Eye of the Beast (DVD)


Reviewed by The Foywonder

Starring James Van Der Beek, Alexandra Castillo, Arne MacPherson, and a giant squid

Directed by Gary Yates

Distributed by Genius Home Entertainment

Unlike the Sci-Fi Channel’s original giant squid movie of last year, Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (review), which was about a giant squid terrorizing treasure hunters within Canadian fishing waters, this year’s Sci-Fi commissioned giant squid flick, Eye of the Beast, is about a giant squid terrorizing the lake of a Canadian fishing community. That Eye of the Beast‘s fishing community is in Canada also makes it uniquely distinct from Peter Benchley’s The Beast since that miniseries was about a giant squid terrorizing an American fishing community. I’m not sensing a lot of variety when it comes to giant squid movies these days.

Eye of the Beast is such a straightforward by-the-numbers production I think it could have written itself. It’s almost as if someone at the Sci-Fi Channel passed out a book of Mad Libs based on their film division’s most familiar storylines and this flick was cultivated from the page devoted to killer animal movies. You got a killer animal, a determined scientist, a female love interest with a personal stake in the matter, disbelieving townsfolk and authority figures, and, finally, a finale where a bunch of locals round-up a posse to go hunt the creature with ill-fated results until the scientist and love interest save the day. You could join this film in progress and regardless of where you start still be able to easily deduce what you’ve missed and what’s going to happen next.

Unlike Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep, Eye of the Beast does not have the benefit of Victoria Pratt in a bikini top for most of the movie to give it some nice eye candy to help distract from the monotony. Instead we have former “Dawson’s Creek” star James Van Der Beek sporting a beard as a research scientist – I don’t recall his specific field ever being specified – sent to a small Canadian lakeside township to investigate why the local fisherman are coming up empty. Before finding out the source of the lake’s problem is a giant squid that’s been inhabiting it for so long it’s become the source of local tall tales about a lake monster, science boy will start making lovey dovey with the half-breed hotty fisheries officer; the only law around at the time due to the sheriff having just died from non-squid related causes and who herself has a history with both the squid and of falling for handsome marine scientist types.

Welcome to Fells Island, a place that disproves the old adage about how polite Canadians supposedly are. The unfriendly locals instantly distrust this scientist because they believe he’s only been sent there to order the lake closed and fishing halted, thus destroying their primary source of income. Most of the locals believe the reason the fish population has been drying up is because the local Native Americans having been overfishing the waters and that they’re allowed to get away with doing so because they’re a protected minority who don’t have to worry about federal permits. These same bigoted bumpkins also don’t much care for a certain female love interest since she’s a half-breed and, thus, they believe her to be naturally inclined to side with “her people”.

Killer monster? Distrust of Native Americans? A half-breed law enforcer trying to keep the peace between both sides? Didn’t I just see all this when I reviewed the Sci-Fi Channel bound Bone Eater (review) a few days ago? Must have been those Mad Libs again.

99% of the squid action is tentacles-only, and only one or two rubber tentacles (CGI on special occasions) are seen flopping around and snatching people at a time. Squid attacks are very few and far between until the final 15-minutes when most of the cast gets thinned out in rapid fire fashion. The squid also proves capable of snaring and dragging underwater someone standing just a few feet behind another person without generating the sound of a person screaming in terror or that of water splashing. Almost completely unseen and capable of silent assassination: it must be the dreaded giant ninja squid!

A survivor of the first squid-on-human attack is pulled out of the water just long enough to mutter something about a giant squid before expiring from hypothermia. Most dismiss his ramblings as near-death delusions and that the destruction of his boat was due to him speeding on the lake and hitting a rock. Dr. Van Der Beek, of course, instantly deduces from what little wreckage he’s saw floating in the water at night that the boat was crushed and, after a quick Google image search, comes to the conclusion that the “anomalous circular abrasions” found on pieces of the boat are conducive with that of a giant squid’s suckers.

That won’t be the last time Google comes in handy. A bit later someone will use a Google Earth satellite image to spot the shadow of the giant squid in the lake at night! I kid you not.

Naturally, the townsfolk don’t believe any of this giant squid talk; neither do Van Der Beek’s scientific superiors. But once someone dumps the tentacle they lopped off the beast onto a table at the local fishing bar, you better believe it’s time for a squid lynching. Can the whites and Indians set aside their mutual disdain to help kill a giant cephalopod that’s really less of a malevolent monster and really just a starving wild animal doing what it needs to survive? What do you think?

At the risk of spoiling the ending, the only reason they’re able to kill it is because the squid suddenly decides to raise itself almost completely out of the water (How’d it do that anyway?) at the most convenient moment for them to stab it in the eye with an electrified harpoon. I guess this one moment also justifies the Eye of the Beast title as well.

The film concludes on a truly baffling note as the picture fades to black and “The End” appears on the screen written in the font style of a classic black & white romantic comedies of the golden age of cinema. Not a clue what was up with that. An in-joke? Sarcasm?

Pedestrian to the extreme and hitting almost every note familiar to the Jaws playook without an ounce of inspiration, Eye of the Beast was directed by Gary Yates, who previously helmed the killer tiger flick Maneater, and while this one isn’t quite as deathly dull, it remains another dull, uneventful nature gone amok flick.

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    1 1/2 out of 5

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