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.

Seed Of Chucky (2004)

Director: Don Mancini

Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Redman, John Waters, voices of Brad Dourif and Billy Boyd

“I’m an Oscar-nominee, for God’s sake. Now look at me, I’m fucking a puppet.” (Jennifer Tilly, Seed Of Chucky)

After Bride Of Chucky took the Child’s Play series and injected a much-needed burst of dark humour to proceedings, it would have been impossible for its successor to go back to pure horror. Sure enough, Seed Of Chucky goes even further down the comedy route, only just stopping short of having the characters throw custard pies at one another.

Seed Of Chucky is set in the ‘real world’, a world in which Chucky is just a doll in some daft horror movies. We’re first introduced to a new doll, Glen (voiced by Billy Boyd). Glen doesn’t know who his parents are – can you see where this is going? – but after seeing an on-set report from the latest Child’s Play movie on TV he notices that he shares the same ‘Made In Japan’ markings Chucky has on his wrist.

So that's the Seed Of Chucky, is it? Oh.

Glen decides to travel to Hollywood to meet Chucky and Tiffany, his apparently Japanese mum and dad. When he gets there he finds that Chucky and Tiffany are just normal dolls, but after a spot of voodoo (ah, that old chestnut) they’re back to their old selves and ready to carve upLos Angeles, but not before trying to figure out how to raise their son. Or is it their daughter?

You see, Chucky wants to raise Glen as a killer so he can go on murderous sprees with his old man in the same way other father/son combos would go fishing or watch sports. Tiffany, meanwhile, is adamant that their child is in fact a girl called Glenda (a nod to the Ed Wood cross-dressing classic Glen Or Glenda). The fact that, being a doll, Glen/da doesn’t have any genitalia doesn’t really solve the argument, so Chucky and Tiffany spend the rest of the film competing for the love (and gender) of their offspring.

Her eyes are up there, Chucky

Killer dolls aside, the real star of the show is Jennifer Tilly, not only providing the voice of Tiffany but also playing a caricaturised version of herself in this ‘real world’. This version of Tilly is a desperate B-list actress who was once respected (Tilly was nominated for an Oscar in real life for her performance in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway) and is now struggling to get all the good roles because they keep going to the likes of Julia Roberts. Throughout the movie Tilly considers sleeping with a director (played by Wu-Tang Clan legend Redman) to get a part, is frustrated when everyone she meets only remembers her from her lesbian scene in Bound and treats her PA like dirt, without realising that she’s the one writing all her so-called ‘fan mail’.

Well, that's what happens when your dog swallows a grenade

She also sticks the boot into herself a few times while voicing Tiffany, who at first is starstruck by Tilly and then begins to lose respect for her (“no wonder her career’s in trouble”). In one scene Tiffany drags an unconscious Tilly across the floor and declares “jeez, she’s fat” – a line many actors would refuse to say, I’d wager, but one that Tilly is game to deliver with refreshing self-deprecation.

After a series of inventive and gory death scenes (cult movie-making icon John Waters getting acid poured on his face, anyone?), the film falls apart a little in the third act as the novelty factor starts to wear off and Glen’s character (the weakest of the three dolls) comes to the fore. It’s a shame, because the first hour is great fun, but much like a French frog it just doesn’t have legs.

Seed Of Chucky is both the goriest and least serious of the five Chucky movies to date. The fact that the upcoming Child’s Play remake is taking the series back to its deadly serious roots shows that Seed was essentially as far as the comedy approach could go, and this shows near the end of the film as the laughs get stretched further and further. Still, it’s not a terrible film by any means, and should at least keep you entertained for most of its duration.

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.

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.