One of the more common examples from the overused book of modern business-speak is ‘setting expectations’, where one is required to ensure disappointment does not occur by making the probable end result clear from the outset. With that in mind, let me describe a selection of elements concerning Sharktopus. It’s a b-movie. It pulsates with an endless supply of cheap and cheerful CGI. The script is clichéd and unimaginative. It features the eponymous shark-octopus hybrid, a creature also code-named S-11, developed at the behest of the US Navy for whichever sinister purposes the US Navy might have in mind. And it’s called Sharktopus.
In terms of setting expectations, I’m hoping that I have set yours effectively. If you rest your buttocks to watch a film called Sharktopus with expectations that you are about to digest anything other than utter nonsense, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. You may or may not be interested to know that Roger Corman (who was also involved in the 2004 animal hybrid Dinocroc, amongst many other offenses) is one of the producers of this film, and enjoys a slightly peculiar yet fitting cameo during an early scene. His production output in the sci-fi and horror b-movie and TV-movie arena is prolific; his 1961 Vincent Price-fronted Poe horror, Pit and the Pendulum, has never felt so far away.
Yet, as b-movies go, Corman’s experience does seem to ensure a certain level of quality. The overall presentation isn’t terrible; whilst the direction isn’t especially imaginative (with the split screen approach during some moments proving an exception of sorts), there is a level of competence on display. The silly CGI of the hybrid creature never draws us towards a suspension of reality, yet it’s enough to help drive the simplistic story forward. And the liberal doses of beach-side youthful exuberance, z-grade humour (the discussion between the two painters about the ways in which one can die is cringe-worthy, but hilarious), and firm female flesh are bound to satisfy the target audience.
On balance, this is a film that has no pretensions; it knows what it is, and with that in mind, it would be unfair to judge it in any other light. Yes, it’s bereft of tension, intelligent dialogue, and depth, yet for fans of self-aware b-movie silliness, it’s a watchable enough entry, and as post-pub movie fodder you could do considerably worse.
Sharktopus arrives on our shores via Anchor Bay on a single disc; expect a budget price commensurate with the budget nature of this water-based shocker. The disc is encoded for region 2, and is presented using an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer itself is clean enough, and the colours are reproduced with lively vibrancy. The budget nature of the filming is apparent via the slight graininess, particularly evident on some of the shots of sky. Some other scenes have a visible layer of noise across the entire shot, although it’s possible that this is intentional, or that such scenes were perhaps filmed at a separate time using different equipment.
Whilst the colours are rich and the transfer clean, the only other issue involves the darker shades. Whilst blacks are solid, the darker shades and shadows are often overbearing and deprive us of the level of definition we have come to expect in modern productions.
Overall though, as films of this ilk go, the reproduction of the visuals is fair.
The hybrid creature feature offers two audio options; 2.0 stereo, and 5.1 surround. Whilst not earth shattering, the audio is similarly acceptable, benefitting from a decent tonal balance. An impressive example of the audio quality is the moment where Kerem Bursin shoots at the deadly creature through the water, as the deep thud sweeps across the sound stage. My only criticism is that the volumes between the characters seems occasionally unbalanced, with vocal delivery showing slight variance in volume.
There’s nothing in the way of extras, other than a trailer which is equal in silliness to the movie itself, and reveals most of the more elaborate CGI shots, as well as some of the less elaborate ones too.
It’s utter nonsense, yet if your taste is for undemanding, self-aware, b-movie silliness, Sharktopus is an acceptable example. And with news that Michael Madsen and Rachel Hunter are to star in the Roger Corman produced Piranhaconda, it seems that low budget hybrid creature b-movies will continue to present some sort of enduring appeal. Unless you have an especial affinity for such material though, this is best filed under ‘post pub only’.