team up with partying teens, former wrestlers, and Danny Trejo to defeat one of cinema’s most impractical monsters.

Contains spoilers

If you’ve seen 2-Headed Shark Attack, this movie is even worse. Light on the gore but heavy on the (maybe artificial) boobs, 3-Headed Shark Attack is a directionless, at times tedious affair. It’s as though the film’s titular menace devoured three movies, and this one is the half-digested dump it took afterward.

We open with a bunch of teens partying on an island-type landmass. A couple of them make out very unenthusiastically in a tent. Time Until Boobs: 1 minute 41 seconds

A nerdy hipster suggests, “I’ve got an idea: how about some day-time skinny-dipping?” A busty, possibly transsexual blonde agrees to do so if the hipster can swim “out to that buoy and back.” He only swims out to it but (s)he strips down anyway, giving us TWO pairs of breasts in the first three minutes of the movie. The shark (Time Until Monster: 2 minutes 34 seconds) then appears in approximately 2 feet of water and devours her/him. In total, it dispatches 8 people in the first 5 minutes!

Seems legit.

Seems legit.

Next we meet Professor Laura Thomas (Jena Sims), who works at the island research station “Persephone” studying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. One can only assume the station was named after the Greek Princess of the Underworld, which is an odd choice. Shouldn’t it be “Poseidon”? Prof. Thomas quickly strips down, giving us THREE pairs of breasts in the first seven minutes. Tragically, the movie just can’t maintain this breakneck pace, and we’re in a boob-less wasteland from here on out. Dr. Ted Nelson (Jaason Simmons, whose name I assumed was a typo) informs her that their new intern Maggie (Karrueche Tran, whose name I assumed was a sneeze) has arrived. Here’s the above-ground entrance to the underwater research station:

3-Headed Shark Attack station above

And here’s the station itself:

3-Headed Shark Attack station below

HOW is one structure possibly connected to the other? The hallways of the Persephone look suspiciously like the inside of any generic office building… and would an underwater facility really have drop-tile ceilings and cinder block walls? Maggie gets snubbed by the ill-mannered Dr. Leonard – and I don’t want to give anything away, but if you suspect that this minor social faux pas will result in a hilariously humiliating death for Leonard… you may just be right. New characters arrive in the form of four do-gooders from “Earth Pact,” who are all dressed like filthy bums. Look, I know they’re humble eco-warriors, but wouldn’t they have at least changed their shirts before the tour?

Dress for the job (in waste management) you want, not the job you have.

Dress for the job [in waste management] you want, not the job you have.

Meet Ryan (Scott Reynolds), Alison (Dawn Hamil), Omar (Rico Ball), and Greg (Brad Mills), who used to date Maggie in college before he dropped out. Prof. Thomas informs them that the station is located “half a mile under the ocean” (!!!), features a staff of 45 top scientists, and is full of all sorts of high-tech gadgetry. Like this:

SCIENCE!

SCIENCE!

Note how this gentleman is staring at his photocopies in confusion, as though he doesn’t quite trust the magic box that somehow conjured them out of thin air. The sign on the wall behind him says “DO NOT SHUT THIS DOOR,” and it’s either posted on a 1.) a wall or 2.) a closed door, so these can’t be the absolute brightest minds out there. In quick succession, we learn that 1.) pollution levels in the patch are elevated, 2.) the mutated research critters are acting up, and 3.) something big and fast-moving is approaching. Surely all these things can’t be connected, though. Right? That would just be silly.

Meanwhile Brad, the last member of the Earth Pact group (who is wearing THE most stained thermal shirt I’ve ever seen) spots a shadow in the water and blunders in. The shark, which is many times too large to hide in knee-deep water, launches itself into the air and devours him, presumably burrowing into the sand to escape afterward.

Seems... legit.

Seems… legit?

Remember that grumpy Dr. Leonard from earlier? Well, he’s on the shitter! HA! Here it comes, folks, he’s gonna get it! For some reason he can’t flush, so he stands up WITHOUT WIPING and surprise, the shark busts up through the floor and consumes him. Time Until Black Guy Death: 21:59. This prompts the following exchange between Prof. Thomas and her henchman Steve:

Steve: “We’ve initiated Stage 1 Security protocol.”

Prof. Thomas: “We need to move on to Stage 2, someone’s just died.”

So this station has two alert levels: one for when no one has died, and one for when someone has died. Good to know. The shark proceeds to attack the structure. Cut to a guy working at his desk. He stands up and is suddenly blasted through a cardboard wall by an explosion. What exploded?!? His laptop? Note the random nonsense writing on the yellow paper tacked to the wall.

3-Headed Shark Attack wall

A moment later the entire station explodes, killing the rest of the vaunted 45 research staff. Since they’re “cut off” from their normal escape craft (why?) and the island is sinking (WHY?), the group needs to reach the Earth Pact boat. Greg declares he’ll swim out to it and bring it closer. Omar objects, but Greg tells him to shut up and dives into the water. He makes it, but whoops! He doesn’t know how to start the boat. “That’s what I was talking about,” Omar opines. “I should have said something,” Ryan agrees. YA THINK? Maybe they should have sketched this thing out a little more in-depth. So Ryan runs into the water. Then Alison panics and dives in. Omar yells, “You’re not going out there alone,” and pursues her. These characters seem compelled to hurl themselves directly into the most dangerous environment possible.

The shark catches on to their clever “everyone get into the water” ploy and pursues them. “Pick it up!” Dr. Nelson yells, like they’re kids and he’s a middle school gym teacher. Omar gets eaten. THEN they realize that they can’t get the boat close enough to pick up the rest of the group. This was not the world’s best-conceived plan. So then Maggie states that SHE’LL run into the water to “distract” the shark, but Prof. Thomas one-ups her and sacrifices herself to the beast.

At this point, the movie could have been over. The body count is over 50, the research station that seemed so central to the plot is gone, and the cast has been whittled down to a few survivors. Unfortunately, we’re only a half hour in! That’s my real problem with 3-Headed Shark Attack – it’s constantly changing rails. Who are the heroes? Was it Prof. Thomas? Is it the tragically uninteresting duo of Greg and Maggie? Is it Max Burns (Danny Trejo) who hasn’t even appeared yet and spends most of the movie tooling around aimlessly in his boat? Is it Stanley (Rob Van Dam), who we encounter on the nearby “booze cruise” that looks suspiciously like an old-fashioned Mississippi River steam boat?

3-Headed Shark Attack steam boat

A sea-going vessel if I’ve ever seen one.

Yep, that’s right – after the whole movie being about scientists at a research station, it abruptly shifts focus to a bunch of unidentified teens on a party ship! It’s like starting a completely different movie: we meet the amply-racked Rosemarie (Brianna Ferris) and her fiancee, but it’s impossible to tell who she is or why we should care about her. There are 20 or 30 other people on the boat, but most of them seem to vanish into thin air. Did the shark eat them? Did they drown? Does the ship sink? There’s no way to tell.

The only memorable moment in this whole booze cruise sub-plot is when the shark attacks and the captain announces they don’t have any life rafts. “Sorry guys,” he mumbles, and, I mean, life rafts would have been nice, but at least he offered a sincere apology. You can’t be angry at the poor schlub. In the end, the script executes the most efficient clean-up I’ve encountered: the characters board two new boats. Boat 2 contains all the random characters we don’t care about, and Boat 1’s passengers are Maggie, Greg, and Stanley. Guess which one is destroyed by the shark moments later?

Our heroes finally decide they’ll lure the shark back into the garbage patch, where it will no doubt go insane and kill itself (?). It bites off Stanley’s hand:3-Headed Shark Attack Stanley

Luckily, it appears to regenerate moments later:

3-Headed Shark Attack Stanley handIt’s a mess. Despite featuring 70 – 80 deaths (conservative estimate), 3-Headed Shark Attack never gives us time to get comfortable with the story or grow attached to the characters. There are too many people, too much mayhem, and way too many “camera halfway in the water while someone swims” shots. It’s short enough to be worth a watch, but it lacks the meat to become a true classic.

AGE OF DINOSAURS

2013 – Think Jurassic Park, but with… um… Well, no. It’s basically Jurassic Park.

A blatant rip-off of a movie from 1993, and featuring a cast that would make 1983 green with envy, Age of Dinosaurs is a perfect way to kill a lazy Saturday afternoon. This, my friends, is a must-see bad movie. I wanted to do a scene-by-scene breakdown, but you really need to enjoy it for yourself. I’ll just hit the highlights.

CAST

Our hero is firefighter Gabe Jacobs, played by a haggard-AF-looking Treat Williams:

Damn.

Damn.

Gabe is a firefighter. In the universe of this movie, that means flashing his ID and declaring, “I’m LAFD” grants him instant access to the highest levels of city government. At the start of the day nobody has a clue who he is; by the afternoon, he’s on a first-name basis with the Chief of Police and cops are randomly tossing him shotguns. His daughter is Jade Jacobs (Jillian Rose Reed), who is of college age but doesn’t know what “Jurassic” means (she thinks it’s the name of a vegan restaurant). She’s the “always on her cell phone” type. Gabe and Jade do a lot of awkward father-daughter heckling: “Mom would have wanted you to go to college.” “Mom’s dead.”

Ronny Cox of RoboCop and Total Recall fame plays the head of the Geneti-Sharp company, Justin Juarisco. His wheelchair has weird “construction zone” stickers all over it and looks like a complete heap of shit:

Age of Dinosaurs Juarisco

I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say that Juarisco doesn’t survive the catastrophe of his dinosaurs escaping to run amok in Los Angeles. Can you guess whether or not he is killed by the very monsters he created? You’ve got at least a 50/50 shot at this. Juarisco’s chief lieutenant is the cowardly Doug Donovan (Jose Rosete). We know Donovan is evil because he talks about “schedules” and “budgets” and bears a striking resemblance to ex-Phillies General Manager Reuben Amaro, Jr:

Age of Dinosaurs Donovan

Donovan and his do-gooder assistant Dr. Craig Carson (Joshua Michael Allen) form a very effective cliche-exchanging duo. Carson provides warnings; Donovan ignores them. “The levels aren’t stabilized!” “I’m asking you one last time: don’t do this!” “We have to stop!” So just to review, we’ve got Gabe and Jade Jacobs, Justin Juarisco, Doug Donovan, and Craig Carson. Somebody got real creative on these names, obviously.

“Uncle” Leo, a Geneti-Sharp security guard and friend of Gabe, has “dead meat” written all over him. Police Chief Dawson is my personal favorite character, tossing out lines like, “How long ’til we can get a SWAT team in here?” “About ten minutes.” “MAKE IT FIVE.” And finally there’s the helicopter pilot, who rises from obscurity to become one of cinemas’ most bad-ass tertiary characters.

PLOT

Our story begins in Japan, where Donovan’s frequent flaunting of common sense leads to a dinosaur slaughtering his entire medical staff. To contain the beast, he orders the operating room locked down. One of the doors that “locks,” accompanied by a high-tech schwoosh sound effect, is this one:

TECHNOLOGY!

TECHNOLOGY!

In the good ol’ USA, Gabe takes Jade to a presentation at Geneti-Sharp headquarters. Juarisco reveals his genetically engineered dinosaurs to the underwhelmed audience, and outlines his plans to market them to sporting events, parades, and “children’s parties.” This seems like the world’s worst business model. He also remarks that they created meat-eaters first because they’re “the cool stuff.” When he pulls a Wonka and reveals he can walk, the audience stands and cheers (which they didn’t do for the dinosaurs).

The dinosaurs are controlled by a “sonic pulse,” but in about two seconds the system fails and we’re told that “the pulse is irritating the other dinosaurs.” Seems like they should have planned this out a little better. The creatures break out and run amok and Donovan locks the building down so no one can escape. Jade gets locked in a glass-front cabinet in the basement; Gabe finds Juarisco, Donovan, and Carson, who tell him that the cabinet can be unlocked with a key kept “one floor below.” Then they find a panic room with people trapped inside; this room, of course, can only be unlocked via a control in the basement. What the hell kind of building is this?

Eventually the dinosaurs escape from the building and begin a rampage through downtown Los Angeles – and by downtown Los Angeles, I mean a shopping mall located right next to a number of abandoned warehouses. People get massacred as the authorities exchange lines like, “One hell of a mess, sir,” and “Damn shame.” Conveniently, all of the dinosaurs converge on the warehouse where Gabe and Jade have holed up. The military bombards the place, almost all of the minor characters are killed, and Gabe has to rescue his daughter from a surprise Pteranodon attack. Safe at last (I guess), they share a nice family moment as they gaze out over the burning city. THE END.

SCRIPT

The dialogue in Age of Dinosaurs is always just a step to the left of coherent, and that’s what makes the movie such a joy. Jade greets Gabe with a casual “Hey,” and he responds with “JESUS!” like he’s shocked and horrified to find her in his own living room. In the midst of the crisis, Juarisco asks, “Dr. Carson, you’re a vet – can dinosaurs climb?” During one sequence, our heroes try to escape from a dinosaur in their car. “FASTER!” Gabe screams. “They didn’t teach me this in driving school!” Jade replies. “This IS driving school!” says Gabe. Huh?

In the end, the somewhat-crazy-somewhat-noble Juarisco sacrifices himself so our heroes can escape. As a dinosaur approaches he mutters, “And his final words were… final words… Heh… Of course. Rock and roll.” It doesn’t really make sense, but I guess it’s better than nothing. Then we cut upstairs to hear him pathetically wail, “Oh no, NOOOOO!” which is far less cool than what he said a second ago.

Juarisco’s helicopter pilot, who picks Gabe up from the warehouse roof, becomes a key hero out of nowhere and vanishes again just as quickly. “Your boss is dead! Follow that Pterosaur!” Gabe tells him, which may be the best line in movie history. “You’re good,” Gabe tells the pilot at one point. “I KNOW,” he replies. Then his chopper crashes and he presumably dies, so he couldn’t have been that good.

Characters love locking things down. Donovan locks down the operating room and, later, the Geneti-Sharp building. Jade gets locked in a cabinet. People are locked in a safe room. Chief Dawson locks down the entire city.

SPFX

Jurassic Park, made 20 years earlier, featured better computer animation than this.

REALISM.

REALISM.

90% of the time the dinosaurs are completely animated, but in a few scenes they use a dinosaur head puppet that looks like it was thrown away as being too fake-looking for Gremlins II: The New Batch. They apparently blew their entire budget on these effects, because they blatantly skimp on others. When characters fire their guns, for instance, they just wiggle them around with the barrels off-camera. It looks like a bunch of kids having a fake gunfight.

PRODUCTION

Age of Dinosaurs is way too ambitious for its obviously shoestring budget. The scenes in the Geneti-Sharp building look like they were filmed in a vacant office over the course of a single day. Ladders and old propane tanks litter the hallways. If you look at the exterior, you can see where it looks like they painted over the street number or unit name:

Age of Dinosaurs building

When the movie ups the chaos ante and the dinos start to overrun the city, there’s a brief montage of the chaos. In one shot, a dinosaur has somehow scaled a huge skyscraper and is roaring at a helicopter. It’s a particularly ludicrous moment – how’d it get up there? WHY would it go up there?

I find this somewhat unrealistic.

I find this somewhat unrealistic.

The only way that Age of Dinosaurs fails is that there is no post-credits shot of an egg hatching, a dinosaur emerging from the rubble, or anything that suggests a welcome sequel might be on the way. Because the world needs more of this. Much, much more.

FROGS

1972 – Unpatriotic swamp creatures completely ruin an old man’s 4th of July birthday party.

This movie is like a less shitty version of The Happening, where animals begin to rise up and systematically exterminate humans because we litter and use pesticides. As our hero, Pickett Smith (played by a mustache-less Sam Elliott) states, “Frogs attacking windows? Snakes in chandeliers? These aren’t exactly normal things.” One would be hard-pressed to argue.

Yes, frogs do attack in this movie (sorta), but most of the dirty work is done by creatures that have no business being in Florida in the first place, like tarantulas, scorpions, rattlesnakes, and Gila monsters. The frogs just sit on each other, hop about, and croak. The real star of the film is Jason Crockett (Ray Milland), a crippled old bastard who has to go down as one of the most crotchety and unreasonably stubborn figures in cinematic history.

Gruff-yet-environmentally-conscious photographer Smith ends up on Crockett’s private island just in time for the grouchy geezer’s annual birthday extravaganza. The rest of the Crockett family is there, including the ’70s-hot* Karen (Joan Van Ark), various cousins and uncles, and a couple of put-upon black servants. The wildlife, angered at the family’s attempts to poison or shoot them, becomes hostile, and the body count is startlingly high.

* ’70’s hot = a huge, frizzy hairdo and the body of an anorexic 12-year-old

Unlike many eco-horror film antagonists to follow, Crockett doesn’t ignore the animal menace because it’ll cost him money or give him bad publicity. He’s simply hellbent on having his lame birthday party no matter how many family members die. “I won’t let anything interfere with today’s schedule,” he opines after half the attendees are dead. The schedule, by the way, involves everyone sitting on the lawn, listening to a phonograph, and… whatever the Hell this is:

It's a fun game.

It’s a fun game.

Crockett keeps sending his henchmen out to eliminate the swamp creatures, but opines, “With all this technology and all my money we still can’t get rid of these frogs. Interesting, isn’t it?” (It’s not). Smith, of course, realizes the danger: “What if nature was trying to get back at us?” he suggests. “NONSENSE!” Crockett bellows.

When his only remaining grandchild and his freshly orphaned great grandchildren decide to leave, he acts like it’s a massive act of betrayal: “If you wanna leave go, go on, get the Hell outta here! Just stand up and be counted. That means you’re with me or against me, ya understand?” Like they can’t just hold the party somewhere else? He actually chides the family for wanting to disrupt the celebration because of “one death.”

I’m proposing a new party game called “Crocketting,” where you select famous historical disasters and insist that everyone ignore them. Mr. Crockett! The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor!

"No reason to disrupt MY PARTY because a few yahoos are dropping firecrackers on us!"

“No reason to disrupt MY PARTY because a few yahoos are dropping firecrackers on us!”

Mr. Crockett, terrorists have destroyed the Twin Towers in New York!

"No reason to put a damper on MY PART because a few buildings decided to fall down!"

“No reason to put a damper on MY PARTY because a few buildings decided to fall down!”

Try it with your friends!

Here are some helpful hints if you, like the characters in this movie, ever find yourself attending a birthday party on a remote island and various critters begin a violent anti-human revolution.

#1: Do NOT accidentally shoot yourself in the leg

#1: Do NOT accidentally shoot yourself in the leg

Because, Murphy’s Law, you’ll end up falling right beneath a tree infested by huge tarantulas.

Frogs poison

#2: Do NOT leave gigantic bottles of piss-colored poison on high shelves, no matter how clearly labeled they are

Did you know that lizards are immune to poison and can survive in an atmosphere toxic to humans? And can, apparently, read? And have knowledge of advanced chemistry? Well, they do.

#3: Do NOT suck at seeing things

#3: Do NOT suck at seeing things

The guy gets eaten by an alligator moments later, and it serves him right.

Toward the end of the film, Crockett is sitting alone in the house and the phone rings. There’s nobody there. Not only that, but the line is dead (it was cut, presumably by the frogs, at the beginning). I don’t understand this… there’s absolutely no reason to have the phone ring in this scene. Was it the frogs prank calling him? They should have strung it out, in that case, maybe had the frogs ding-dong ditch him or put some dog shit in a bag and light it on fire.

It’s been a few days since I’ve seen Frogs, and it’s growing on me. Pair this one with Zombeavers for a delightful double feature.

ZOMBEAVERS

Zombeavers title

2014 – A delightfully typical horror movie cast travels to an isolated lake cabin, never suspecting that a medical waste spill has turned the local beaver population into ravenous zombies.

Let’s face it: zombies, like the vampires, ninjas, and pirates came before them, are played out. They enjoyed their time as a clever metaphor for a shambling, soulless society and even got a renaissance as the monster of choice for hipsters everywhere. But now we’ve been saturated by zombie horror, zombie comedy, and zombie TV shows. The zombie genre as a whole is in definite need of a rest or recharge.

Zombeavers gives the zombie a much-needed jolt by combining it with the cheesy killer animal. Night of the Lepus introduced us to the killer rabbit and Beginning of the End gave us the killer grasshopper, so why not beavers? The titular zombie beavers make a surprisingly credible threat, especially when they are revealed to be able to “pass on” their infection like any other zombie. My main concern was that it would turn out to be one of those movies that tries to be bad (or is conscious of its own mediocrity) and spoils whatever innocent charm it might otherwise have possessed, but in that regard it was a pleasant surprise. Aside from the absurd-sounding premise, Zombeavers plays like a good old-fashioned monster/slasher film.

The characters start off as pretty basic stereotypes (the chaste blonde, the brunette best friend, the slut, the douche, the jock, the prankster), but they evolve into pretty real, likable people (for the most part). Toward the end of the movie, I forgot that it was a pack of rabid beavers chasing them and really started to hope that certain characters survived. The script slips in plenty of surprises – for instance, just try and guess who the “final girl” will turn out to be. There were several times during the climactic scenes that I just sat back and uttered a genuine “WOW.”

Opening credit sequences get pretty short shrift these days, but Zombeavers provides an excellent one – sinister cartoon beavers menacing our Scooby Doo-esque gang of protagonists – with a pretty decent soundtrack. The makeup and special effects are minimal but well-done, with the animatronic beavers being a particular highlight. After being battered with fake CGI monsters for so long, having real, substantial creatures is a relief. The puppets and robots may not look entirely convincing, but the cast can at least touch and interact with them. What filmmakers don’t realize is that the human eye can detect CGI very easily when paired with real actors. It really destroys the subconscious sense that “this is real” when you can tell that the threat doesn’t even exist and the actors are fighting balls on sticks (see any of the new Star Wars movies or The Hobbit series).

It doesn't get any better than this.

It doesn’t get any better than this.

One complaint: there are far, FAR too many penis shots in horror movies nowadays. The human male weiner is by far the last thing I want to see in any movie, and there were a couple of them shoved right into my face. The weiner : run-time ratio was way outta wack. Coming hot on the heels of a truly gut-wrenching penis shot in the disappointing WolfCop, I feel like I’ve swallowed just about all the weiners I can take.

Add this to your Netflix queue post-haste, and maybe pair it with Grabbers for a great double-feature.

AXE GIANT: THE WRATH OF PAUL BUNYAN

2013 – Young adults at a first-time offenders’ boot camp discover the legend of the giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan is real, but is much more horrifying than they could have imagined.

Rejoice, my twos and threes of readers! After a lengthy starting-a-new-job-and-having-it-drain-all-my-creative-passion exodus, I have returned to help you answer life’s pressing movie-related questions. Foremost among these today is: how can a movie entitled Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan (or AGTWOPB) not be the greatest movie ever made?

Here’s the thing: bad movies are only good when they’re not supposed to be bad. It’s like watching someone pretend to trip vs. seeing a legitimate tumble – or, for instance, watching Sharknado as opposed to The Room. The key ingredient is the knowledge that the filmmakers were trying to make something good and failing gloriously in the attempt.

The makers of AGTWOPB consciously set out to make a cheap, bad horror movie. Tragically, they shouldn’t have even had to try. Paul Bunyan is really a gigantic, near-immortal mutant who goes on a bloody killing spree because some kid steals the horn of Babe, the long-dead blue ox? How can that turn into such a dull, lifeless, forgettable affair? In the interest of time (we’ve got a lot of ground to cover) I’ll run through my main complaints:

  1. There are too many characters with too little screen time. Who is the hero? We should know who to root for within 3 minutes of the opening credits.
  2. The deaths were not creative enough. Decapitations get old after three or four.
  3. There’s a pathetic shoehorned-in sympathetic backstory for Bunyan. I don’t care. This isn’t King Kong.

The only glimmer of hope I have is that the ending leaves things wide open for a Friday the 13th style sequel where Bunyan’s corpse could re-animate at the bottom of a lake. With that in mind, I’m proposing a big-budget, star-studded remake to turn this cinematic dump into the cash cow franchise it deserves to be.

Joe Estevez as Meeks
Axe Giant Joe Estevez The legendary bad movie actor plays a standard “crazy old coot” who warns the kids about Bunyan but then turns out to be sort of in league with him (I guess). Let’s upgrade to the most respected Estevez, Martin Sheen, who can re-capture some of his Spawn-era glory with a hammy turn here.

Axe Giant Martin Sheen

Dan Haggerty as Foreman Bill

Axe Giant Dan Haggerty

Foreman Bill is the guy who goes off to take a dump at the beginning of the movie after killing Babe the blue ox. We need a big, imposing brute for this role, and there’s nobody bigger or more brutish sans makeup than Ron Perlman. He’s down for anything.

Ron Perlman Axe Giant

Thomas Downy as Sgt. Hoke

Axe Giant Thomas Downey

He’s “the jerk.” The movie blew a real opportunity with this character, a guy who’s such a bastard that he makes up a song about what a bastard he is and forces everyone else to sing it. Unfortunately, Hoke just isn’t given time to blossom. This role is an opportunity for a badass actor to really ham it up and chuckle at himself, meaning it’s perfect for my long-dreamed-of Steven Seagal career revival.

Axe Giant Steven Seagal

Amber Connor as CB

Axe Giant Amber Connor

She’s “the good girl” among the no-good kids at the boot camp. This is the perfect role for a young up-and-comer who needs all the exposure she can get – think Jennifer Lawrence in Last House on the Left. As a matter of fact, hell, let’s just go with Jennifer Lawrence. It’ll give her a chance to prove that her “golly gee I’m so excited to be meeting all the big movie stars because I’m just a regular ol’ gal” routine is as genuine as we all know it isn’t.

Axe Giant Jennifer Lawrence

Tim Lovelace as Tanner

Axe Giant Tim Lovelace

He’s “the sheriff” and CB’s dad. Another of the movie’s many maybe-heroes. We need a washed-up older guy who still has convincing tough guy credentials. Call in Gary Busey before he succumbs to that stroke he’s been working on the past 20 years.

Axe Giant Gary Busey

Jesse Kove as Zack

Axe Giant Jesse Kove

He’s “the other jerk,” the sullen kid everyone hates who turns out to maybe have a bit of a heart before the end. When you think “jerk everyone hates,” you think Shia LaBoeuf, right? Yeah, I did, too. Just look at him. Jerk.

Axe Giant Shia LaBeouf

Kristina Kopf as Ms. K

Axe Giant Kristina Kopf

The goodhearted counselor who is the yang to Sgt. Hoke’s yin, Ms. K is the third member of the movie’s confusing “too many heroes” triumvirate. What we need here is an older, halfway-respectable actress who just doesn’t care anymore. Clearly, as evidenced by her role as Young Hillary Clinton in those awful-looking Divergent movies, Kate Winslet fits the bill.

Axe Giant Kate Winslet

Jill Evyn as Trish

Axe Giant Jill Evyn

She’s “the red-haired slut” and fulfills (barely) the movie’s requisite topless scene. Since she has red hair I was going to suggest replacing her with Bryce Dallas Howard

Axe Giant Bryce Dallas Howard

…but since she also shows her boobs, I’m going to go with Kat Dennings. Just… because.

Axe Giant Kat Dennings

Clifton Williams as Marty

Axe Giant Clifton Williams

We’ve come to “the black guy.” This character doesn’t do much, save for one scene where he screams and cries mournfully. Therefore, the actor most perfectly equipped to portray Marty is Will Smith’s Son. I’m not going to bother to look up his name.

Axe Giant Will Smith Son

Victoria Ramos as Rosa

Axe Giant Victoria Ramos

Again, as the cast’s requisite “non-white woman,” poor Rosa is rather neglected in the screenplay. She is Hispanic, however, and therefore we have no choice but to cast Michelle Rodriguez in the part.

Axe Giant Michelle Rodriguez

Chris Hahn as Bunyan

Axe Giant Chris Hahn

Nothing against Mr. Hahn, but we’re going to need to power up and cast Kane Hodder, a.k.a. Jason, as the monstrous mountain man.

Axe Giant Kane Hodder

I would also accept Andrew Bryniarski.

Axe Giant Andrew Bryniarski

For now, though, if you want an entertainingly bad movie with almost the exact same plot, check out Grizzly Park.

2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK – 9/27/14

2012 – Terror takes a ghastly form when a gigantic two-headed shark sinks a ship full of students, and the survivors wash up on a tiny atoll.
2 Headed Shark Attack poster
If zombies became the new vampires (i.e. the horror movie monster that got vastly over-played and lost any of its initial appeal or menace), is it safe to say that sharks have become the new zombies? I chose this one out of a field of four equally awful-looking shark movies, primarily because the beast on the poster above is actually frowning in carnivorous fury.
Yes, certain aspects of this film were slightly unrealistic (the shark-related science, the shark itself, most of the breasts), but beyond the bone-crunching mayhem there’s a lot to be learned from 2-Headed Shark Attack.
  1. A shark is never not hungry. The two-headed menace devours 25 people over the course of a single morning and afternoon.
  2. College classes routinely go on cruises to learn how a sextant works. I guess when your professor also owns his own ship and employs a three-person crew, that’s just one of the perks.
  3. Carmen Electra can convincingly portray a doctor. You just have to be careful not to give her any doctor-like things to say or do.
  4. The big, dumb, jerky weight-lifting character will probably not survive. Complete surprise, right? I was sure he’d make it, especially after he abandoned his friends to die not once but twice.
  5. The characters that go skinny-dipping aren’t going to make it either. In a shocking twist, the trio of students who go for a naked swim are only devoured AFTER the requisite lesbian make-out scene.
  6. The Indian character is probably the smartest. In addition to knowing everything about science, sharks, and engines, I bet he’s really good at spelling, too.
  7. The most statuesque blonde will probably live. It helps when your character is portrayed by Brooke Hogan, who does just as good a job in this as her dad did in Suburban Commando.
  8. When your boat is being chased by a shark, the best escape strategy is to jump into the water. You wouldn’t think this is true, but it totally is. The shark will just ignore you and go after the noisy, non-meat-and-blood-filled boat engine instead. That’s because…
  9. Sharks are more attracted to electrical disturbances than edible prey. Again, this is pretty much iron-clad science, people. Boat motors, electrified nets, ringing cell phones – a shark will ALWAYS choose an electronic device over a thrashing, screaming human.
  10. A lighter, applied to the top of a steel oil drum, generates sufficient heat to cause an explosion. Never mind the fact that it was also in the water at the time.
  11. Sharks can detect victims out of the water. Just because you’re standing on a dock doesn’t mean the shark can’t jump out and get you (or surf in on a tidal wave).
  12. Islands sink. Randomly. It happens all the time! Thankfully, you can count on: a) any wooden structures floating; and b) a convenient heap of rocks being left behind for you to shelter on.

Yes, this is a “bad” movie, but it’s not trying to be great. Some of the performers (especially Geoff Ward as the cowardly jock) really give it their all – nobody is obviously winking at the camera and trying to pass this off as a parody. The CGI shark effects are decent, and they even invested in two big foam heads for close up kill shots.

You could probably spend a day breaking down all the continuity errors in the climactic sequence alone. Just to name one: the shark gets its right head blown off, but in some shots it’s missing the left and in some it’s just a regular one-headed shark. Still, it’s enjoyable watching the ever-diminishing cast get picked off one by one (“Yes, it finally killed the bitchy blonde girl! Oh no, it killed the jive-talking black girl!”).

One last thing I thought was interesting – the “Chekhov’s Gun” principle doesn’t apply to this movie. The sextant is introduced in the first few minutes, and some of the students scoff at such an elementary navigation device (“Don’t we have GPS?”). You’d think someone would have to use it later on, maybe to navigate back home… but no, it’s never mentioned again. In another scene, one student finds a revolver in an abandoned shack. You’d assume this would be used to dramatic effect in the third act… but nope, the character fires the gun at the shark (uselessly) and gets eaten anyway.

Alright, I didn’t say it was that interesting. Just… kinda interesting.

SHARK WEEK – 9/24/14

Shark Week Poster2012 – Strangers find themselves isolated by a wealthy madman on his island compound, where they’re forced into a horrifying gauntlet of deadly sharks.

Say what you will about Shark Week (and let’s face it, not a whole lot of people are saying much of anything about it), but it wastes no time getting to the action. The first scene is a guy all chained up by a pool, yelling things that nobody would actually say, like: “Show yourself!” Our villain, Tiburon, looks like the Most Interesting Man in the World after a week-long bender. The guy declares that he will “die like a man” and then jumps into the pool, where he is devoured by a truly horrendous CGI shark. “Not very manly,” Tiburon mocks. It’s not that good of a zinger.

I never appear in movies. But when I do, I appear in the worst ones possible.

I never appear in movies. But when I do, I appear in the worst ones possible.

Turns out that Tiburon is a major drug kingpin whose son was killed in a bust gone wrong. He kidnaps eight people who were somehow involved in his son’s death, has them brought to his island, and tells them that they will be participating in “a game of life and death” (“Do you always drug and shackle your guests?” one demands). Tiburon quickly proves himself to be a villain of the most amazing variety, going on long quasi-philosophical rants about sharks while twisting his face around like he’s so high he can barely see. Here are his eight victims, introduced on-screen via little freeze-frame computer profiles. See if you can guess who survives!

Bart Harris* – federal prosecutor and designated asshole

Layla Valesques – junkie and overall unattractive female

Peter Arnarson – paramedic and campy gay character

Frankie de Vicchi – drug dealer described as “Ethnicity: Sicilian”

Francine Elliot – judge and middle-aged blonde

Roger Marshall – killed immediately, not important

Cal Wilson – cop and Vin Diesel look-alike

Reagan Wakefield – reporter and young brunette

*The character is listed in the credits as “Holt,” played by actor Bart Baggett, so I’ll refer to him that way

Roger protests his innocence and gets shoved into the pool, where at least a dozen sharks of wildly varying size completely devour him. Completely, as in they even seem to consume his bones and blood. Tiburon lauds the advanced nature of sharks; one character retorts, “They’re just garbage cans of the sea!” I admire that kind of pointless gumption. Some madman declares I’m going to have to face a different shark each day? “Yeah, well sharks suck!”

Tiburon intends to force his victims through the aforementioned shark gauntlet – as Francine puts it, “We’re pawns in this psycho’s game!” The dialog is a true joy to experience – like when Vin Diesel finds a key around one shark’s neck and yells, “I got the key!” Another character observes, “I think he’s got the key!”

The plot sort of drones on from there. One thing you’ll never get tired of are the endless cave scenes – apparently this island is filled with underground lakes, and in each of those lakes dwells a certain kind of shark. Observing the characters via camera and mocking them via microphone, Tiburon notes that most shark attacks occur in three feet of water because “that’s where the food is.” He then tells them that they are, at this very moment, standing in exactly three feet of water! BWAH HA HA HAAAA! As though the water level acts as a magical lure to sharks.

The shark effects are pathetic, and the shark attacks are filmed so horrendously that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. Never mind the fact that the sharks roar audibly, jump out of the water to attack their victims, and change size constantly.

In case you were wondering, this is what a hammerhead attacking a man looks like.

In case you were wondering, this is what a hammerhead attacking a man looks like.

One of the characters declares that “the hammerhead isn’t even the toughest of the sharks,” as though the encounters are set up like the escalating boss battles in a video game. Tiburon warns them that the tiger shark has a taste for human flesh like no other beast in the sea (is this scientifically accurate?) and introduces the great white by saying he saved “the best for last.” Unfortunately, the fights themselves are just disconnected shots of sharks swimming, people screaming, and a few truly laughable moments like this:

The hyper-realistic special effects surpass your wildest imagination!

The hyper-realistic special effects surpass your wildest imagination!

Tiburon isn’t the most active or intimidating villain. He just sits around squinting and shooting the bull with his henchwoman Elena. In one scene he’s randomly wearing a leather jacket and sunglasses. Then, a minute later, he’s shown wearing a goofy cowboy hat.

The very portrait of evil.

The very portrait of evil.

They both get their share of awe-inspiring lines. At one point, Elena observes, “They’ll kill themselves before the sharks get the chance!” Tiburon chuckles like a stoned douche and says, “Maybe.” To get the real feel of that line, imagine him saying, “Duh-huh, duh-huh, maybe.”

I really question whether the screenwriter has ever heard people talking – the conversations ring more hollowly than two skeletons making love in a tin coffin. At one point, Francine and Frankie  have the following exchange: “What do you think it’ll be this time?” “The trap, or the shark?” “Oh God. I meant the trap, but now I mean both.” Huh? In another scene, Layla starts to freak out and Frankie has some inspirational advice: “Stay calm!” “How am I supposed to do that?!?” “TRY!” A few more examples:

The group randomly wanders into a mine field. “Holt” doesn’t want to go first, and Frankie busts his cowardly balls.

Holt: Well you go first then!

Frankie: Fine, maybe I WILL go first!

The gang finds a wrecked boat on the beach

Reagan: Do you really think Tiburon is going to leave us a boat?

Vin Diesel: Only if there’s a shark in it! (everybody laughs, despite having seen one of their friends slaughtered by a shark mere moments before)

Frankie and Vin Diesel wade into the ocean to battle a shark.

Frankie: Where are you, you son of a bitch! (The shark appears right in front of him) Woah, there he is! Get him!

Shark Week isn’t on the level of, say, Snow Beast, but it’s worth a watch. You will be surprised by exactly zero of the “twists” in the plot, like Vin Diesel and Reagan falling for each other, “Holt” shoving someone else toward a shark only to be devoured himself, one of the group making a heroic sacrifice so the others can escape, etc etc. Fortunately, just when things start to get mind-numbingly uninteresting, Tiburon will pop up and slur something smug and nonsensical.

Special attention must be paid to the fate of the villain. When the last surviving hero confronts him (he’s standing on a jetty holding an umbrella, a scarf, and a string of pearls), Tiburon gives a little speech about how the survivor can leave aboard a yacht, having survived the shark gauntlet. Instead of departing in peace, the vengeful survivor spears him through the balls with a harpoon. It’s not explicitly shown, but tell me where you think he got it:

Shark Week groin shotYeah, he’s not doubled over clutching his spleen. Then he tumbles into the water, where one of his own sharks devours him. Hoist by his own petard, etc etc.

SASQUATCH – 6/18/14

2002 – After finding the mutilated bodies of the crew of a downed plane in a forest, a rescue party realizes there’s something deadly in the woods with them.*

*This gives away a key plot point not revealed until an hour into the movie
So, due to my five-star rating of Snow Beast, Netflix suggested that I might want to watch this one too:
Sasquatch posterOh, YELL YEAH! Look at that monster! Look at those FANGS! It looks like a cross between Julia Roberts and a werewolf! “They found the missing link… and it’s not friendly”! This is going to be INCREDIBLE!!!
Sasquatch the squatch
… dammit.
Yeah, that’s the Sasquatch. Guy with some black face paint and an out-of-control neck-beard. The best part is, you have to wait until the last minutes of the movie to even see it! Most of the time it’s just shadowy glimpses (which look nothing like that sorry dollar store rip-off costume) and ominous grunting sounds. I don’t understand it – did they blow their budget on the non-existent special effects and community theater cast? There isn’t even any hair on the arms! Could they only afford 33% of a costume?
The first sign of trouble comes within the first five minutes of the movie. I was expecting to see something called Sasquatch, but when the opening credits start to roll I saw this:
Sasquatch titleTHE UNTOLD”??? That makes it sound like a Lifetime channel Jerry Sandusky biopic. At first I thought this movie was going to do some Tarantino-style “chapter titles,” but no, apparently The Untold is the actual title of the movie. It’s appropriate, because I endured untold amounts of boredom to watch this.
The plot is this: rich guy Harlan Knowles (who everybody calls “Mr. H” – shouldn’t it be “Mr. K”?) finances a “rescue mission” because his daughter’s plane went down in the Canadian wilderness. There’s a sub-plot involving some kind of genome-mapping device or some such foolishness, but it’s halfhearted. He is accompanied by the following characters: the Nerd, the Jerk, the Whore, the Native Guide, and the Other Girl.
Two of those characters will die. Duuuuuuh, guess which ones? As the Native Guide loads up their equipment, the Jerk yells, “There’s gear in there that costs as much as your house!” Yep. He’s dead from his very first line – but if you think it’ll be a satisfyingly quick death, think again. Nobody gets knocked off until 59 minutes into the movie. The rest involves them trooping through the woods, blurry slow-motion effects, and samples of the Sasquatch’s own brand of Beast Vision:
Sasquatch beast visionFACT: no creature in the history of Earth has seen things like that. How would you be able to tell what anything is when you view the world through a photo-negative fishbowl? It’s just absurd, and the filmmakers use this technique constantly.
The whole time you think there’s a chance that Harlan’s daughter might have survived, but as the plot summary itself points out, everyone in the plane was already killed by the ‘Squatch. Why? Because when it crashed, the plane landed directly on top of its mate, which just so happened to be standing in that exact spot in IN THE MIDDLE OF THE VAST WILDERNESS. This is truly the most ridiculous plot contrivance in cinematic history. Actually, no. It’s the fact that the Sasquatch can dodge bullets. Seriously. In one scene they shoot at it, and it ducks behind a tree before the bullets can hit it. So we’re to believe that these creatures are Matrix-level fast, but can’t dodge A PLANE?
This movie was a tragedy. What a wasted opportunity! Imagine how great it would have been if, instead of searching for his daughter, Harlan’s company had decided to open some kind of luxury mountain cabin getaway in the Sasquatch’s territory? “You can’t open this monstrosity there, that’s the untouched wilderness! Think of the ecological impact!” “I can open my resort anywhere I want, I’m Harlan Knowles!”
Instead of being killed right away, his daughter could be a plucky college student interested in wildlife. The Sasquatch could be fighting to protect its home rather than brutally killing essentially innocent people. It could knock off vacationers left and right, and you wouldn’t feel bad because they’re rich. Maybe in one scene some guy could carelessly litter, tossing a soda can into the woods that rolls down a little hill and right up the the foot of the Sasquatch! Oh, shit. They find the guy’s battered corpse in a tree with the soda can stuffed in his mouth. The movie could end with a real touching moment – Harlan arrives to rescue his daughter, whom the ‘Squatch has kidnapped, and he’s going to kill the creature… until he sees an adorable baby Sasquatch and realizes that it was trying to defend its children, too. Harlan could learn an important lesson at the end, sort of like kindly old John Hammond from Jurassic Park.
But no. This is all we get. Next time I’ll write about a movie I actually liked.

SNOW BEAST – 6/6/14

2011 – A wildlife researcher, his teenage daughter, and a local Mountie will have to draw on all their resources if they hope to defeat a bloodthirsty beast.

Do yourself a favor, people: see Snow Beast. You will either thank me or want to kill me for telling you so. The first clue that this is a must-see film is found in the description above: no “local Mountie” appears at all. Let’s meet our principal cast:

Snow Beast our heroThis is Jim, a.k.a. single-dad-who-struggles-with-his-rebellious-teenage-daughter-after-his-wife-left-him-prior-to-the-events-of-the-movie. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Jim is a sneering, condescending asshole whose every word almost visibly drips with sarcasm. He talks down to his daughter, sasses his colleagues, and openly sneers when one of them suggests they’re dealing with a Yeti after he sees the monster in person. When one character falls into the Snow Beast’s lair, which is full of blood, bones and frozen corpses, Jim laughs at him. He’s basically the least sympathetic hero you’ll ever meet.

Jim’s daughter Emily (a.k.a. Emmy) knows that accompanying her father on his research trip to Canada will be “so lame”:

Snow Beast angsty teenShe’s your basic angst-y teen, and spends half the movie rolling her eyes and being sarcastic. That’s before she turns into a heroic Beast-battling machine, of course. Not to give anything away.

In Canada, Jim and Emmy meet Rob and Marcy, who Jim introduces as “two very important members” of their nature research team. Marcy has a reputation for being a terrible cook, and Rob knows a lot of interesting and obscure facts about things. Their characters are therefore “established.”

Snow Beast Rob and MarcyRob is our comic relief – he is awkward and trips over things (but, oddly, he’s the only character who doesn’t fall down when fleeing from the Beast). Marcy is a bit of a bitch: when Jim suggests they leave the area, pointing out that they just found a frozen corpse in the Beast’s lair, she snaps, “You’re overreacting.” She’s also Jim’s love interest, which is awkward because there’s not even a hint of chemistry between the two characters. Halfway through the movie Emmy asks out of the blue, “Are you guys dating?” “Not yet,” Marcy replies. It never amounts to anything.

Speaking of pointless sub-plots, let me introduce you to Ranger Barry and Ranger Gibbons. Ambitious rookie Barry is hot on the trail of a missing snowboarder, making a map and putting push-pins into it. Fat veteran Gibbons complains that his partner is “trying to save the world” (note: saving the world consists of hanging up one missing person sign).

Snow Beast pushpinsNoting that there have been several disappearances at the nearby ski slope, Barry complains that “the places they’re searching barely intersect where they were last seen.” If this doesn’t make sense to you, it’s okay – it has nothing to do with anything else.

Snow Beast Givens*One of Utah-area actor Dale Thomas’ daughters contacted me and asked me to give proper credit for this role. Gibbons is, in fact, played by Dale Thomas and NOT filmmaker and political activist Michael Moore.

Rounding out the cast is the Snow Beast itself. It’s a menace of the big-guy-in-a-suit variety (which, despite its intrinsic cheese factor, is still vastly superior to some CGI hack-job):

Snow Beast suit comes with patent-pending Inviso-Zipper!

Snow Beast suit comes with patent-pending Inviso-Zipper!

It’s certainly a formidable antagonist, dispatching at least nine people over the course of the film and playing psychological games with its targets, like growling eerily and then popping up after they turn away. It enjoys running quickly across the foreground and background before revealing itself.

Snow Beast stealthThe creature’s hunting style is inconsistent: in some cases it will pop up several feet away from its victims and growl, giving them ample time to flee. In others it sweeps in at super speed and take them out in the blink of an eye. There’s an unpleasant scene where the Beast batters one of its female victims before finishing her off – all its other kills are extremely quick. It also makes the strategic blunder of capturing one of the main heroes alive – again, an exception it makes for no one else.

We can tell that the Beast is in the area when the movie employs Beast Vision:

Beast Vision: not necessarily superior to Normal Vision.

Beast Vision: not necessarily superior to Normal Vision.

Midway through the film there’s a big speech that Rob gives Emmy about how predators hunt: they get so close that their prey “doesn’t realize it until it’s too late.” He says a predator is “completely silent”: “No warning,” Rob intones… except the Beast is anything but silent, bellowing and rumbling anywhere it goes.

One puzzling sub-plot is why the park rangers are involved at all. They interact with the rest of the cast on exactly two occasions: once when Barry recognizes Rob (“Hey, you’re with that research team, right?”), and again when Marcy tells the rangers about the Beast lurking around their cabin. Accompanied by ominous music, Barry puts another push-pin into his board. You’d think this was building up to the Beast having a pattern of attack or some other important clue, but no. It’s almost as though the script got re-written at the last minute.

Some plot threads are left to dangle awkwardly – for instance, the ski slope (and its hundreds of skiers) vanishes halfway through the film. Why does everyone the Beast chases trip and fall at least once? Why are people constantly wandering into the woods by themselves? Why does no one show any concern when their friends get brutally killed? These are questions we’ll never be able to answer…

… at least, not until Snow Beast 2

Snow Beast the beast… please, God?