Director: Brian Yuzna
Cast: Michael Pare, Janna Fassaert, Monica Sayangbati, Francis Magee
Plot: A fishing port run by less than savoury people gets held to siege by a prehistoric creature from the deep, driven by black magic from one of their slaves.

The opening to this film is quite good. It opens with a typical teen couple, filming their adventures aboard, climaxing when they go swimming somewhere they shouldn’t. I was already rolling my eyes: a moderately good actress reduced to taking her clothes off on camera, more found footage and a predictable ‘it’s under the water!’ sequence. However, it turns out this is all a clever bit of misdirection that had me chuckling. It could be my favourite thing about the entire film. Sadly, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the movie.

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In fairness, Yuzna has a pretty good idea here. The monster isn’t just another shark; in fact, Yuzna doesn’t go for any of the usual suspects, which is why I won’t spoil what the creature actually is for anyone wanting to rent this. The setting is a little different than dumb teens thinking the only people who can stop the monster is them. We are taken to a rogue fishing village, which is a front for smugglers. They have child slaves doing their work for them and after a few beats, we already really don’t like these people. Little do they know that one of the children they are bullying is Tamal, who comes from a family of black magic worshippers. When Tamal is pushed too far, he summons something from the deep to wreak vengeance on the people who have enslaved them. Meanwhile, a marine biologist hires a sailor to take her to the site of a recent tsunami for studies. Little does she know that this sailor is also connected to the smugglers and when she sees the horrors Tamal has to suffer, she becomes obsessed with rescuing him, unaware that she is taking herself directly into the path of this murderous sea creature.

I was torn two ways with this film. I really like the whole smugglers getting what is coming to them vibe. It took me to a place I wasn’t expecting to go with a horror and it definitely lifted it above your cheap horror movie thrills. However, I felt that Yuzna didn’t go far enough with the idea. I kept wishing that the marine biologist strand of story wasn’t even there, because it kept cutting away from Tamal’s story. For a lot of this movie, the biologist, Skylar, affects the story in a very little way. She almost wastes precious time in this film. However, as the movie progressed, I began to appreciate and look forward to her scenes for all the wrong reasons. The most obvious one is the fact that Janna Fassaert and the sailor, played by Michael Pare, are the only people here who can actually act. When you are fed up with the smugglers struggling to give a performance with the English language, Fassaert and Pare become a life-saving element to this movie. The more story-based reason for these characters is that without them, the movie’s monster would only be attacking bad characters we want to see killed off, which greatly decreases the action element of the movie. While the ‘they get what they deserve’ element is appealing in its own way, especially when the little kid, Tamal, tag teams with the monster to achieve the goriest deaths, it does almost entirely remove the fear factor from proceedings.

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One of the biggest problems here (the worst being that most of the cast cannot act), is that there isn’t really one character we can all get behind. As I said, most of the victims get what is coming to them, so we don’t bother investing emotion in them. However, the little kid, Tamal, isn’t great a protagonist either. As soon as Tamal starts the spell that sends this monster on the bad guys, he kind of curls up into a ball and does little more than cast evil glances around the set. The writers want to keep him in the dark, so by the end of the first half of this film, we lost touch with what this character wants. Michael Pare, plays the typical male hero, who rushes in to save the day. However, to make him interesting, he has criminal ties, and in the last few scenes, although he technically tries to save the day, his motives aren’t entirely pure, so we only partially want him to come out of this movie alive. In fact, the only person I felt any emotion for was Skylar, but she was a pretty useless character. She was all for starting this brave rescue attempt for Tamal, but turned into a whimpering damsel in distress whenever the time to fight rolled around. The lack of any character we sympathise with greatly detracts from our investment in the story and, as a result, it is only really good for moderately cheap thrills.

Final Verdict: Not awful, but Yuzna only goes halfway with his ideas and most of the cast let the story down. Not that they had much character to work with in the first place.

Two Stars

One thought on “Amphi-Bious: The Review

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