Saturday, October 01, 2011


I'll start October's horror movie reviews off with this archetypal trashy-fun B-monster movie. It's JAWS meets CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, with a little bit of ALIEN thrown in for good measure. In a small fishing town, tension is whipped up when the owner of a cannery (Vic Morrow) wants to expand against the wishes of a Native American group, led by Anthony Penya, concerned about the ecology. Morrow has hired a scientist (Ann Turkel) to come up with ways to accelerate the breeding of salmon, but her experiments have gone awry (umm, duh, she's tampering in God's domain) and, unknown to her, produced dozens of humanoid sea creatures who begin rising from the depths to kill human men and mate with human women. The first cool thing that happens is that some of the horror movie rules are violated: children and animals do get killed. On a very JAWS-like fishing trip, a young boy becomes the first victim of the monsters when he falls from the boat and is snatched underwater (in a nifty backwards-motion shot). Then a big old friendly dog is killed and left on the beach in a hideous mess, rather like the first swimming victim in JAWS. Then a bunch of the fishermen's dogs are slaughtered, except for Penya's which leads to suspicions that the Indians are behind the deaths. Two young lovers are attacked on the beach: the boys gets half his face ripped off and dies, and the girl gets raped and survives. The climax occurs during the annual Salmon Festival when a horde of beasts attack everyone and everything in sight. Just when you think all the creatures have been killed, there's a shock twist ending that, despite being shamelessly ripped off from ALIEN, is quite effective.

Gore and nudity are the drawing cards here, with heaping doses of both. The best "Eeek!... Yuck!" moment is when a monster rips a man's head off his body. The beach rape is quite graphic--it has to be for the ending to make sense. With a low budget, the filmmakers have been clever and made most of the "money shot" scenes very short so the cheapness of the effects is not terribly noticeable, with the ripped-up dog being the best example. The festival finale is non-stop screaming and killing and is quite fun. The acting is terrible all around: the hero is a pudgy, going-to-seed Doug McClure, far from his days as a blond hunk in the 60s and early 70s. The female lead, Ann Turkel, is terrible, and everyone else seems like an amateur except Morrow who is OK but doesn't really get to chew the scenery like you expect him to. The monster outfits are best when just glimpsed, and look rather shoddy when dwelt upon, but that didn't stop me from having a generally good time with this as a beer-and-pizza flick. The production was overseen by the unbilled Roger Corman. [DVD]

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