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Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (DVD)

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Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep DVD (click for larger image)Starring Charlie O’Connell, Victoria Pratt, Jack Scalia, Kristi Angus, Christa Campbell

Directed by Tibor Takacs

Distributed by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment


Originally saddled with the terrible title Deadly Water, the Sci-Fi Channel’s website held a contest this past July for fans to come up with a new title for the film. I find it hard to believe that they really needed a contest for someone to come up with a title like Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep, a title that sounds like something the Sci-Fi Channel brass could have easily come up with on their own. After watching their latest stinker I’m thinking that next time maybe the Sci-Fi Channel should let the contest winner make the whole damn movie.

At least in Peter Benchley’s The Beast the giant squid was the focal point of the four-hour miniseries. Despite this film’s title the giant squid here is secondary to the (lack of) intrigue involving a treasure hunt you don’t give a crap about. Come to think of it, the squid comes in third behind the lead characters’ budding romance.

Things kick off in 1982 with our leading man Ray, a young boy at the time, on a boat with his mom and dad on a body of water called Desolation Passage. Ray is shown reading a copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that has a giant squid on the cover. Moments later his mom and dad both fall victim to an actual giant squid.

The original plot synopsis I’d been hearing for over a year claimed that the adolescent Ray managed to put out one of the giant squid’s eyes and that’s how’d he be able to identify this specific giant squid 20+ years later as the one that killed his parents. I remember thinking that may very well have been the single most ludicrous plot point I’d ever heard. I think the filmmakers agreed since that particular aspect of the plot is nowhere to be found here. In retrospect, I’m not sure if that was a good or bad move. As dumb as that plot contrivance may have been, it at least would have been a spectacularly dumb part of a film that is otherwise remarkably unspectacular.

Jump forward to Desolation Passage again, now present day. Nicole (Victoria Pratt of “Mutant X”, “Cleopatra 2525”, and quite a few Sci-Fi Channel original movies of late) leads an expedition in search of a priceless opal. The crew consists of herself, two of her students that can’t keep their hands off one another, and an old boat captain.

You are aware that all female marine archaeologists are hot blondes, aren’t you? According to this film, it’s true. One’s a teacher and another’s a student (even though she doesn’t look that much younger) and both are hot blondes. Vicki Pratt spends most of the film in bikini tops even though Desolation Passage is said to be north of Vancouver, Canada.

Their scientific journey has just paid off with the discovery of the sunken wreckage of the ship on which that invaluable artifact – the big opal that looks like a dinosaur egg made of blue tinged glass – had been lost long ago. I won’t bother trying to explain the whole legend surrounding this opal, and frankly, I really wish the movie had spent less time talking about it, too. The legend also has to do with some ancient mask that looked to me like someone bronzed the stingray that killed the Crocodile Hunter. If only there had been a stingray around to put this movie out of its misery.

It turns out Mr. Kraken calls this sunken shipwreck home. Or could it be the legendary guardian of this famed opal? Whichever, it’s unhappy having its area violated by the world’s most photogenic marine archaeologists. The giant squid tries taking down their boat but only manages to decapitate the old captain in a brief moment of inspired stupidity.

Adult Ray (Charlie O’Connell, former co-star of brother Jerry’s “Sliders” and a former bachelor on ABC’s “The Bachelor”) now grown up, all hunky and haunted by bad memories, hears a news report about a giant squid sighting up at Desolation Passage and decides its time to settle an old score. It’s Deathwish: Calamari Style!

At least it should have been.

Ray shows up and instantly tricks Nicole into letting him onto the crew. Nicole is initially unsure but his hunkiness persuades her. Good thing too because Ray will definitely come in handy. Mechanic, skipper, lifesaver, nurse, diver, squid expert, and hunk: Ray’s a regular Bacheloroo Banzai. Between Ray and Nicole and Nicole’s two lovebird students, this isn’t an expedition for undersea treasure – it’s the freakin’ Love Boat.

Ray may have headed back up to Desolation Sound with eight-armed revenge on his mind, but the moment he laid eyes on Nicole, that parent-killing squid became the last thing on his mind. And not just his mind; the filmmakers’ as well. Ray and Nicole make constant goo-goo eyes at one another, have lunch and dinner dates, chat endlessly about her treasure hunt, and even after another encounter with the squid, he still seems more preoccupied with doing anything he can to help her out rather than doing what he went up there to do in the first place. The two have several discussions as to why it’s so damn important to her to find this legendary treasure, yet him finally telling her about his parents and why he’s after the squid is tossed out in a throwaway line as if it’s no big deal – and then it’s right back to her quest for the opal. Enough with the Greek legend gobbledygook! Isn’t this supposed to be a giant squid flick? Make with the killimari already!

Ray’s obsession with killing the giant squid that killed his parents is a lot like Captain Ahab’s obsession with killing Moby Dick only I don’t recall Ahab spending the majority of the story trying to get into Queequeg’s pants.

As if the whole middling mess involving that opal wasn’t lame enough, in true Sci-Fi Channel original movie fashion, a human villain has to be introduced to the proceedings for no particular reason other than to include a human villain element. God forbid they actually make a giant killer squid movie that’s actually about people contending with a giant killer squid. This is the Sci-Fi Channel’s favorite bad cliché. Hell, I think the Sci-Fi Channel actually dictates that all Sci-Fi Channel filmmakers include some sort of evil corporate type, military bad guy, devious scientist, dangerous terrorist, or corrupt whatever.

Enter veteran TV actor Jack Scalia (20 years ago he’d have been playing Ray instead) as Maxwell Odemus, a wealthy Greek shipping magnate whose family is also a notorious crime family. Scalia shows up dressed like Steven Seagal, talking like a Mafia legbreaker with a bad fake Greek accent and milking that cigar of his like a Borscht Belt comedian. It’s not a good performance by any stretch of the imagination – and it’s an even lamer character to boot – but at least Scalia gets it. He knows what kind of movie this is supposed to be as opposed to O’Connell and Pratt, both of whom come across like a couple of wet drips. Pratt’s pleasant enough and easy on the eyes, but there’s nothing to her character and no good reason why her character and her quest for this opal should take center stage over O’Connell’s squid vengeance. As for Charlie O’Connell – an actor can only coast by on being hunky for so long before he actually has to start, you know, acting.

Odemus shows up with a few henchmen and a henchwoman – all of whom clearly exist solely to provide the squid with a few extra bodies to wrap its tentacles around later on – determined to beat Nicole and her researcher group to the precious opal. This leads to quite a bit of strife between the two parties, only a little of which will have anything to do with the giant squid the movie is named for. If you want an idea how riveting the addition of Odemus is to the proceedings, one plot twist has Nicole’s boat being burned down by Odemus’ top goon. A distraught Nicole declares that their expedition is over as well as, judging by her melodrama, her life. Less than two minutes later – wait for it – Ray blows his entire life savings that we didn’t even know he had to buy some guy’s speedboat right there on the spot, thus putting them back in the hunt for the opal. Whoa, that was suspenseful.

But then why should one expect suspense from a film that ends by showing one of the main characters being nabbed by the giant squid and pulled underwater to their death in exactly the same manner we had just seen two other characters perish moments earlier only to have this main character show up alive and seemingly unharmed moments later with no legitimate explanation as to how or why the squid didn’t kill them. A total cheat. A bad cheat.

There are a few fleeting moments of squidly goodness, almost all of which don’t occur until the final minutes of the film. The sight of O’Connell and Pratt wildly swinging axes (Where did those come from anyway?) at the squid’s attacking tentacles made for an amusing scene, almost as much as seeing O’Connell going all Rambo on the squid with a machine gun. There’s also a bit earlier on where we learn that this squid is actually smart enough to know how to sever a scuba diver’s air hose. That was quite the moment.

For the most part the squid attacks are among the least suspenseful ever seen in an animal gone amok type of flick. Some tentacles pop out the water and wriggle around. Victims get knocked overboard and tread water until they’re pulled down and a burst of blood bubbles to the surface. In underwater attacks the victims get wrapped up in its tentacles; lots of thrashing about followed by a shot of the not-so-convincing squid moving in or reeling them in for the kill. The squid is boring; the way it kills is boring. Some shots of the computer generated squid in action have it moving in such an unnaturally jerky manner that a squid hand puppet would have been an improvement.

Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep reminded me a bit of Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid in that its titular critters weren’t really the focal point of the film. Although the anacondas still had more to do with the proceedings of their film than the giant squid does in this clunker. There’s barely any giant squid in the first hour. If you completely removed the giant squid element from this plot, it really wouldn’t have made that huge of an impact aside from requiring the screenplay to find a different means by which to kill off some of the characters. The movie is named after it, but it’s not the star. It’s just there, and even when it’s there, it’s still nothing special. Even the screwy attempt to tie the squid into the legend surrounding the opal flops badly.

The makers of Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep have made the biggest mistake the makers of this type of film ever can: They’ve reduced the title monster to being nothing more than a recurring plot device that isn’t even the centerpiece of the film. If you’re going to make such a film, fine; just don’t name the damn movie after it and hype it as something that it’s really not.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep other than it simply being a sucky movie.

1 1/2 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.65 (20 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.14 (22 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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