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Review by
Kelly Parks

FRANKENFISH - 2004
Dimension Films
Rated: Australia: M / France & Netherlands: 12 / Germany: 16 / Hong Kong: IIB / Norway & Sweden: 15 / Spain: 18 / UK: 15 / USA: R


The first time I heard some treehugging rainbow warrior start whining about "Franken" foods, I pictured a whole sub-category of horror films with "Franken" monsters of one kind or another, and I laughed. Then I pictured a whole sub-category of horror films with monsters that looked like Al Franken, and I shuddered.

FRANKENFISH was directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé (SPAWN, HALLOWEENTOWN III) and written by Simon Barrett (DEAD BIRDS) and Scott Clevenger. It opens in the Louisiana bayou. John Crankton (Eugene Collier: THE TRIGGER EFFECT) is in a small boat checking his crawfish traps when something big moves under the water. It grabs him and pulls him in and the water turns red.

Meanwhile, outside New Orleans, medical examiner Sam Rivers (Tory Kittles: PHONE BOOTH, PAPARAZZI) is in the middle of examining a body at a crime scene when the sheriff arrives and tells him he's needed in the swamp to check out what's left of the unlucky fisherman. Sam seems reluctant to go but isn't given a choice. He drives down to a boat dock and meets up with fish and game biologist Mary Callahan (China Chow: SPUN, THE BIG HIT). They hop in a small motorboat and head into the swamp.

The local law had assumed the cause of death was alligator attack, but Sam can tell instantly that whatever killed the fisherman had much bigger teeth than any alligator.

The bulk of the movie takes place among a cluster of houseboats in the middle of nowhere deep in the swamp. Here Sam and Mary meet a catfish fisherman named Elmer (Muse Watson: DEAD BIRDS, HOLLYWOOD VAMPYR, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER), a crazy ex-Green Beret named Ricardo, a stoner couple who like to walk around naked, and the grieving wife and adult daughter of John Crankton. John's widow Gloria (Donna Biscoe: DEAD BIRDS, PANDORA'S BOX) practices voodoo and his daughter Eliza (K.D. Aubert: THE SCORPION KING) is there with her boyfriend / boss Dan (Mathew Rauch).

So we've got a whole bunch of people living deep in the Louisiana swamp, plus medical examiner Sam who we find out grew up in the area before moving to the Big Easy. And yet not one of them has a Cajun accent! Well, Gloria tries but fails. If such an obvious and easy detail is too much to ask, how much effort are they going to make for the rest of the movie? Too bad for them because Cajun accents are fun, cher!

Gloria explains that the area has been cursed ever since an abandoned cargo boat was found upriver. Sam and Mary go to check it out and find more shredded human remains and a GPS beacon, which Sam switches on.

Back in New Orleans, a man named Anton (Reggie Lee) sees the GPS signal on his PDA and calls his boss (and the owner of the cargo boat), a big game hunter named Jeff (Tomas Arana: THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY). They load up an airboat with guns, guns, guns and head into the swamp.

And what about the monster? That requires a

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
The genetically engineered creature in question actually wasn't that bad. It's big but not violates-the-square-cube-law big and its behavior is way too smart and basically monster overacting but its certainly on a par with the rest of the movie. The fact is that creating monsters like this is either doable today or will be by next Tuesday, depending on how ethical the molecular biologist is.

But "on a par with the rest of the movie" is not exactly a compliment. This film starts out okay for a bad B monster movie, but then it just gets stupid. People die horribly and the friends and / or relatives of these people scream, "No!" but are completely over it minutes later. The monster came across as too smart but maybe that was just in comparison to the dumb people doing dumb things. And the ending! Would it be ruining it for you to tell you that you'll laugh and roll your eyes at how the final "situation" is resolved?

Well it shouldn't because it was the most entertaining thing the movie had to offer. And because of that this movie slips - just barely - into "so bad it's good" territory. That's why it gets two negative Shriek Girls.


This review copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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