Sharknado review

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When a freak monsoon floods California, beach bar owner Fin Shepherd must work together with his friends to travel inland and rescue his ex-wife and children before a deadly shark swirling tornado wipes LA off the map. Will he be able to outrun the Sharknado?

The Asylum historically focus on making cheap and crappy knock-offs but their recent run of successful creature features continues as although Sharknado is low-budget and poorly executed, it manages to be what it is better than most of its peers.

Ian Ziering leads the cast and easily gives the best performance. He makes the shift from easy-going beach bar owner to stern and responsible protector of his family believable and both he and Cassie Scerbo are able to carry some of the weaker members of the cast.

However the bane of nearly all cheap creature features is shooting outside and Sharknado suffers greatly. The inconsistent cinematography bounces from exposing to the bright sky, causing the actors to become blurry silhouettes to exposing to the actor’s faces, causing the sky to become a detail-less glowing white explosion.

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Sharknado 2: The Second One review

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The Sharknado is back but this time in New York, can Fin and April save the day again so far from home?

Sharknado 2: The Second One ramps up the action of the first film but so too the campiness and cheesiness.

Once again, Ian Ziering is the best thing on-screen. Zaniness can only get you so far and with a weaker lead star, the Sharknado films would undoubtedly be not nearly as successful as they are. Ziering is a great actor who whilst able to wink at the audience every now and again, is still the serious emotional centre of the film.

There are a few new additions worth noting as well. The new cast led by the Kari Wuhrer and Sugar Ray are entertaining enough whilst the increased threat of having one Sharknado collide with another to make a super Sharknado is a great way to up the ante from the first film’s finale. The celebrity cameos are unnecessary but fun (Oh hey, it’s Kurt Angle and Biz Markie!) and the degree of shark related insanity reaches a whole new level of fun.

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Kazuo Umezu’s Horror Theatre: Snake Girl review

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Based on the manga by Kazuo Umezu. Traumatized after witnessing a violent murder, depressed teenager Yumiko finds herself re-appreciating life after being sent to stay with her cousins in their remote mountain village. However after she gets bitten by an evil snake demon, Yumiko finds that the superstitious villagers are less than understanding…

First context: Snake Girl is the third chapter of a six part anthology titled Kazuo Umezu’s Horror Theatre. Each chapter is an adaptation of one of Umezu’s famous horror manga stories, independent and unrelated to one another.

Second context: I haven’t read the source material for Snake Girl nor have I read anything else by Kazuo Umezu. In fact, I don’t read manga at all.

Snake Girl is an entertaining way to spend 54 minutes but it feels like a lot of build up to a very unsatisfying climax.

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Deep Blue Sea review

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Believing that sharks hold the key to curing Alzheimer’s, a team of scientists chemically increase the brain matter of three sharks for their research. Unfortunately this also make the sharks super intelligent and they soon begin a deadly siege of the scientist’s underwater lab…

With its huge budget and great cast, Deep Blue Sea is a fantastically fun adventure but the real stars of the shows are the outstanding animatronic sharks.

Despite being made back in 1999, I am going to stick my neck out and say that Deep Blue Sea has some of the best creature animatronics in any movie – ever. Having these giant robotic sharks that can swim and interact with actors makes a huge difference and creates some staggering sequences and especially memorable death scenes. CGI is still used for the more outrageous shots but the degree of physicality in the shots with the animatronic is, in my opinion, unmatched by any other creature feature past, present and future.

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Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys review

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When lamprey start attacking the citizens of a quiet lake town, it’s up to Fish & Wildlife Ranger, Michael, to uncover the mystery surrounding their on-land assault. However, he must first contend with Mayor Akerman who is unwilling to take any drastic measures so close to tourist season….

Considering its 2014 release, Blood Lake is a very classic creature feature.

Whilst the story isn’t overly original, the film hits all the right beats and the action is very well paced. The majority of the named characters have motivations and agency and on the whole, the acting is actually pretty good (Zach Ward in particular).

The cinematography is solid and it seems like a lot of thought was put into the shots as the majority of the framing looks great and the tracking is very professional. Blood Lake serves as an antithesis to shaky handheld camera work which so many low budget productions rely on.

There are even a few very interesting flourishes including the inside-the-bucket shots and a fantastic moment where Nicole trips whilst fleeing the Lamprey horde and the camera just flows over her body.

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Extinction review

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Whilst on an expedition in the jungles of Peru, a team of cryptozoologists, researchers and journalists discover a pair of dinosaurs that not only survived the mass extinction but have evolved and adapted ever since. This will be the discovery of a life, if they can escape the jungle alive…

Extinction: Jurassic Predators is a very physical film.

Like a lot of its Found Footage brethren, Extinction is comprised of about 80% travelling shots but this includes our cast trekking, hiking, climbing, clambering, running and wading through the hills, forests and rivers of Wales, which is doubling for Peru.

Considering the degree of physicality required, I thought that the cast did a good job. The accents never shake, Sarah Mac has a fantastic TV journalist voice, most of the jokes land successfully and although they’re not fantastically deep characters, the actors stay consistent and true to their character’s key personality traits (Michelle is very serious, James is not serious, Lisa is quiet, Tim is neurotic etc).

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Boa vs Python review

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After a giant Python escapes from its convoy, eccentric billionaire and extreme hunting enthusiast Broddick assembles a hunting party to track the snake down. At the same time however, the FBI enlist a genetically enhanced Scarlet Boa to seek out and kill the giant Python…

Boa vs Python is one of the earliest creature feature crossovers and I still believe that it holds up as being one of the best.

Not only does the film deliver on the promise of the premise but we’re even given a fairly interesting set of human characters to follow. David Hewlett and Jaime Bergman are our serious scientist protagonist and the formation of their relationship is believable and well-paced.

The designs for the snakes are beautiful with the bright blue colouring for the Python and the beautiful scarlet red for the Boa and although the majority of their scenes take place underground or at night, it is nice to see the creatures get such a screen presence. The choice to have the two bright primary colours really helps to differentiate between them especially when they become coiled together mid-battle.

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Jurassic World review

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After 22 years, the successful Jurassic World is constructed on the ruins of the failed Jurassic Park. However when the brand new attraction – a super-smart dinosaur hybrid – escapes, it becomes a race against time to stop the Indominus Rex before a park full of visitors become a park full of lunch…

Jurassic World is the long awaited sequel to the Jurassic Park trilogy and whilst maintaining the high qualities of effects and excellent production design, somewhat successfully replaces a lot of other key factors with action and humour.

More so than other films, Jurassic World seems to work on an exchange system. Yes, there is a surprising lack of tension, any shocks are clearly forecasted, there is an over-reliance of references to the original film and the characters are largely one-dimensional archetypes BUT the music and visuals are breath-taking and uplifting, the new Indominus Rex is so awesomely cool, there’s a giant Mosasaurus that eats Great White Sharks in a Sea World parallel and there is Chris Pratt riding his motorbike with a hunting pack of trained Velociraptors!

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Zombeavers review

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When some nuclear waste is accidentally dumped into the local lake, the wildlife starts mutating into freakish monstrosities hungry for human flesh. Fortunately for them, a group of sorority sisters and their boyfriends have just arrived at the lake for a quiet weekend getaway…

Zombeavers is very much a film of two halves.

The first half is carried almost exclusively by the three female leads and despite great performances by the actresses, their boyfriend melodrama is a little dull and their extreme personalities make it difficult to accept that these characters would actually be friends.

However as soon as the titular Zombeavers show up in the second half, the film really comes to life. The action is relentless as the titular creatures do everything they can to try and kill the protagonists. Within minutes of the invasion, I was swept up for the thrilling ride and lost myself in the pure enjoyment that Zombeavers offers. To my surprise and to the credit of the screenwriting, I was genuinely caught off-guard by some legitimately unforeseen revelations between the characters late in the film that only served to suck me into the story further.
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Annabel Wright interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Annabel Wright (Lake Placid vs Anaconda, Blood in the Water)

Annabel Wright by Roger EatonWhen film franchises make the transition from the cinematic gloss of big budget theatrical releases to the discounted but arguably more creative free world of the direct-to-TV release, it’s often seen as the final nail in the franchise coffin. However there are two series that have defied the odds and not only survived the transition but have thrived.

The Anaconda and Lake Placid franchises both transitioned to the Syfy Channel and now, 16 years after their first installments they have both reached the fifth film in their respective franchises with a crossover dual that pitches the Crocodiles of Black Lake against the Blood Orchid enthused Anacondas from the Amazon.

When Murdoch’s daughter and Jim Bickerman unwittingly unleash Blood Orchid enhanced Anacondas and the Crocodiles of Black Lake on the neighboring Clear Lake, it’s up to Sheriff Reba and Fish & Game warden Tully to save a group of vacationing Sorority Girls and put an end to this madness once and for all. But how many human lives will be lost in the climatic battle of the Crocodiles of Lake Placid vs Anaconda!

I had a chance to ask the wonderful actress Annabel Wright a few questions about her role as the lead villainess Sarah Murdoch in Lake Placid vs Anaconda. Read on for a fun little interview in which we discuss working with Robert Englund, conquering her fear of snakes, boat building and her in-development cookery show….

[JS] How did you get into acting? And why?

[AW] I had my first experience of being on stage aged 3. My parents had taken me to a variety entertainment show, I was pretty small and had to sit on a load of folded coats to see the stage, but I was utterly engrossed in the performances. At one point a man with a variety of musical instruments asked if there were any children who would like to come up on stage and help him with his act, before my parents had blinked I had jumped up and was standing on the seat, arms waving. I was invited up on stage and I got to play the trombone in front of a large audience and curtsy, I received a big round of applause, I couldn’t stop smiling – I’m sure in part because I managed to get a sound out of the trombone and it was nearly as big as I was! Continue reading