Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf (2015)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2018-07-27 05:36

Written by: Matt Yamashita
Directed by: Kevin O'Neill
Starring: Casper Van Dien, Catherine Oxenberg, and Jennifer Wenger

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

“ Doctor! What kind of visitor did this?"
"Why don't you ask him yourself? He's been waiting all morning to eat you."


This was the just about the only thing that rattled around in my head while watching Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf, the third entry in this ignominious series hatched by Roger Corman earlier this decade: this can’t be something I’m actually watching. Nope. In fact, the whispers of doubt lingered as I trawled through 3 years’ worth of SyFy recordings on my DVR: you don’t have to do this,you know, insisted the reasonable part of my brain. The less reasonable part, however, was right there too, whispering insidious reminders that I’d already seen the first two entries and could not in good faith ignore this, the (hopefully) final chapter. Let the record show that this side of my brain is a total asshole and that I should never listen to it again following Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf, a total atrocity even by the extremely low standards of this genre.

Our old friend the sharktopus is still around wreaking havoc here, this time specifically ruining things for Ray Brady (Casper Van Dien), an alcoholic captain whose first mate has rented out his boat for a funeral. Things go completely haywire when the tentacled beast appears, wrecking the undignified ceremony and killing a widow as she clings to her husband’s sinking coffin. Brady is held liable and thrown in jail before being bailed out by a voodoo priest who wants him to track down the sharktopus and deliver his heart in return. While this seems like a perfectly adequate amount of plot for one movie, an entirely different subplot unfolds involving a disgraced baseball player seeking out illegal treatments from a mad scientist. Unbeknownst to him, Dr. Elsa Reinhardt is experimenting with the animal kingdom genome, splicing together bits of DNA here and there to create unholy hybrids. Her latest cocktail has blended orca and wolf DNA, which—in conjunction with a full moon—inspires a trippy hallucination of images usually found on one of those wolf t-shirts at Wal-Mart. Oh, and it also transforms the baseball player into a whalewolf, which, if I’m being honest, is just a regular old werewolf whose fur is patterned like an Orca’s skin.

Christ. I’m actually struggling with the words to really, adequately capture the contempt this movie has for itself and its audience, and it occurs to me that it really doesn’t matter. Nobody produces a movie titled Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf with the expectation that anyone will care enough one way or the other to evaluate its merit (or extreme lack thereof). It arrives already announcing its utter banality, essentially rendering it critic-proof. You, I, and everyone we know could write a diatribe against it, and anyone involved would respond with “no shit—what’s your point?” It’s expected to be bad, so it’s not like it takes any kind of actual perception to say so. Cynical filmmaking like this basically insists that it’s not taking itself seriously, so why should you? Just go with it, it whispers, and perhaps completely lobotomize your brain at the door. Certainly whatever’s left of it will feel thoroughly pummeled about halfway through Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf.

Of course, there’s a difference between not taking something seriously and completely abdicating all responsibility, which is what happens here. No, I’m not even going to pretend that anything involving a goddamn sharktopus be deadly serious; I am, however, quite adamant that it doesn’t have to be this bad. We even have evidence of this in the previous two movies, which felt much more earnest than this one: where those films offered some fun performances and memorable cameos, this one is pretty much irredeemable, filled with bullshit effects (I won’t even pretend to refer to them as special) and over-the-top performances that draw more scorn than laughs. This is what it looks like when everyone involved has completely given up: either they adopt ridiculous, local haunted house-style accents or mug their way through every scene, hoping you’ll somehow mistake these tics as actual investment. You’re not fooling me, Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf—I know you want me to dismiss you as harmless nonsense, but I’m not playing your game.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but this review might be a real-time account of my brain totally breaking under the weight of watching so many of these goddamn things. You may wonder how Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf is really any worse than any of the other SyFy offerings, which is a fair line of inquiry: honestly, I’m not sure that it’s that much worse, but there’s a stench of laziness pervading it that’s just more pungent than usual. From the opening—and extremely cheap-looking—credits, there’s a slapdash feel to this one that recurs throughout. Most of these movies feel like they might at least take a few months to produce, whereas this one might have taken days at most, with only a tiny fraction of that time being afforded to the effects. Obviously, none of these movies are exemplars in this arena, but the shortcomings are especially egregious here, as the title characters look like they’ve leapt right from a cartoon. What good is a monster movie throwdown if the creatures look like hammered shit, you know? This is the type of movie where you’re shocked to see the occasional practical tentacle or blood splatter.

Between the lackluster effects and the flat photography, the entire movie feels completely weightless, almost as if it’s been designed to pass right through your consciousness like a dumb joke—in one ear, right out of the other, never to be pondered again. Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf invites you to dismiss it early and often, practically insisting on its own triviality with every inane line of dialogue (“who watches this crap?” Van Dien asks while watching news footage of the beasts’ carnage, all but winking right at the camera) and every dumb plot development (an entire subplot is devoted to a Bachelor-style reality show being terrorized by the sharktopus). It’s almost enough to make me swear off all of these things and purge whatever’s left in my DVR so I’m not even tempted in future years. Something—probably that asshole part of my brain again—keeps me from doing so, though, as, deep down, I know I’ll be right back here this time next year with many of the same criticisms. Hopefully Sharktopus won’t be around, though, even if the final scene here hints at more to come—I’d call it a tease, but let’s call it what it really is: a threat, and we should all be grateful that Corman and company haven’t followed through with it so far.

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