Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda (2014)

Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda (2014)Starring Robert Carradine, Katie Savoy, Rib Hillis, Conan O’Brien

Directed by Kevin O’Neil

Say what you will about Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda, it delivers more on its “vs.” title than any other Asylum or Syfy versus flick to date. They go fin-to-fin at least four times, starting at the half-hour mark. I feel compelled to point out there is more actual on-screen monster fighting action in this Roger Corman-produced Syfy creature feature than in this summer’s Godzilla reboot.

The original 2010 Sharktopus left me feeling a bit underwhelmed – great monster, generic movie. Nobody will confuse this sequel with great cinema, but it is the first Syfy “versus” movie to come close to capturing that Toho monster movie vibe; and unlike another recent Syfy sequel featuring tornadic sharks, the makers of this absurdity appeared to be trying to make an actual film with an actual plot and actual characters. Calling a movie such as this “good” always comes with a certain number of qualifiers. Let’s just say that Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda is no dumber than Gamera vs. Zigra, the last monster movie I can think of to boast two fantastic sea beasts engaging in kaiju combat as the centerpiece of a goofy sci-fi plot. If you don’t have a problem enjoying that sort of creature feature, then you should have some fun with this. Everyone else… well, everyone else I’d just assume isn’t currently reading a review of a movie titled Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda.

Pteracuda is more or less described as a living, breathing, genetically-engineered, app-powered drone created by an allegedly brilliant scientist. In the hallowed halls of crackpot military weapon ideas, this even surpasses the Soviet anti-tank suicide bomb dogs (look it up). Not surprisingly, the Pentagon laughed at the notion of combining dinosaur and fish DNA to make an amphibious airborne attack plane. So, being a loon with too much genius but little common sense, he makes it anyway just to prove them wrong. His own personal “Spruce Goose.” Except the Spruce Goose wasn’t an actual goose and didn’t bite people’s heads off.

Robert Carradine – doomed to be forever revenging nerds – is no stranger to playing this sort of villain in a Syfy monster movie. Here in the form of gonzo genetics guru Dr. Symes, he brings to life one of cinema’s most nonchalant mad scientists.

For example, when his Pteracuda almost immediately goes berserk and starts attacking his own people, he calmly responds with “Can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”

When his top hired gun complains about his private commando team being massacred by the Pteracuda, Symes flippantly boasts “What can I say? My chili always wins the cook-off.”

When the heroine questions how such a scientific genius could turn to the dark side in the pursuit of money, he retorts with a real humdinger of a head-scratcher. “The ivory tower is great, but the garage is filled with used Volvos.” Say what?

If Dr. Symes were a Dungeons & Dragons character, I believe his alignment would be considered “Casual Evil”.

In fairness to Symes, Pteracuda’s control app has been hacked by a poorly-actualized third party saboteur plotting some terrorism-for-hire. Sharktopus will also briefly become remotely operated by a computerized implant when Symes decides the best way to fight monsters is to make monsters. Clearly he took that line from Pacific Rim far too literal.

A baby Sharktopus has been found in the Mexican resort waters near where its parent famously went on a killing spree years earlier before getting exploded. Plucky marine biologist Lorena Christmas has been attempting to domesticate the animal into not being all stabby with its tentacles or hungry for the taste of tourists. She’s a little more sensible about the prospects of taking the unstoppable killing machine quotient out of the Sharktopus’ nature than her boss, the owner of a Seaworld-esque marine park who cannot wait to make a fortune in tourist dollars displaying this most apex of predators.

It also turns out that next generation Sharktopus possesses intelligence greater than that of a dolphin. This movie definitely needed more scenes of Dr. Christmas communicating with the Sharktopus via flash cards. Lives might have been saved had she not been getting all kissy face with her dimwitted lifeguard boyfriend, not paying attention during a key moment when the tentacle pointed to the word “EAT” and the drawing of a person.

No point mentioning that boyfriend since his untimely beheading barely elicits any tears. She’ll bond more with Dr. Symes’ not-so-bad guy henchman, Ham, as they work together to stop the super hybrid sea beasts. Sure, Ham’s a dangerous mercenary-for-hire working for a deranged science mogul, but he’s hunky and likes kids so that makes him a catch in her eyes.

When both monsters fall out from under the remote control of their human masters, they proceed to… actually, they merely continue killing and eating random folks just like they’d already been doing before. Hey, it’s a Syfy monster movie, and that means you may as well pretend you’re watching a slasher flick where instead of a masked killer with a big blade you have mutant monsters hacking and slashing with tooth and claw. More heads get lopped off in this film alone than in probably every Friday the 17th flick combined.

One of those heads belongs to Conan O’Brien. His much publicized cameo casts him as an exaggerated Thurston Howell III version of himself appearing just long enough to prove him to be the worst actor in a Syfy movie. Amusing as it is, the whole snarky scene feels tonally out of place. Like dropping a Sharknado 2 gag right in the middle of what is an admittedly silly yet fairly straightforward (some may argue too straight-faced) b-movie.

Director Kevin O’Neil pulls off a few fairly inventive shots when compared to the typically static cinematography of Syfy Originals. He keeps things zipping along in a lighthearted Saturday matinee sort of way until the movie finally hits a wall in the second half when the spy vs. spy subplot takes center stage and the climactic battle proves to be fairly uninspired.

I’m personally more excited about the third Sharktopus movie currently in post-production that will pit the shark/octopus hybrid against a former NBA player transformed into a man-fish-spider. Maybe they can talk Jimmy Fallon into sacrificing his head for a cameo in Sharktopus vs. Mermantula. Not like he won’t do anything to make a video go viral.

7 out of 5

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Debi Moore

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