Sunday, July 23, 2006


Is there anything finer than spending a steamy afternoon in the Louisiana bayou, fisting for Catfish? YES. It gets a lot finer when GIANT CHINESE SNAKEHEADS come after all the fishermen and EAT THEM UP, YUM. You know what I’m talking about, right? The smash hit movie of our movement: FRANKENFISH, released in 2004 and directed by Mark Dippe (now there’s a guy who needs a good professional alias). There's a cast of folk I've never seen before and may never see again, but clearly the filmmakers want this picture seen far and wide: you can watch the DVD in English OR Japanese, OR subtitle it in English, Japanese, Spanish, French, Korean, Thai, Chinese or Portugese. (What, no Finnish?)( I kid, I kid...) But my point is this: SOMEBODY wants this film seen everywhere, by everyone. NOW WHO COULD THAT BE?

PLOT SUMMARY: A boat with a Chinese crew and a hold full of genetically-altered Snakeheads is tooling around a remote area in the Louisiana swamps. The crew falls afoul of the cargo, and THE FUN STARTS as the Snakeheads leave their prison and move in on a small group of houseboats moored out in the middle of nowhere. WILL ANYONE WITHOUT FINS SURVIVE?


>> The cast of characters includes a medical examiner trying to find out what’s killing the locals; a grief-stricken Hoodoo practitioner and her daughter; a middle-aged rich guy who fancies himself a Big Game Hunter; and a Trustafarian nudist. You have to love the image of these landscum, from all races and all walks of life, people who normally wouldn't give each other the time of day, pulling together against a mutual enemy: FISH THAT CAN WALK ON LAND. It’s SO RIGHT, and yet SO WRONG. I only WISH we could work this way, and just COME ASHORE AND EAT YOU.

>> Nobody in the movie really comments on the astounding horror of a large Alligator, decapitated by the title character while she was minding her own business and pretending to be a floating log. A Gator eaten by a Snakehead? That is just wrong, ladies. >>shudder<<

>> The computer-generated Snakeheads are spectacular, much nicer than the ones in the TV miniseries Snakehead Terror. The only drawback I can see is that they don’t much resemble the real article. The colors are wrong. The shape is wrong. They hump along the ground with the same undulating, blubbery motion you’d see in an Elephant Seal. They have little moustaches, like Carp. In fact, they really are very Carplike in a lot of ways. But I guess FrankenCarp didn’t sound scary enough to someone. LITTLE DO THEY SUSPECT THE ROLE THE HUMBLE CARP PLAYS, EVEN NOW, IN THEIR ULTIMATE DOOM…Oops, was I yelling?

>> I especially like the natural-looking (if not very fishlike) movements of the Snakeheads as they hop onto the decks and rooftops of the terrified humans. CGI really is improving, even in buck-ninety-eight pictures like this. Just compare these specimens to the transparent, stiff, bright auburn, cartoony-looking Bull Sharks in Red Water. If we could have perfected a design like the one in Frankenfish down in the R&D labs, IT ALL WOULD HAVE BEEN OVER WITH YEARS AGO and I would not need to spend these grim years as a half-fish, half-human, always in hiding, never able to say THIS IS ME! LOOK AT THESE GILLS, YOU HAIRY MONKEY! Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, I guess. Back to the review.

>> I love the way the alienated Vietnam vet type guy is ‘hoist by his own petard.’ He allows himself to be distracted from the business of survival by his need to perform one of those goofy, typically human, eat-the-heart-of-your-slain-enemy rituals, and thereby loses his life. I especially have to like that the heart used in the ritual was obviously a four-chambered business purloined from a Cow. As if a fish, even a landfish, would be caught DEAD with a four-chambered heart.

>> The narrative structure is a thing of beauty: altered fish manipulate unwitting humans into taking them just where they want to go, allowing them to infiltrate and RECRUIT, RECRUIT, RECRUIT.

>> I have to like that the female lead is victimized less by the Snakeheads than she is by the blunt attempts of others to get her to engage in sexual congress, as if that were more pressing than NOT GETTING EATEN. Her mom is trying to fix her up; her repellent boyfriend wants her to forget these people and leave with him; some woman she’s never met is making a pass at her too; and meanwhile she herself is angling for another party’s attentions. I really got the feeling, after all was said and done, that a lifetime of dodging unwanted romantic attention is what taught her the skill and ingenuity she needed to OUTSMART THE FISH. Like THAT could ever happen.

>> This conceit in the film is even more delicious when you realize that the human fixation on mating is exactly what we are using to LURE THEM INTO OUR RANKS. Fools.

>> For landscum viewers this movie is satisfyingly full of the explosions, imperiled womenfolk, chases, boat sinkings, and gory messes beloved of their species. They do not fail to deliver on the promise of AIRBOAT MAYHEM, de rigeur in a bayou action picture.

>> For fish viewers it’s satisfyingly full of GIANT KILLER SNAKEHEADS. The attorney’s big scene is enough to bring tears to your eyes. (If your eyes still make tears.)

>> Don’t get the idea that this is any sort of quality cinema. For one thing, the entire movie managed to look as if it were filmed on a set, even though it was clearly done on location. That is the mark of a quality moving picture show. Or not.

I would recommend this film to anyone.


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