by Scott Mendelson
Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus is the finest monster movie since the original Jurassic Park, and probably the out and out scariest movie since Frailty. The creature effects are photo-real and absolutely terrifying, bringing back dreaded memories of The Relic and The Host. Deborah Gibson will soon join Jennifer Hudson as a beloved singer-turned-actress to win an Academy Award for her film debut. It is rich with high-class scares, including the best 'gotcha' moment since Samuel L. Jackson's big speech in Deep Blue Sea. It is visually glorious and emotionally potent. It is a line drawn in the sand from The Asylum, a declaration that it is the new king of the straight-to-DVD horror genre. In an insane world, it is the sanest choice.
I wish the above paragraph was true. You have no idea how much I wish it were so. But it's not. The actors are all appropriately terrible and the story is completely absurd (and Debbie Gibson is still as much of a hottie as she was when I was seven-years old). I wish someone had given the filmmakers the necessary $30 million to make this the cult classic it deserves to be. I wish that the Aquarium Of the Pacific in Longbeach, California wouldn't have to stand in for the Tokyo Science Institute. But at the end of the day, the film does not have the money to live up to its potential. While the shark is indeed mega and the octopus is in fact giant, their battle, both with each other and the humans in their path, is muted and lifeless.
The plot - Um... this is easy. Ice breaks and two ginormous prehistoric creatures escape to roam wild on the sea. In the American corner, you have the megalodon shark, while the Japanese realm contains an unexplained giant octopus. Since Dr. Doolittle and Aquaman are both unavailable (would the Beastmaster have helped?) the ancient creatures make short work of those unlucky enough to cross its path. After two acts of the creatures inflicting mass casualties on the human populace (mostly off screen, natch), a brilliant marine scientist (Deborah Gibson), her new found Japanese counterpart, and her grizzled, daffy mentor decide to pit the creatures against each other, for the mother of... make that developmentally challenged third cousin once removed of all aquatic showdowns. The snarky Lorenzo Lamas (as a shady government operative) disagrees, but he eventually remembers the title of the film and lets them proceed.
In a way, this film represents a true to form grind house picture, in that the filmmakers really don't have the money to give the audience that which they came to see, so they just clog the running time with character conflict and lengthy 'investigations'. There are a few choice moments of animal action, but they are few and far between. And, if you're a fan of giant octopuses, you're in for a real letdown. Similar to Freddy Vs. Jason, the film clearly picks a favorite as the shark ends up committing 90% of the onscreen violence in the picture (in FvJ, Fred Kruger killed I think one person in the actual present-tense narrative).
As expected, the best thing about Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus is the trailer, and the concept itself. Due to the obvious limitations, the film is unable to deliver on its promise of mass carnage nor an epic duel to the death between monstrous sea creatures. For a straight-to-DVD monster movie that actually delivers, check out Mega Snake. It has a giant snake, you see the snake a lot, and the giant snake kills many people in an onscreen and gruesome fashion. Mega Snake still remains one of my daughter Allison's favorite films. As for this new entry, we let her stay up to watch it with us. At about the 30-minute mark, she wanted to go back into the crib. So yes, Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus bores babies to sleep.