Mega-Shark Vs. Giant Octopus

Gibson’s givin’ all she’s GOT!
★★★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
2009
Director: 
Jack Perez
Starring: 
Deborah Gibson, Lorenzi Lamas, Vic Chao, Jonathan Nation, Sean Lawlor
The Setup: 
Prehistoric giant shark and octopus are released, whereupon they start wreaking havoc on mankind.
Discussion: 

Various people started sending me the trailer for this, which features airliners and the Golden Gate Bridge being attacked by a shark, and an octopus smacking a jet fighter out of the sky. It looked like one of those Sci-Fi channel [oh sorry, Syffy] original movie things [and it is indeed being broadcast there] that use cheap CGI to cram a jerry-rigged story full of stuff you want to see, like shark attacks [as in the quite enjoyable Raging Sharks] or giant spiders attacking skiers [in the far less successful Ice Spiders]. In truth I wasn’t that hopeful, as these kinds of movies are usually so bad they’re awful, and reviews on the IMDb were not kind. However, I am pleased to say that, despite production values that make Ice Spiders look like a James Cameron film, this is actually far more enjoyable, in a bad movie way, than it has any right to be, and had me howling with laughter far more than expected.

The disc begins on a bad note with trailers for these other films produced by this company, whatever it is, that seems to specialize in these types of “give the people what they want!” movies that contain earthquake or alien invasion sequences rendered in the cheapest CGI animation possible [seriously just a step or two above what you could do on your desktop], bringing back bad memories of Ice Spiders and making me think I’m in for 90 minutes of tedium. Then the movie begins in this Alaskan bay surrounded by a glacier, where Deborah Gibson—yes, THAT Debbie Gibson—is in an underwater research sub. Her name is Emma, and she’s some kind of high-level biologist [chortle!], but we’ll just go on calling her Debbie. With her is her overweight buddy Vince who is her true friend who I’m sure we’ll find out burns a torch for her he can never consummate because he’s, like, FAT. Above them is a helicopter, piloted by a guy with a prominent cold sore. Now we cut back and forth between the sub and the helicopter so quickly you would think that they’re in communication, but no, they actually represent completely different research interests, and are unaware of each other’s proximity. We keep seeing Debbie looking forward as though she is seeing something, although we have no indication that there is a window in front of her. She’s also rocking her fresh-from-the-salon looks, and clad in a spaghetti-strapped little number, despite being in a cramped sub in an Alaskan inlet. She sees some stock footage of seals and stuff, then a bunch of humpback whales that keep coming at her. Get ready to a lot of things that just keep coming at something without ever reaching it. Vince is jumpy but Debbie says “Relax… there’s poetry here!” The guy in the helicopter drops some sonar device in the water that… well, I don’t know what it’s supposed to do, but it causes parts of the glacier to shatter and reveals to Debbie—a giant shark and huge octopus locked in the ice! The ice breaks open and they swim off—despite being frozen solid, which as I'm sure you know, is no big deal. In fact, I’m frozen solid right now, and typing this with no problem. It’s a cool way to beat the summer heat, and the no-nonsense way to rock-hard abs.

Now—cut to Japan! Apparently the shark headed down the California coast and the Octopus headed straight for Japan, which is only logical. We see an oil drilling platform that is attacked by the octopus. Again, logical, as oil drilling platforms are the giant octopus’ natural enemy. The attack consists of a) shots of people running and screaming, b) shots of the oil platform under the night sky, nothing visible in the sky, and c) long shots of the platform, CGI tentacles rising from the water. We never actually SEE anything happen, and cut to the next scene right away. This is at some Japanese secret base or whatnot, where Dr. Shimada is ordered to go to the United States and do something or other. Here is the first of the GUARDS, which turn out to be one of the true pleasures of the movie. This movie has a surfeit of guys it places in the background [or the foreground!] of many scenes, where they stand perfectly still, wearing dark sunglasses and holding a rifle or machine gun. They just stand, looking forward with a grim expression on their face, do absolutely nothing. At first you don’t notice, after a short time you start to take note of them, and how very prevalent they are, and how they never move or make an expression, and you start to giggle. And then you start to notice how many you’ve seen in such a short time, and how they’re trying to look very grim and focused, and then you start laughing outright. After a while you’re cracking up every time a guard appears onscreen, especially when you start to see the same one several times. Woooo—more guards!

So now Debbie arrives back in California, where we come to understand that she is supposedly some sort of hotshot scientist who is about to lose her job because of whatever happened in Alaska, which we have no idea of. I think she sunk her sub because of the sonar device or something. But first she is shown a huge beached whale with giant bites taken out of it. The bites look like… well, I’m not sure what they look like, but they don’t look like a bite out of flesh. Then we have a repeat of the cliché I’m becoming more aware of where our hero sees the one crucial thing that hundreds of other trained professionals have overlooked. Debbie returns later and sweet-talks the guard into letting her in, whereupon she pulls a big hunk of something we know will be part of a tooth out of the wound.

We then cut to this plane that is flying fast through these CGI storm clouds. The interior barely looks like an actual plane, and all the poor woman pretending to be a stewardess can think to do is tell people to put their seats up. Some guy stands up and asks about the turbulence, saying “Hey, I’m getting married tomorrow!” which is clearly something the screenwriter [who is also the director] must have seen as the essence of the disaster film. This guy then looks out the window and sees the giant shark leaping up out of the water—to like 18,000 feet, I guess. It grabs the wing of the plane and falls back into the water with it. WHY a shark of any size would want a plane is left to conjecture, and these questions will recur with every completely inappropriate attack. These beasts just really hate the engineering feats of man! Anyway, you’ll notice that the filmmakers save CGI money by trying to approximate the JJ Abrams/Battlestar Galactica 2.0 trope of supposedly capturing special effects with a camera that goes in and out of focus.

So Debbie meets her old professor, this Irish dude called Lamar, and they have heartfelt talks on the pier. I must say certain of the human-focused scenes look great, purely on a photography level, to the point where I wondered if I was watching a Blu-ray rather than a conventional disc. They go to Lamar’s house where we have the first of our HILARIOUS research sequences, although I’ll save comment for the second big research sequence. I will point out that what you see above is Debbie’s “I’ve-been-up-all-night-doing-research” hair. They finally determine that what they’re dealing with is a Megalodon, a prehistoric shark that was super huge.

Now of the humor of this film is how incredibly stupid things are, and the sheer number of levels they’re stupid on. For example they look at the drawing of the shark below. They look at the drawing itself [not the shark jaw next to it] and talk about the sheer size… but there’s nothing there to compare it to in relation! This had me joking to myself about how “You can clearly see how large the shark is in relation to the world ‘Megalodon.’” You might argue no, they’re looking at the big shark jaw, but the same thing happens later, when Shimada points to a pencil drawing of the octopus’ eye, showing nothing except this DRAWING of an eye, and similarly says “You see how huge it is!” By the way Shimada is soon with them in the house, having brought his concerns about the giant octopus. They can’t believe they have not one but TWO massive prehistoric monsters in their midst, leading Debbie [who is supposedly a scientist, by the way] to say “Well the polar ice caps are melting and it’s our fault—maybe this is our comeuppance!”

SPOILERS [NOT REALLY] > > >
Cut to some Navy ship. The shark fin is hurtling toward it! The people on the ship freak! The shark is still hurtling toward it! They fire—bursts of CGI fire superimposed on the stock footage of the ship! The shark is still hurtling toward it! In fact, it hasn’t seemed to have gotten any closer, despite its alarming speed! More shots of the guys panicking! The shark is still hurtling toward the ship! Probably because there is just one short shot of the shark fin coming at the ship that they just re-use over and over and over! Get used to it, folks! If you’re in the spirit, it’s kind of hilarious. Finally we see the shark swim up toward the stern of the ship, then—next scene!

So Debbie, Lamar and Shimada wake up after a long night of research and—are arrested! They are brought to Lorenzo Lamas as some tough-talking government dude who demands their help in tracking these aquatic menaces down. Now here comes the second and more substantial “research” montage, which we have to discuss two aspects of. The first encompasses not just this scene, but the entire movie, and that is by now you’ll have realized that the reason this movie is so fucking amusing is, by and large, DEBBIE GIBSON. I truly can’t say whether she’s really trying to act and just can’t or she’s having a lot of fun with what’s happening here [I’m inclined to believe the latter] but she is acting her heart out, which comes through in her making a new facial expression every few seconds, and if you start just watching her face and the many, many facial expressions she puts on, you can start giggling and soon be laughing your ass off. It is showcased here in the second big “research” scene, which is largely silent, but draws a great many energetic facial expressions from Debbie; looking in wonder at a beaker, looking confidently at a beaker, looking serious as she drips some colored fluid into a beaker, looking smug as though the color of the liquid in a beaker reveals something, looking in exhaustion at her companions, looking like they’ve suffered a setback—she has a billion expressions, and she’s throwin’ them all out there! Adding additional amusement is the underlying fact that they aren’t doing ANYTHING! They’re gazing seriously at a bunch of beakers and colored liquids, but we know [and they know] that none of it makes the slightest bit of sense. This scene is truly golden comedy.

Then—PASSIONS EXPLODE! Gibson and Shimada are gazing at each other when they decide that they need to GET IT ON, which they do in the research center’s hallway. Now, I was wondering exactly how tongue-in-cheek this movie was—how much do they REALLY want us to laugh at it—but I had my answer when we see Debbie and Shimada huddled nude in the hallway, enjoying the afterglow of their copulation, with a yellow plastic janitor’s mop bucket RIGHT THERE. Look at the frame above! HIL-FUCKING-LARIOUS. But this causes Debbie to have a shock of inspiration—PHEREMONES! They’ll whip up some mega-shark and giant-octopus pheromones in the lab—of course they’ve got the ingredients on hand!—and use it to attract the creatures to where they can… do something. Truth be told, that’s where their plan ends.

So they all split up, requiring a bittersweet goodbye between Debbie and Shimada. He goes to Japan to lure the octopus into Tokyo Bay, while she’s going to lure the shark into San Francisco Bay. On its way in, the shark takes a bite out of the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s it, just takes a bite, let’s move on. No one in the movie really reacts. Then Debbie’s little sub is holding the pheromone that’s attracting the shark—hurtling toward them at a terrifying pace—and the sub’s mechanical arm won’t let it go! How do they get out of the situation? Well, we’ll never know, because we just cut to the next scene, where someone asks where they are, and they just come around the corner, saying they barely made it out of there! You know, screenwriters don’t employ this foolproof trick often enough!

This is about where things start to get boring, just because by now this movie has nothing new to show you, and you’re starting to think about the other things you could be doing. They need to make more 60 minute movies. First the octopus is after Debbie and Lorenzo’s sub, so they have to speed it into these underwater canyons, causing a lowly pilot to get stressed and finally not just mutiny, but pull a gun on his captain and scream “YOU’RE DEAD!” Then Debbie comes through with the simple answer to their problem—they’ll just have the beasts kill each other. Please don’t think too hard on the likelihood of that. Blah, blah, eventually the animals fight, which includes a shot of the octopus wrapping up and squeezing the shark… that you see about 10 times, and various shots recycled over and over, either sped up or slowed down, or reversed. The fights has no ups and downs, it just starts and then continues, and at a certain point, both creatures just up and die. At the same time. How kind of them! The movie ends by setting up for a sequel, with our trio staring at evidence of a new, unidentified prehistoric creature frozen alive—apparently there are a billion on ‘em out there—and running off to study that. The end!
< < < SPOILERS END

It was more amusing than it had any business being. As stated, much of the credit for that has to go to Debbie Gibson, who gives her all to every scene. She, the guards, the cheap sets, other poor actors, and lame approximation of better filmmaking technique all combine to make the scenes with humans much more amusing than the shark or octopus attacks—and that’s the movie’s saving grace, because one soon realizes that the attack scenes are generally shitty, unexciting, and stupid as all-get-out. If that’s all you came for—you were fooled! Seriously, I have to believe that the CGI footage here was some film student’s CGI demo reel, and Asylum Films just tried to build a story around it. But the rest of it is hilariously funny, if you expect shit and get over the fact that the attacks are going to suck. It’s completely inessential, but it has its tongue in cheek and it’s amusing fun, particularly if you’re watching it in a mentally altered state. But no, I don’t want a sequel.

Should you watch it: 

If you like, it’s pretty hilarious! But you have to be in the mood for BAD.