Jurassic Park (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum

HAMMOND – “All major theme parks have had delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked!”
MALCOLM – “But John, if the Pirates Of The Caribbean breaks down the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”

My childhood memories of Jurassic Park are a mixture of peaceful moments involving brachiosaurs and a triceratops, and loud noises played over a bright lime green colour.

You see, when it first hit cinemas in 1993 I was ten years old and I, my mum, my dad and my dinosaur-mad brother went to see it. Signs at the cinema warned that, although Jurassic Park was rated PG, there were some scary scenes that would be unsuitable for young children.

Anyone seeing us go into the cinema would think my seven-year-old brother was a potential problem, but in fact the opposite was the case.

"Look at the side of that car, my dear. I'm very proud of the sides of my cars. I do hope nothing happens to my cars, in particular the sides. I can't stress how important the sides of my cars are."
“Look at the side of that car, my dear. I’m very proud of the sides of my cars. I do hope nothing happens to my cars, in particular the sides. I can’t stress how important the sides of my cars are.”

For want of a better phrase, I was a bit of a pussy when I was younger, whereas at the tender age of seven my brother loved A Nightmare On Elm Street, Child’s Play and the like.

That’s why, when the T-Rex attacked the jeeps in the pouring rain and ate the annoying lawyer, or when the Dilophosaur spat on the double-crossing Dennis Nedry and attacked him in his car, or when the raptors were chasing Tim and Lex in the kitchen, I never saw those scenes – I only heard them, with my lime green t-shirt pulled over my face in fear.

Despite this fear I still loved Jurassic Park, and the majority of 1993 and 1994 was spent playing with the toys (remember the ones that roared when you moved their hand, and the Dino Damage ones that had chunks of flesh you could pull off?), playing the video games (the Mega Drive one let you play as the raptor) and re-watching the VHS over and over again, the smaller telly and lower volume providing me with a safer environment to watch the dodgier scenes. It was a part of my childhood and now, aged 28, I still love it.

"Well, that's the sides fucked"
“Well, that’s the sides fucked”

For the sake of procedure I feel obliged to explain the story of Jurassic Park, this being a review and all, though you really should know it by now.

Eccentric Scottish billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has opened up a theme park in a remote tropical island, a theme park that features real life dinosaurs he’s managed to clone using the DNA extracted from blood found in fossilised mosquitoes.

Excited about his park, he invites some guests – palaeontologist Alan Grant (Neill), palaeobotanist Ellie Sattler (Dern), theorist Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) and the aforementioned annoying lawyer – to see the park before it opens and get their expert opinions. Oh, and he’s invited his two grandchildren too, because things definitely won’t go tits-up.

"It's a fossilised penis. It must have fallen out of my pocket when we were being chased"
“It’s a fossilised penis. It must have fallen out of my pocket when we were being chased”

After a while, things go tits-up and, thanks to some underhand subterfuge from park IT nerd Dennis Nedry, the electric fences around the park go down, leaving the dinosaurs free to run riot and do what they feel like. And, somewhat unsurprisingly, what they feel like doing is munching on humans.

It’s up to the gang (who are scattered around the island) to regroup and get the fuck out of Dodge before a raptor puts them between two slices of bread.

Even watching it eighteen years later on Blu-ray, Jurassic Park still looks sensational. There are one or two moments where the CGI now looks ever so slightly dated (most notably the scene with the brachiosaurs where everyone sees the dinosaurs for the first time), but the fact that all of the dinosaur effects are still infinitely more convincing than the tripe churned out today – I’m looking at you Dinoshark, Lockjaw and Mega Piranha – just shows what an incredible achievement this film’s special effects were at the time on computer hardware that nowadays would be, if you’ll pardon the pun, prehistoric.

"When you told me we were going to meet your horny friend this wasn't what I had in mind. But hey, every hole's a goal"
“When you told me we were going to meet your horny friend this wasn’t what I had in mind. But hey, every hole’s a goal”

It’s just a perfect film that works on so many levels for all ages. Children get a kick out of seeing people interact with dinosaurs – something we’ve all wanted to do at some point – while adults can appreciate the arguments the characters have over the ethical and moral implications of cloning and disrupting the laws of natural selection by bringing back extinct animals, topics that are still strikingly relevant almost two decades later.

If you’ve never seen Jurassic Park, I feel like crying right in your face then whipping my head left and right so the tears slap across your inexperienced eyes. It’s simply an essential film that everyone with any sense of wonder or imagination has to see.

At the time it was released it was a revelation in filmmaking and its use of CGI changed the way movies were created, while these days it’s become a demonstration that even though its special effects DNA has been cloned and misused so many times since, when used properly it can make for some of the most spectacular cinema ever seen.

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WHERE CAN I GET IT?
Jurassic Park was recently released in a lovely Blu-ray trilogy boxset. UK peeps can get it by clicking here or get the DVD trilogy by clicking here. If you’re a Yankee Doodle Dandy you can get the US Blu-ray trilogy here or the DVD trilogy here.

Swamp Shark (2011)

Director: Griff Furst

Starring: Kristy Swanson, DB Sweeney, Jeff Chase, Jason Rogel, Sophie Sinise

“This isn’t a normal shark. It swims, it kills, and it’s out there.” (Tommy, Swamp Shark)

Swamp Shark is actually one of the better SyFy-produced movies out there, but that’s like saying an elbow is one of the least painful ways to receive a blow to the testicles.

As you’d expect from the title, it’s about a shark. In a swamp. The weekend before the annual Gator Fest at the Atchafalaya Basin (a shindig that, judging by the Gator Fest scenes in the film, attracts around seven people), a dodgy animal smuggling deal goes wrong and a giant shark ends up in the swamp.

"I'll kill it. I used to be Buffy, you know." "So you keep telling us. We don't care"

A local drunk falls into the water and is eaten alive by the shark but the police blame the McDaniels family, who run their own restaurant complete with a pack of alligators that sit outside. According to the police, one of their gators must have done it, but head of the family Rachel (Kristy “Buffy” Swanson) sees a shark outside and decides to head off to find it to prove that was the real culprit.

As it was a made-for-TV movie, Swamp Shark is very tame for a shark film. There’s one graphic scene in which the shark leaps out of the air and bites a man’s head clean off, but other than that most of the deaths involve the old classic trick of someone being pulled underwater and the water turning red.

Bob happily thought to himself: "You know, I think my headache's gone"

Meanwhile, the sex scenes are so desperate not to show any nudity that it actually gets silly – at one point one chap takes a topless photo of his girlfriend but when he then looks at the photo and sees a shark in the background, you can see that he somehow only managed to get a headshot of her, despite her, you know, being topless.

The shark effects themselves are a bit of a mixed bag. The first half of the film wisely goes down the Jaws route by barely showing the thing and only giving little glimpses here and there. It’s only when it starts appearing more often and decides to start leaping out of the water – as is the law with any killer animal in a SyFy movie – that the old dodgy CGI kicks in again.

Swamp Shark is harmless and it isn’t terrible. All the actors seem to be having fun, none of them put in a truly terrible performance, the characters you want to die end up dying, and the ending is silly, over-the-top fun. It’s no Jaws by any stretch of the imagination but if it’s on the telly and there’s nothing else to watch it’ll pass the time.

WHERE CAN I GET IT?
If you want Swamp Shark on DVD you can get it from Amazon if you click here. If you’re more of a Blu-Ray person then get yourself down to Tesco because, oddly, it’s a Tesco exclusive and it’ll only set you back £3 (or £3.90 from the Tesco website). And it’s worth a go at that price.

Lockjaw (2008)

Director: Amir Valinia

Starring: DMX, Wes Brown, Louis Herthum, Lauren Fain

“Don’t forget, at the end of the day it’s just a snake. A really messed up snake.” (Nick, Lockjaw)

I’ve seen some bad films in my time – as you’ll know if you’ve taken more than a brief glance at some of the other reviews on this site – but Lockjaw is by far one of the worst movies I’ve seen in the past couple of years. It’s not the CGI effects or the hopeless music, those I can deal with. It’s the plot, the script and the acting that make this one such a stinker.

The film starts with a flashback in which a young lad called Alan and his friend Becky break into a voodoo-loving man’s house and steal a dangerous voodoo pen from him before he and his son (more about him later) find out.

So how do you defeat a mystical snake summoned by voodoo? With a voodoo bazooka, of course. Seriously.

Alan, disturbed by his dad’s abusive behaviour towards his mother, decides for no apparent reason to draw a picture – using the voodoo pen – of a big monster eating his dad. Sure enough, after his drunken father leaves the house, he’s gobbled up by the beast and never seen again.

Fast forward to the present day and Alan and Becky are now married. While they do gardening at their home Becky digs up the pen, but before she gets to ask Alan about it she’s run over by a van containing a group of teens who happen to be the biggest bunch of absolute cocks you’ve ever seen in any film to date. Alan uses the pen to draw the monster again, this time attacking the van, and so one by one the teens start getting picked off by the beast. A guy summoning a monster to get revenge on people killing someone close to him? Ah, so it’s basically Pumpkinhead then.

In one of the more impressive effects scenes, the filmmakers make this moron look capable of feeding himself

It’s hard to properly describe just how painful Lockjaw is to watch. Almost every member of the main cast has at least one infuriating quality – there’s the quirky guy who talks really loudly because he’s desperate to steal every scene, then there’s the slutty one who was clearly hired for the inevitable nudity alone but then doesn’t even get naked (resulting in an awkward sex scene in which she groans away as if she’s getting some then quickly jumps out of bed when she hears a noise, revealing that she’s clothed). Even rap legend DMX, who only appears in a couple of scenes, puts in a half-hearted performance at best because it’s clear that deep down he knows this is no 8 Mile.

The plot’s got more holes than an orgy – how did young Alan know to draw a picture with the magic stick in the first place? How could Alan get a good look at everyone in the van as it sped past after hitting his wife, to the point that he could draw good renditions of all five of them? And who was the joker who told the people in this film “you know, I reckon acting’s the job for you”?

Here's Lockjaw - a snake with a crocodile head. Great idea wasted on a shite film

The only thing Lockjaw has going for it is that the stupid CGI monster thing looks slightly more convincing than the stupid CGI monster things in SyFy-funded films like Dinoshark and Mega Python Vs Gatoroid. That’s literally it though – everything else is just cringeworthy. Every single scene is an exercise in amazement as you realise the director actually must have said to his actors “that’s fine, let’s move on” time and time again instead of “can you do that again, only not shit this time”. Don’t be swayed by the potential comedy value of DMX being in it either – he barely features and he’s as wooden as a bookshelf when he does.

When a film is so half-arsed that it doesn’t even bother to provide enough music to cover the whole of the credits (the music simply stops halfway through leaving the rest of them scrolling upwards in silence) then it’s clear that there wasn’t a lot of effort put into this one. Stay well away.

WHERE CAN I GET IT?
You’re really a glutton for punishment, aren’t you? Lockjaw is available at the time of writing for £6.49 on DVD, but if you check Amazon’s New/Used you can find some people selling it for the princely sum of £0.01 plus shipping. If you reckon you can stretch to that then click here to go shit-shopping.

Piranha (2010)

Director: Alexandre Aja

Starring: Steven McQueen, Elisabeth Shue, Kelly Brook, Jessica Szohr, Jerry O’Connell

“Get the fuck out of the water!” (Julie, Piranha)

Nudity and gore are the key components of many horror films aimed primarily at a teenage audience, but in my eyes the latter always has to be the more prevalent. It seems that Alexandre Aja, the director of the excellent Switchblade Romance and the not-so-good Hills Have Eyes remake, forgets this during the first half of Piranha and instead thinks he’s shooting a porno.

Even the plot sounds like top-shelf titillation. After befriending and falling for English model Danni (Brook), Jake (Steven McQueen, grandson of Steve) dodges his babysitting duties to go with her on a boat, where she’s part of a ‘Wild Wild Girls’ filmshoot. His young, attractive friend Kelly (Szohr) gets caught up in the invite, so Jake has to juggle enjoying the rampant nudity going on around him with assuring Kelly he’s not interested in all this hooey.

Kelly Brook here, breaking horror's classic "don't look down" rule

This plot basically gives Piranha a good half-hour to cram in as much nudity as possible. A lengthy Spring Break scene shows lots of girls flashing their tits for no reason, there’s a wet t-shirt competition with loads of mammary close-ups and the ‘Wild Wild Girls’ shoot culminates in what feels like a solid five-minutes of Kelly Brook and a genuine porn star swimming underwater fanny-naked and lezzing around while classical music plays. Now, I’m all for a bit of bappage but Piranha took it so far that I found myself in the unlikely situation of thinking “okay, put them away now love, I paid to see killer fish, not smell it”.

"My God, what is it?" "It's the fucking Catalina wine mixer"

Eventually Aja comes to his senses, remembers he’s making a horror film and unleashes introduces the titular piranha fish. This is when Piranha gets properly impressive, especially when the killer fish reach the aforementioned Spring Break scene and carnage unfolds. Piranha has easily some of the most superb (and disturbing) gore effects I’ve seen in a long time, with leg stumps dragging on floors, heads getting squashed by motorboats, faces being ripped off and other such delights. It soon becomes clear that this is a movie obsessed with excess – after satisfying its teenage audience (and boring its older one) with ridiculous levels of nudity, it then goes on to present similarly ridiculous levels of bloodshed.

During this ridiculousness there are a few funny cameos dotted around. Richard Dreyfuss appears in the first scene of the film, reprising his role from Jaws, while Christopher Lloyd and Eli Roth also make fleeting appearances. Don’t let the movie’s advertising – which proudly proclaims that it ‘stars’ both Dreyfuss and Lloyd – fool you however, as combined both actors probably contribute to a total of about three minutes’ screen time.

Imagine Saving Private Ryan with teens and fish instead of soldiers and you've got the epic Spring Break scene

Originally shot on 3D (this review was based on the Blu-ray’s 2D version), watching Piranha in 2D can be an off-putting experience because of the countless times things are flung right into the screen, no doubt in an attempt to startle 3D viewers. Milkshake cups, piranha fish, breasts and even a severed penis all threaten to knock your popcorn off your lap, and while this would have no doubt looked impressive in 3D as it was intended, in 2D the effect is hokey, ineffective and simply has you saying “ah, that was supposed to be a 3D bit”.

If you’re male and plan on watching Piranha with someone of the fairer sex, be sure they’re not the type to judge your character on the movies you watch because the first 30 minutes will have them convinced you’re a pervert who’s talked them into watching a porno instead. Once it loses its half-hour teenage erection and gets the obsession with boobs and beavers out of its system however, the other 50 minutes provide a fantastic creature feature with loads of gore, heaps of laughs and a fun conclusion.

WHERE CAN I GET IT?
Piranha is available on both Blu-ray and DVD. The DVD comes with both the 2D and 3D versions and comes with two pairs of 3D glasses. At the time of writing it costs around £6 from Amazon, where you can find it by clicking here. The Blu-ray also features both the 2D and 3D versions (in both the cardboard glasses and fancy 3D TV versions), and it’s also £6 right here.

Mega Piranha (2010)

Director: Eric Forsberg

Starring: Tiffany, Paul Logan, David Labiosa

“I’ve figured it out. It wasn’t the explosion that killed him, and it wasn’t terrorists… it was giant piranha. Yes, giant piranha.” (Jason Fitch, Mega Piranha)

Mega Piranha is at times hilarious and depressing. The hilarity comes with the disbelief that a film can really be so bad, whereas the depression hits you when you realise there are properly ‘real’ actors struggling for roles who would have been up for at least trying to give a film about 30-foot piranha a modicum of credibility.

Syfy’s creature feature productions are bad at the best of times but this film is a shambles on every level, starting with the plot. Some generic ambassador or other is killed in Venezuela, so the US military send out a special agent built like a brick shithouse to investigate it and see if it someone assassinated him. When he gets there he realises it wasn’t an assassination but rather death by piranha – big piranha. He then teams up with former ‘80s pop sensation Tiffany (who’s apparently a scientist) and some other guy with a rubbish goatee to destroy the piranha, all while some weird Venezuelan soldier guys are chasing them for some reason.

"I'd say this man died by being turned into a fish by a wizard. What? It IS a fish? Never mind then"

If it seems like I perhaps struggled to stay on top of the story for this one, you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s little wonder though given how ridiculously fast it chucks everything at you. Establishing shots are replaced with two-second shots of people walking fast or ominous buildings with a big Impact font subtitle sliding in saying “HANK ROBERTS, HEAD OF INTELLIGENCE” or “MILITARY INTELLIGENCE HEADQUARTERS PACIFIC DIVISION” or something like that, and by the time you get your head round what you just read they’re halfway through the next inane piece of dialogue about how “these things are getting bigger” and how in four hours’ time they’ll be big enough to swallow Harlem or something, I don’t know.

Give a man a fish and you'll feed him for a day. Give him mutated piranha fish and you'll feed them instead

Meanwhile, the quality of the acting is so shocking you start to wonder if this maybe wasn’t some sort of joke. Tiffany couldn’t act her way out of an open door and buff action ‘hero’ Paul Logan’s voice is so needlessly deep and bass-heavy that earthworms picking up the vibrations in the dirt were making better sense of what he was saying than I was. Then there’s the ‘Venezuelan’ bad guy who regularly forgets he’s supposed to be Venezuelan and slips into a New York accent.

Yes, that's a piranha fish eating a helicopter. It's nowhere near as awesome as it should be though

Let’s not forget the hideous CGI effects (the piranha are laughable and the bigger they get the less the CGI chap seems to bother, eventually just sticking splashes and shadows in the water that genuinely look like anyone could do it) and piss-poor editing (in one scene one of the characters is seen sitting down in one shot, then standing up in the next, then sitting down again FIVE times in a row) that both combine to make this less a case of “what’s going to happen to the piranha” and more “how much shitter is this film going to get”. I lost it near the end when a nuclear attack (seriously) destroyed a whole lake of piranha but seemingly didn’t affect the ducks still clearly seen swimming about.

Mega Piranha expertly walks the line between so-bad-it’s-good and so-bad-it’s-shite. As an achievement in filmmaking it fails miserably on every possible level, but if you’re the sort who takes pleasure in laughing at bad editing and direction as much as the usual bad acting and script, then you’ll be in hog’s heaven here. Anyone simply looking for a decent film though will be let down. Just watch the trailer below instead, it makes things look a lot more exciting than they really are.

Mega Python Vs Gatoroid (2011)

Director: Mary Lambert

Starring: Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Adolfo Martinez, Robert Shafer

“The pythons aren’t at the top of the food chain. I am. And I say we’re gonna take care of this problem, right now.” (Terry, Mega Python Vs Gatoroid)

Okay, enough is enough. A message to all low-budget filmmakers – it’s now time to stop using cheap CGI companies to make your special effects. These SyFy-financed creature feature films (see also Dinoshark and and Sharktopus) have been coming thick and fast for a couple of years now and the effects are somehow managing to get worse. In the latest of these 90-minute brainfarts Mega Python Vs Gatoroid, there are moments where CGI is used seemingly for the sake of it, even though real-life props would have been cheaper and more realistic.

Look! It’s Tiffany!

Anyway, we’ll come back to that in a bit. Mega Python Vs Gatoroid stars ’80s music starlets Tiffany and Debbie Gibson in a movie that actually has them fighting more than the titular superbeasts. It’s set in the Florida Everglades, where a surprising number of alligators have been turning up dead. It soon emerges that the reason for this is some mutated giant pythons that were freed from a research lab, released into the wild and began to lay eggs.

Terry O’Hara (Tiffany), the local ranger, gives the go-ahead to legalise python hunting in the area while activist Dr Nikki Riley (Gibson), who freed the pythons in the first place, campaigns to stop people killing the animals. Eventually the pythons start getting so big that Terry decides to make the controversial decision to inject some dead chickens with steroids then chuck them in the river so the alligators will eat them and grow. And you thought “Gatoroid” would be a half-alligator, half-hemmorhoid.

Look! It’s Debbie Gibson!

Naturally, there’s a lot to be said for a film that lets you finally tell people “yes, I watched a movie with a scene in which that woman who used to sing I Think We’re Alone Now injects uncooked chickens with steroids”, or even “have you ever seen a film where Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees is stepped on and crushed by a 30-foot alligator? I have”, but I can understand why that may not be enough for some people. Thankfully there are also a few sub-plots dotted around to keep things varied.

Most entertaining are the trio of hunters led by Robert Shafer (better known as Bob Vance of Vance Refridgerations from the US version of The Office), who wander round the forests with their shotguns while giving their best redneck “yeehaw” impressions. Then there’s Dr Diego Ortiz (Martinez), who spends most of the film telling an uninterested Tiffany that they need to destroy all the six-foot alligator eggs in caves around the area. And of course the rivalry with Tiffany and Gibson continues to simmer throughout the film, until it comes to a head with a ridiculous catfight that many 30-year-olds would have killed to see in the ’80s when they were rival popstars.

Look! It’s Phil Spector! Um, probably.

So what’s not to like? The “special” effects, that’s what (oh, they’re special alright). I make no exaggeration when I say the CGI – in particular the giant pythons – are so badly rendered that it genuinely looks like something out of a video game on a high-end PC. It’d be acceptable for gaming, sure, but in a movie alongside real life actors? It looks atrocious.

As previously explained, it’s worse when the CGI is used as a replacement when props would have worked better. I can just about understand using the CGI for the snakes and alligators while they’re alive, but when a large python is dead and you’ve got an actor lying underneath it you should really be using a big rubber prop. It’s cheaper and when the actor interacts with it (he struggles to try to get out from under it) it looks realistic because, well, it is. It’s a physical object.

Look! It’s the big snake from Resident Evil on the GameCube!

Instead, here you have a man who was filmed struggling with nothing on him at all and then had a cheap-as-fuck CGI snake placed over him, sloppily animated to look like it’s moving as he does. There’s even some horrible glitching at times, where his hand goes through the snake when he moves. Just get a rubber one, seriously.

This continues throughout the film. When a snake attacks a dog near the start it looks like something out of Tekken. The climactic scene looks like it should have a “Player 2 press Start to join in” message at the top-right of the screen. And there are so many bad bluescreen scenes that they might as well have filmed the whole thing against someone’s bedroom wall and superimposed the actors over old episodes of The Crocodile Hunter.

In terms of general entertainment Mega Python Vs Gatoroid is one of the better SyFy-funded movies out there, though that’s not saying much. The atrocious video game-quality CGI is some of the worst I’ve seen, however, to the extent that it takes away from the otherwise cheesy fun on offer (watch the trailer below and you’ll see what I mean). Just stick Tiffany’s album on Spotify and play Tomb Raider instead.

WHERE CAN I GET IT?
If you live in the UK, Mega Python Vs Gatoroid currently isn’t on DVD or Blu-ray but it’s on SyFy and SyFy HD a hell of a lot at the time of writing. If you live in the US and want your own copy on a shiny disc you can get the Blu-ray by clicking here and get the DVD by clicking here.

Jaws 2 (1978)

Director: Jeannot Szwarc

Starring: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gray, Mark Gruner

“I’m telling you, and I’m telling everybody at this table that that’s a shark! And I know what a shark looks like, because I’ve seen one up close. And you’d better do something about this one, because I don’t intend to go through that hell again!” (Chief Brody, Jaws 2)

Poor Chief Brody. After dealing with a huge shark in the original Jaws and helping restore Amity Island to some sort of normality, weird things are starting to happen again. Surely there can’t be another shark in Amity? You bet your fins there is.

What made the original Jaws so gripping was the film’s refusal to show the shark until near the end of the movie. Until then you only saw people in the water reacting to attacks, screaming and writhing as the invisible killer underneath them turned the water blood red. It was the classic “what you don’t see is scarier than what you do see” technique and it worked a treat.

Sam was about to be cured of his hiccups

Jaws 2 starts off at a disadvantage, then, because it can’t use the same trick again. Hiding the shark is a pointless exercise because we all know what to expect and can’t be surprised a second time. As a result, it has a slightly different feel to its predecessor – we see a lot more of the shark and it gets involved a lot more this time around. At times it feels more like a slasher movie, a contrast to the original’s tense, slow pace.

Despite this, Jaws 2 is still fairly tame. The story goes that Universal were eager to get the film a PG rating to get as many ticket sales as possible, and so most of the shark attacks either happen off-camera or are cleverly shot so that the fatal bites are obscured by things in the way. This weakens the effect of the attacks and really takes some of the shock factor away.

Dunno about you, but I've got a tenner on the shark for this one

The film also lessens the impact by providing a final act with far too many characters in it. Whereas the first film had only three heroes, giving each enough screen time to let the viewer learn more about them and warm to them, this time the final showdown involves the shark, Brody, a helicopter pilot and around ten kids stranded in their boats. I couldn’t give an eighth of a shit if some kid who had two lines of dialogue gets his leg chomped, I have no idea who he is and it makes no difference to the movie whether he lives or dies.

Jaws 2 isn’t as bad as it could have been. It goes in the direction it should have gone, it just goes about executing it in slightly the wrong way. With too many characters and not enough shock value it’s just a diluted, less effective version of the original.

WHERE CAN I BUY IT?
Jaws 2 is available in a nifty special edition DVD set with extras, commentaries and the like, and it’s usually under a fiver these days. You can buy the UK version here from Amazon.co.uk, and get the US version here from Amazon.com if you live in America. Other than the region code, both versions are identical.

Sharktopus (2010)

Director: Declan O’Brien

Starring: Eric Roberts, Kerem Bursin, Sara Lane

“There is a way we can stop this thing. Virgin sacrifices. Yes, the Mexican Fish & Game Commission assures me the only way to appease this beast is to offer it a beautiful virgin, preferably 18-25 years old. I repeat: Sharktopus wants our virgins. ” (Captain Jack, Sharktopus)

For those who don’t know, the slew of “mutated animal” creature features that have been doing the rounds for the past few years is partly thanks to the folks at SyFy (formerly known as the Sci-Fi Channel), who help fund them in return for exclusive premiere rights. That’s why many of them seem very similar.

What happens when the Sharktopus meets a normal shark? He fucks him up, basically

Take Sharktopus, for example, and compare it with Dinoshark, which I reviewed recently. Both films feature mutated sharks, both films have atrocious CGI scenes where the shark in question attacks and both films, for some reason, take place in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. I’d like to think money’s probably exchanged hands between the filmmakers and the Puerto Vallarta tourism board, but considering the films are essentially saying Puerto Vallarta is packed with killer mutant sharks I’m not so sure.

Anyway then, Sharktopus. As you may be able to deduce with your keen mind, it’s about a half-shark half-octopus monster. Rather than hatching from ice like Dinoshark did, Sharktopus is the result of a dodgy biological experiment to create the ultimate killing machine. Naturally, it breaks free and heads to Mexico– where the women are hot and the budget is cheap – meaning it’s up to the scientists who created it to stop it.

Not a good time to lose your head! AHAHAHAHA! Oh dear, I may actually be the most original writer in history

The big boss of the scientists (played by made-for-TV maestro Eric Roberts) wants Sharktopus kept alive because he’ll lose his contract with the military if it dies, so he hires Andy Flynn (Bursin), an ex-Iraq War veteran, and offers him a whole heap of money to catch it without killing it. And if you think he’s not going to change his mind later and instead blow it to smithereens when it gets out of control then I appreciate your optimism but you’re obviously delirious.

Some of the deaths in Sharktopus are actually fairly impressive, especially given the sort of off-camera rubbish we’ve been “treated” to in other movies of its ilk in the past. Expect to see some decapitations, tentacle impalement, and of course the odd chomp or twelve to keep things moving along. There are even times where the Sharktopus leaves the sea, using its tentacles to waddle along the coast in a big up yours to the snarky “well, why don’t you just stay out of the water” argument people often use during shark movies.

Let's be honest, this is cool as fuck

The most curious moment for me is the scene with the two ship painters sitting on scaffolding above the water, painting the side of a boat. The Sharktopus attacks them both, but as the second one dies he yells “Nooooo, not like this”. Are you kidding me? Being killed by a Sharktopus is clearly one of the most awesome ways to go. Imagine your wife at your funeral talking to people:

“I’m sorry to hear about Jake, ma’am. You have my deepest condolences.”
“Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say.”
“If you don’t mind me asking ma’am, how exactly did Jake leave us? Was it a heart attack? In his sleep?”
“No, he was pulled into the sea and eaten whole by a Sharktopus.”
“If you don’t mind me saying, ma’am, that is fucking epic.”

Of the countless killer animal films currently doing the rounds, Sharktopus is one of the better ones… not that that’s saying much. The CGI effects and story are still hokey garbage but at least there are some clever death scenes in there, which is more or less what these otherwise mindless films are all about.

Dinoshark (2010)

Director: Kevin O’Neill

Starring: Eric Balfour, Iva Hasperger, Roger Corman

“You’re gonna need a bigger chopper, cabron.” (Trace, Dinoshark)

There are officially somewhere in the region of three and four billion movies about dangerous animals that have been mutated a little, so Dinoshark would have to do something special to gnash its way to the top of the list. It doesn’t.

The film opens with a shot of a baby Dinoshark breaking free from an Arctic glacier that’s been melting (damn you global warming, etc). Obviously ice acts just like a cryogenic chamber because despite having been frozen for millions of years the baby Dinoshark is alive and well. Fast forward a few years and the older, wiser, hungrier Dinoshark has made its way to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico – hey, you’d head for the sun too if you’d been trapped in ice for that long – and is looking to chew on some Mexicans.

The Sausage Killer strikes again, but not before leaving his calling card

Who can stop the Dinoshark? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is suave dickhead Trace McGraw, one of the least likeable heroes in cinematic history. Trace thinks he’s the greatest man who ever lived, but nobody really believes his stupidly exaggerated stories about the adventures he’s been up to since he was last in Mexico. When he sees the Dinoshark ripping a fellow boater to shreds, then, people laugh and tell him he’s making it up.

You see this same shot about eight times throughout

They’re not laughing so much when the Dinoshark starts attacking other people near the beach, mauling swimmers, children and water polo players in a mess of blood and unconvincing CGI, and so off goes Trace to give it a swift kicking.

The quality of the acting in Dinoshark is so bad it actually made me angry to think there are struggling actors out there trying to get a gig while pricks like these are stinking up celluloid. The only decent performance is from cult film producer Roger Corman (who also produced this – how the mighty have fallen). He plays a small role as a scientist and is the only believable thing in a film with an obviously unbelievable plot.

It’s a shame that the best thing about Dinoshark is the title. It’s not well-made enough to be surprisingly adept and it’s not cheesy enough to be a guilty pleasure. It’s just badly made from start to finish and really not worth bothering with. This one should have stayed frozen – just watch the trailer below, have a chuckle, know that you’ve seen the only good bits and move on.