Those Little EVIL Buggers Ruin Everything! “Ankle Biters” reviewed! (Dark Star Pictures / Digital Screener)



Injured hockey goon Sean Chase has severe on-ice anger issues but leave from the game curbs his temper for the better after meeting an internally distraught Laura Haywood.  Enamored by the mother of four who enjoys rough sex as much as he does, Sean decides to willingly plunge into marriage by asking Laura for her hand against his friends and family passive advise him of the hefty, multi-kid baggage in Laura’s tow.  To set the romantic mood, Sean takes Laura and her young kids to his family’s lakeside cabin where all the locals know him, personally and professionally, but when the girls discover cell phone footage of Sean and Laura’s bedroom exploits and interpret them as Sean hurting their mother, they devise mischievous retribution on Sean in order to protect mommy. 

From being a bare knuckler enforcer using the rink as his boxing ring to becoming the haplessly smitten and blind to four little girls’ perception of him as the bad guy, the once penalty box denizen Sean Chase is now the penalized good guy in the Canadian dark-comedy “Ankle Biters” from writer-director Bennet De Brabandere.  Also known as “Cherrypicker,” the title used in the film, the film is Brabandere’s first feature length film based off a story by lead actor, Zion Forrest Lee (“Hit It”), who oft puts delicate notes of misperception as the main theme in his tale.  Shot primarily in the harbor village of Ontario’s Tobermory “Ankle Biters” is produced by Michael Flax of Flax Films, director Bennet De Brabandere, long time makeup artist Sean Sansom with credits from “Land of the Dead” and “eXistenZ, and special effects company, Mindwarp Productions’, Francois Dagenais (“Saw” franchise, “Chucky” SyFy series).  The film is presented in part by APL Films.

As if seeking some sort of self-punishment, story originator Zion Forrest Lee takes the form of a punching bag for four overprotective little girls; four real life sisters, in fact, played by Rosalee, Dahlia, Violet (“Bad Santa 2”), and Lily Reid, the latter Reid having played a significant role in Johannes Roberts’ recent “Resident Evil” reboot as young Claire Redfield and will be involved in another Lee and Brabandere collaboration in the upcoming apocalypse thriller, “Salvation.”  As a father of three girls myself, the Reid girls are nothing short of genuine, killing their roles with tweaked difference in each of their individual personalities as cute and morbidly curious children and siblings.  Lee offers up a rather over-the-top approach toward Chase’s Mr. Perfect in a way that doesn’t come across naturally as the performance is stuck somewhere between Phil Hartman in “Jingle All the Way” and Chevy Chase in “Christmas Vacation” (I’m in the Christmas spirit with my films, if you can’t tell) with a suave sexy toward the women who swallow it up and dorky goofball toward kids who don’t understand it. Chase’s legendary hockey status has been interweaved into the community surrounding his family’s lakeside cabin, such as the local cops with Officer Brian (Gareth Moyse), local shopkeepers like Jordy (Jordan Mills), and even other vacationers, a pair of lakeside neighbors in Anthony (Doru Bandol) and Caprice Gaddis (Maria Sant’Angelo) with their blossoming teenage daughter Matia (Matia Jackett, “Crimson Peak”). By far one of the more interesting characters, Matia doesn’t actually progress the story with her flirtatious crush on Chase as she’s used as more of a device to propel the Haywood girls into full-blown psycho-kiddies as Matia bites off more than she can chew on a what should have been a routine babysitting gig. The biggest name in the film is the “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” comic Colin Mochrie in an unfunny role as the town’s police chief. “Ankle Biters” houses many curious characters come and go, adding little to story or not adding enough, with select bit performances from Evert Houston, Michael Copeman, and Jani Lauzon amongst the Canadian cast.

Not one single member the cast had that it factor that sparks allurement, intrigue, laughter, hate, or any other kind of emotion they’re trained to extract from you or intent on to make you feel in certain crucial points in the story. As a dark comedy, “Ankle Biters” lacked, well, comedy with an overreaching and flat satire on the innocence of mistaken circumstances. When the opening credits roll with the Gary Glitter “Rock and Roll” sampling “The Hey Song,” a track used for decades at sporting events, and we’re immediately exposed to a confrontational and bearded hockey player punching the eye out of an opposing team player into the title sequence, investing myself was easy as the synch of melodious Jock Jams and brutality is promised for the horizon; however, quickly skating from the ice is our beloved bloody-knuckled goon gone in a matter of oddly edited and sequenced scenes and is rarely seen again, even in flashbacks, as we’re dumped into post-hockey career, clean shaven, and on the behavior mend of Sean Chase trying to quickly nail down a woman with four kids who obviously dislike him a whole lot. I fail to see the transition, I don’t want to see the transition, and I’m angry “Ankle Biters” ended up in this transition whereas having Chase continue to be the injured, but still a fisticuffing and bearded enforcer, going toe-to-toe with brats would have been much more (Canadian) of an amusing watch. The better side of this genre blending coin is the darkness portion that really elevates during the latter half of the lakeside trip. Dead bodies, baby spiders crawling out of an ear, open wound fractured skull, a knife to the eye are just a few of the effective practical and composite applications from Francois Dagenais’s special effects company, MindWarp Productions, that keeps the story grounded with destroying the human anatomy as well as keeping up with the human fallibly in order to not have the film fall completely on its face with everything else erroneous.

Released back in mid-November, “Ankle Biters” landed onto On Demand platforms and DVD home video courtesy of Dark Star Pictures. Even though I’m unable to fully cover the audio and video details from any digital screener, I don’t think what was provided was even a finished version of the film that came complete with top left corner running timestamps and some obvious missing special effects, such as the missing prop knife tip when removed from the eye socket and then the tip is back whole on the next shot. No information on the DVD specs was given to me either. Brabandere and Lee do tease with a follow up sequel involving the “Son of Cherrypicker,” named after the lakeside penned “Cherrypicker murders” in the film which, again, was never made a solidifying connection to other than a brief news report ticker on television. If comparing a film close to “Ankle Biters,” Peter Berg’s “Very Bad Things” fits that gruesome bill with one gross misstep in front of another that eventually culminates to a shocking and even deadlier kill or be killed ending with a grown man versus four little girls.

Watch “Ankle Biters” On Amazon Prime Video

EVIL Wants a Cuddle in “Benny Loves You” reveiwed! (Epic Pictures / DVD)



35-year old man-child Jack still lives with his parents, still plays with toys, and remains stuck in a dead-end job.  When his parents tragically die in a surprise birthday for him and his professional prospects at an all time low, Jack decides to grow up and improve his life, even if that means throwing away his favorite childhood stuffed teddy bear, Benny.   Being discarded in a blink of an eye resurrects Benny to life, seeking Jack’s affection like the good old days when Jack was a child.  There’s only one problem, Benny doesn’t want to share Jack’s love and the toy’s thirst for blood sends him into playful murderous rage against anyone or anything that comes near him.  Jack has come to terms with Benny’s intentions, even mocking up a new craze toy line inspired by Benny, but as the bodies pile up and a new woman comes into his life, Jack must confront his plushy childhood best friend to save what little of a life he has left. 

What an age us horror fans live in!  Our good guy doll Chucky makes a tremendous comeback these last couple of years with a reboot film and a new television series on SyFy!  Killer dolls are back, baby!  Joining in on the fun is another pintsized maniac with just about as much red coloring on its soft nap as Chucky’s stringy hair on top of his head and, also, sees about the same amount red when wielding a knife with homicidal intentions.  From the United Kingdom comes Karl Holt’s time to grown up or die horror-comedy “Benny Loves You.”  Holt’s a one man show in his debut feature film that he doesn’t just direct, but also is the writer, editor, cinematographer, composer, lead star, and producer of this heart-warming and heart-severing, cute and cuddly, gore show.  The 2019 released riot is an exclusive Dread Central (Dread) presented release of a joint production from Raven Banner and Darkline Entertainment.

Alongside Ken Holt as Jack, the failure to launch mid-30’s man still parent dependent, are a slew of individuals with a variety of personalities suited to Benny’s killer taste in protecting his most beloved human.  From home to the office, Benny slays through the competition in the game of life and death, starting with an indifferent bank representative, played by Greg Barnett (“Hot Property”), looking to foreclose on Jack’s family home.  Yet, Jack has seemingly always been destined for a grisly fate, just not his own, as his parents (Catriona McDonald and Greg Page) die in a “Final Destination” style accident rooted by the very theme of the story – his inability to grow up.  As when Jack and Benny’s new dynamic goes through a 180-degree positive spin on Jack improving his downtrodden life is when more unfortunate souls become ensnared in Benny’s mission.  More of the oppressive office environment, with snide performances from a pug pooch-adoring and stern boss in absolute deadpan by James Parsons and a jerk colleague in the running for a promotion played perfectly tat by George Collie.  Then there’s the love interest in Claire Cartwright (“Souljacker”) as Dawn, a toy tech engineer who finds common interests in Jack and falls for him.   Cartwright exudes pleasure seeking in an overreaching of every man’s fantasy categorized kind of gal.  Holt tries to maintain Dawn’s perfection with her own Benny-esque storyline but that never brings the character down to his level of trouble, leaving Cartwright cornered in being just a slave to Jack’s coyness instead of a sympathetic character.  Cast rounds out with Anthony Styles (“Razors: The Return of Jack the Ripper”) and Darren Benedict (“Aux”) as two oblivious cops who are actually inching closer to the truth as well as David Wayman (“Seven Devils”) as a real estate agent and Lydia Hourihan (“Inmate Zero”) as Jack’s ex-girlfriend.

While Benny may not have the massive sex appeal of a one Brad Dourif or a mega franchise with vary degrees of success, “Benny Loves You” is still a delicious small fry of the toys gone murderously wild horror-comedy subgenre that dapples into a little of everything from gratuitous gore to the heartfelt warm and fuzzies.  The blend of practical and composited computer imagery of Benny’s movements is the work of a mad genius and I’m sure we have Holt to thank for that as well under his many hats in production.  Benny strikes me more differently than the likes of “Child’s Play” or even the anthropomorphic toys of “Puppet Master” with an encompassing amount of personality.  From his cutesy voice box limited to only a handful of says like cuddle me or Ta-Da! to the way he flops around like a possessed rag doll with wide eyes and an ear-to-ear smile, Benny’s an easy villain to love and is easily able to root for when the unlikeable people of Jack’s life suddenly hem in with unforgiving, browbeating mercy, making Benny the cutest and most loveable anti-heroic punisher of the killer toy canon. Holt’s film doesn’t come out flawlessly unscathed, however, where minor issues of lightspeed pacing and choppy editing aims to get through one scene to the next leaving little to sink in when plot points, monkey wrenches, or heart-warmings transpire. Much of the background into Benny’s sudden erect to life goes unexplained but that Devil in the lack of details is better suited for a film about a discarded toy coming to life – “Toy Story” did it and look how successful Disney made that franchise – and while the whole film is fluff filmmaking at is finest, you have to find appreciation in the smallest details, especially with Holt’s forging of horror scenario tropes into embarrassing personal ordeals that don’t even involve the titular killer.

I’m sure “Benny Loves You” has already been through the toyetic process, at least on the indie production circuit, but, in any case, you can definitely own Karl Holt’s wonderfully macabre and instant cult classic on DVD home video from Epic Pictures, a Dread picture label. The not rated, region free release clocks in at 94 minutes and is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Where Benny shines as a grisly tale of saying goodbye to your childhood stuffed friend, the clarity in the image state is not so defined with a meager detail and sharpness. Scenes with the matted CGI often appear blurry and chunky with Benny very flat in what should be his grand alive and breathing opus. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 lossy audio too inadequate for the scope of content. Holt included a wide range of sounds, and this audio track is bridled to curb in an assortment of a blend of action, horror, and the downright awe of Benny’s cuteness. Dialogue a bit muddled but overall perceptible. So far, audio and visuals are a blinking sign to a rather cheapie DVD presentation and the lack of special features hits the last nail into the mass-produced coffin, reaffirming that the standalone movie home media is all well and alive and that’s okay with me in the case of “Benny Loves Me.” A chip off the old diabolical doll block, “Benny Loves Me” is an out of the blue hit, a real cutup, and the perfect Friday night fright to enjoy with your own personal favorite, stuffed animal buddy.

MUST OWN!  Bring Benny Home on the “Benny Loves You” DVD!

Defy EVIL to Live! “Alone” reviewed! (Magnet Releasing / Digital Screener)

Six months after the suicide of her husband, Jessica struggles to cope living in the city that holds too many fond memories of her once happy life with her husband.  Jessica packs her things and quickly drives out to the wilderness, separating herself from the city as well as her unsupportive parents.   On the road, she encounters an incessant man following her every track before violently kidnapping her and hiding her away in a bare room of an isolated cabin deep within the woods.  Her escape opposes her not only against a calculating captor hot in pursuit, but also against nature’s unforgiving elements, showing little mercy to Jessica’s dire and desperate getaway. 

From eluding the flesh hungry, running zombies of Syfy’s “Z-Nation” and Netflix’s “Black Summer,” director John Hyams has us fleeing once again for our very lives against a more realistic monster in his upcoming abduction thriller, “Alone.” Screenwriter Mattias Olsson takes a backseat from directing “Alone,” which is a remake of his written and co-directed 2011 Swedish film, “Gone,” paralleling the premise about a woman fleeing a family tragedy only to be followed and kidnapped by a man driving a SUV.  Shot in Oregon’s silvan outskirts, “Alone” is a survival thriller with emerging themes of taking back one’s life in more ways than one and no more running from an unbearable past built into a conceivable terror situation that has unfortunately been a common episode all over the globe.  “Alone” will be the second feature film produced under Mill House Motion Pictures, under the supervision of founders Jordan Foley and Jonathan Rosenthal, the latter having a small role in the film, and is also a film from a second Jordan Foley company, Paperclip Limited, who has Lisa Simpson voice actress herself, Yeardley Smith, as one of the active partners, and, lastly, in association with XYZ Films.

The up and coming young actress, Jules Willcox (“Dreamkatcher”) stars in the lead of Jessica who hasn’t have a friend in the world, alienating herself from her former life and her parents with a sudden escape to the Oregon wilderness.  The physically demanding role withstands the brunt of constant attack, whether from Marc Menchaca’s unnamed assailant character or the natural elements of the forest that include from the massive rapid rivers and torrential rains to the smallest of roots that spear her bare feet while on the run.  Willcox also brings to the role an indistinct mindset, jumbled with the lingering and complicated suicide of Jessica’s husband, paranoia, and an instinctual reaction to survive, especially through Willcox’s eyes that arch from fear to fortitude.  To really envelope Willcox in that unwarranted fear of harm and pushing her character into the unknown of the adversarial complex that is mother nature is Marc Menchaca as a conniving creep looking to do as much pleasurable damage on his bogus business trip as possible.  Menchaca also looks the part, resembling an out of place 70’s-80’s serial killer with round thin-framed glasses and a moderately bushy handlebar mustache overtop a sturdy frame.  Now while these attributes are not indicative to just serial killers, they sure as hell work well on screen to really sell the intensity that Menchaca delivers as a faux Ned Flanders type nice guy, a sheep in a wolf’s clothing so to speak, who acts a lure against his prey before venomously striking.  The small cast rounds out with Anthony Heald of the Anthony Hopkins “Hannibal” films in a small, yet uncharacteristic, good guy role as a hunter caught in the middle of Jessica’s situation.

While suicide might be the catalyst that compels Jessica to drive into the middle of nowhere, Matthias and Hymans only utilize the power theme as an instrument against Jessica’s psyche.  Jessica runs and hides from polite and comfortable society, but the recently widowed soon discovers that she can’t outrun her past as she hits a perverse wall constructed in the form of a man of sordid pleasures and sociopathic tendencies.  Her kidnapper becomes, in a way, her therapist who, at one point, pins her to the ground and scrolls through the personal photos on her tablet, forcing her to talk about her husband up to the point of his death, and consistently throughout the film that his actions were cowardly, removing the blame from her and onto him while emphasizing her tremendous guilt for not seeing the signs earlier.  “Alone” blossoms a wildly curative dynamic that encourages Jessica to then defend herself and her husband’s memory by standing up against not only the man’s relentless chase, but also her guilt.  The thick Oregon setting becomes a security blanket, sheathing her endless dismay, but the forest is actually does more harm than good for Jessica.  Only when does Jessica steps into a wide clearing of lumberjacked tree stumps does hiding from all the pain and torment become no longer an option as she makes her last stand against her attacker, unloading her fear, anger, and guilt upon the man by exposing him as an oppressive killer. While immersed in watching, “Alone” will deprive oxygen from your body that’s desperately gasping to fill your lungs with air in every harrowing chapter, but “Alone” is a breadth with a throng of digging out of despair overtones and a conduit for self-repair that’s unraveled symbolically through the afflictions of bona fide sadism.

“Alone” rises above the call of arms against predatory men in this thrilling remake from John Hyams, releasing into Theaters and VOD on September 18th from Magnet Releasing. The rated R, 98 minute feature will not have the A/V specs critique due to the digital screener, but Federico Verardi (“Z-Nation”) grasps the elegant threat of the woods by using drone shots to shoot the very tippy-top of the swaying trees that conceal the ground, as if obscuring the atrocity being committed below, and applying low-contrast to make insidious hard shadows against green lush that turn beauty dark and deceitful. *Director John Hyams has noted the rapid’s scene where Jessica temps fate to escape her pursuer was practical and performed by stuntwoman Michelle Damis and though looked a little off around the Jessica’s unsubmerged profile as she’s whisked away down the river, the effect is 100% legit. “The Pyramid” and “Becky’s” Nima Fakhrara scores a low-impact tremble for most of the feature with Jessica’s running through the woods is accompanied an equally low-impact drumming, letting the ebb and flow of resonating forest ambience engulf much of the soundtrack to solidify it as a correlative character; even the end credits is purely nature’s ambient noise. Since “Alone” is a brand new feature, there were no bonus material or bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Alone” knicks the core of vulturine power, but turns the tables toward more feminist revelation to fight and take back one’s life.

*Correction: Previously stated the rapids scene was CGI.

 

The Great White Evil Hexad! “6-Headed Shark Attack” review!


In 1984, a floating marine biological station near Baja, Mexico becomes the target of an unnatural, genetically modified creature – a massive six-headed great white shark! The attack leaves the station afloat, but all the scientists fall victim the six, serrated jaws. Twenty-five years later, William, a couple’s therapy boot camp instructor hones in on assisting estranged lovers rekindling the romantic fire by having the couples journey to a remote, rocky island just off the Baja coast. Struggling to cope with his own divorce turbulence, William takes the reigns of the camp therapy business that was cofounded with his ex-wife, hoping for comfort through the program’s reconciliation message, but when the six-headed shark kills two of his colleagues, William’s new mission is for the safe harbor of his customers. However, every time one brains of the shark is damaged or destroy, the head is ripped off by another head and new one regenerates in it’s place and the beast can also hunt on land, fathoming as turf and surf’s most deadliest unstoppable creature known to mankind.

A SyFy Channel original premiere from The Asylum Home Entertainment group has astonishingly struck pure chaotic shark gold yet again with “6-Headed Shark Attack,” the latest monstrous sequel that follows that same flamboyant titular tradition. Director Mark Atkins, who is no stranger to b-movie shark horror with “Planet of the Sharks” and “Empire of the Sharks,” dives right into the water with his first multi-headed shark attack film that’s penned by Atkins along with Koichi Petetsky, a recognizable name from his scribe work on the recently reviewed “Megalodon,” another The Asylum and SyFy love child. To be honest, “6-Headed Shark Attack” is also this reviewers first venture into the multi-headed shark attack universe and, to be truthful to my audiences again, the absurdity of Atkin’s monster shark roister is reminiscent of the classic monster films that include giant ants and killer shrews!

William’s disheveled intangibility is being held together loosely by the wiry binds of his marriage counseling profession and though the painstaking process of divorce rattles his soul, the potentiality of being eaten by a 6-headed shark doesn’t phase his determination in saving survivors trapped on the remote island. Brandon Auret slips into the William’s embattled shoes and the actor, who been a steady Neill Blomkamp favorite South African for the steampunk-laden director’s films such as “Chappie,” “District 9,” and “Elysium,” finds himself as lead man versus mutant shark, but the multi-lingual and rugged Auret fails to sell the performance that falls flat with tremendous eyeshot quality of awkward hesitations and unsavory emotions. Blomkamp’s high concept science fiction doesn’t quite parallel Atkins’ budget flair that spotlit around great white shark country’s South African filming location that seems unfitting for Auret’s usual Hollywood wheelhouse. The female lead is bestowed upon fellow “Empire of the Shark” vet Thandi Sebe as Mary, one half of one of the four flailing couples, and Mary’s strength and common sense separates her from the pack and even her husband played by a very bushy haired stunt coordinator Cord Newman. The malaise between James and Mary push to a general distressing love triangle that’s been fabricated by a violent and vindictive James; Sebe and Newman aren’t the quintessential unhappy power couple, but they do make a stain that stands out. The remaining shark victims includes Naima Sebe, Tapiwa Musvosvi (also “Empire of the Sharks”), Chris Fisher, Meghan Oberholzer, Jonathan Pienaar (again, “Empire of the Sharks”), and Nikita Faber.

Like most of The Asylum productions, “6-Headed Shark Attack” is made on the extreme cheap. That isn’t to say that the extreme cheap and is extreme garbage as each film that is churned out as a SyFy original has some sort of redeeming quality to it. For “Megalodon,” the shark had characteristic features, like scarring, even if the Megalodon was two dimensional. “6-Headed Shark Attack” also saves itself from full outright embarrassment with schlocky, barmy charm such as a shark walking on land like a scorpion shark, using four of the heads as legs to charge toward steeplechased landlubbers, but the 6-headed shark has no definition from the visual effects team, losing some of the realism much need, or rather desired, in the computer generated leviathan.

MVDVisual and The Asylum Home Entertainment chum the water with “6-Headed Shark Attack” presented the digitally shot film in the original widescreen format, an 1.78:1 aspect ration. The shark was already touched upon that the visual effects lacked the creases, the scarring, and the overall personality a mutant shark should possess, but the look of the rest of the film needs to be questioned as well. The South African shoreline is exquisite and serene that’s beautifully captured by director Mark Atkins who also has an equal hand in being a cinematographer. Yet, the sunny, rocky island favors a washed look (no pun intended) that stems from an overexposure during the digital recording and loses some of the details in obvious portions such as large jagged rocks seemingly smooth or the granules of sand blending together to be one tan blanket on the beach. The English language 5.1 surround sound has no qualms for the most part other than The Asylum go-to stock score tracks by Christopher Cano and Chris Ridenhour, the musical duo behind “Megalodon.” Trailers to the film are the only extras available on a static menu. Having never seen 2, 3, 4 (is there a 4?), “5-Headed Shark Attack,” “6-Headed Shark Attack” seems to not be anchored down by series continuity despite reuniting the cast and crew of “Empire of the Sharks” and “Megalodon” and is a standalone creature feature constrained to being a run of the mill exploitation of man-eater mania.

Buy 6-Headed Shark Attack at Amazon.com!

Evil’s Gonna Need a Bigger Boat! “Megalodon” review!


A covert Russian submarine is trying to drill into the Southern Pacific communications system to benefit from United States secrets, but when the gung-ho captain decides to push the drill team to maximum velocity, the submarine inadvertently release a pre-historic, though to be extinct Megalodon. A nearby U.S. military vessel intercepts the heavily damaged Russian sub with a submersible and saves three uncooperative, Kremlin patriotic survivors from Davy Jones locker while barely escaping jaws of the powerful Giant shark. The aging U.S. sea captain, Streeper, and accompanying admiral, King, rely heavily on Commander Lynch to maintain constant attention on the circling predator, while Streeper attempts extracting vital information from the Russian operatives to further establish the hostile tense and disruptive Russian-U.S. relations. When the shark turns its ravenous attention to the vessel, the crew must use their smarts and what’s on board to go head-to-head against a ferocious, battle ready Megalodon!

You really have to hate-to-love The Asylum for producing and capitalizing on highly lucrative films. This past summer’s “The Meg” was a major blockbuster success for not only director John Turteltaub but also for Warner Bros and as if the Carcharocles megalodon wasn’t exploited enough, The Asylum’s “Megalodon” aimed to reap from Jason Statham face-off with “The Meg.” Director James Thomas, who delivered another knock off with “Tomb Invader,” a cash in on last year’s “Tomb Raider” reboot adaptation to the popular video game, submerses himself into the SyFy movie. The SyFy channel is no stranger in shelling out monstrous shark movies; let’s just name a few to paint a picture of what’s being described here: “Sharktopus,” “2-Headed Shark Attack,” “Ghost Shark,” “Jersey Short Shark Attack,” “Malibu Shark Attack,” and let’s not forget to mention the channel’s most prolific and preposterously entertaining “Sharknado” franchise. Unfortunately, sharks an easy target for villainy that viewers can easily digest and be enthralled by their mysterious nature, but to buffoon them with genetic mutations unnatural superpowers stiffens not only their actual gentle prowess, but also attenuates legitimate shark films. That’s not to say that Thomas’ over-saturated titled “Megalodon,” penned by “6-Headed Shark Attack’s” Koichi Petetsky, is a mega hit, but at least the shark isn’t radioactive, isn’t a spliced abomination, and can’t dorsal slice through sand, ice, and earth. The back to simplicity for the man-eating shark is a breath a fresh air in my book.

“Reservoir Dogs’” star Michael Madsen headlines with his name splayed right about the titular creature about to swallow a submersible. Madness, sporting a military non-regulation curly hairstyle, portrays an naval officer, Admiral King, at the end of his lustrous career. King’s lame duck presence is a formulaic means to an end that will decide the fate of more prominent characters so Madsen, as an unconvincing and unconventional U.S. admiral, has screen time that’s limited mostly to the first and third acts and scarcely peppered in between the dynamics of Captain Streeper and Commander Lynch. While Streeper and Lynch essentially share the lead and neither have the star-studded power to be an influencing purchase-me-now headliner, the two onscreen officers are structured as a one-two punch against two opposing forces. “The Demonic Dead’s” Dominic Pace, as Captain Streeper, has promising capabilities as a military ship commander as Pace maintains his usual type casted tough guy role from prior credits while his counterpart, Caroline Harris, plays passively strong in Streeper’s shadow that’s supposed to display edge-bordering defiance but never comes to fruition. As Pace and Harris jockey for lead, Russian submariners, Captain Ivanov and Yana Popov, sheathed a more interestingly perspective on duty versus mortality. Ego Mikitas (“Nazi Overlord”) and “Fear Pharm’s” Amiee Stolte lined “Megalodon” with a sub-story, no pun intended on the sub, as bullheaded survivors aiming to complete their clandestine mission without lifting a finger to assist the opposition. To be fair, the James Thomas script didn’t exactly put the U.S. in good light, scribing Streeper, Lynch, and others as pushy information extractors and the Russian are stereotypical misers of information. If I was being intensely interrogated while a massive shark circled our boat, I would also question the intentions of my captors and not give them squat. Other shipmate actors include Scott Roe (“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”), Sebastien Charmant (“Halloween Hell”), Elizabeth Cron (“SuperHot Apocalypse”), Paulina Laurant (“Triassic World”), and Luke Fattorusso.

“Megalodon” provides a laugh track of production inadequacies and a cinematography from Paul Thomas could be said to be straight out of the Michael Bay school of filmmaking, but as far as SyFy premiered movies and The Asylum Home Entertainment films go, “Megalodon” is a Giant Shark sized leap of success. The CGI shark has surprised me being an object of crude, but of commending detail that exhibits an ancient beast marked with battle scars and also exhibiting realism with the donning of an acceptable gray-blue hue. Plus, the shark doesn’t have atomic level laser vision, can’t breathe fire underwater, and has the normal shark fins instead of octopus tentacles. Thank the shark Gods! While the megalodon passes plausibility of natural facts, it’s swimming motion and trajectory checks the box of clunky territory with a rudimentary, two-dimension view of the shark swimming at an unnatural diagonal angle away and toward the ship, like something out of the NES “Jaws the Revenge” video game. The CGI ship and submersible is more of an immediate concern than the CGI shark as Roger Rabbit has more realism. Suffering succotash! Actual location of the ship is a the USS Lane Victory, a defunct military vessel from WWII turned museum that’s docked off California and the museum aspects tactlessly are not veiled from view and, if a modern day military ship is supposed to go toe-to-toe with a megalodon, a ship with brass communication tubes. The obvious museum décor ships “Megalodon” into a strange and bewildering backwards alternate universe that causes confusing and complexities with a quarry full of questions.

MVDVisual and The Asylum Productions presents the SyFy original film, “Megalodon,” onto DVD home video. Original being the suspiciously key word here as original never really goes hand-in-hand with The Asylum produced films. Presented in the original widescreen format, “Megalodon,” for what it’s worth, has distinction despite the questionable special effects. No blotchy or aliasing detected and the coloring renders consistently. The 5.1 surround sound audio tracks has clear verbal dialogue, ample gunfire and explosion range and depth, and no distortions to note. The painfully generic stock score is an ear sore, but has balance and isn’t an overly commanding and obtrusive presence. The trailer is the only special feature available, but to broaden upon the lack of bonus material, the Asylum DVD releases always have kitschy graphic cover art and “Megalodon” is front and back gold standard that exaggerate the film’s action-packed appeal. Director James Thomas’ dual story batters the pre-history shark narrative to nearly null, but “Megalodon’s” unwavering action chums the water that begins with a large shark taking a bite out of a foreign reconnaissance submarine and ends with Michael Madsen extinguishing a cigar on the said shark’s large snout in pure Michael Madsen fashion.

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