Film Review: Aquarium of the Dead

Aquarium of the Dead PosterAquarium of the Dead is a May 2021 release by The Asylum, who also produced the films Zombeavers, Zoombies, and of particular interest to Shark Week fans, Sharknado. Written by Marc Gottlieb (Planet of the Sharks) and Michael Varrati (Tales of Poe) it was directed by veteran Asylum alumnus Glenn Miller (Sharknado 2, Sharknado 4). The film’s release was scheduled to coincide with Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead.

Strange things are happening at the aquarium when vet techs try to save a dying octopus at the Shining Sea Aquarium. Despite all efforts, the octopus dies, or so they think. The creature returns to life only to kill a couple of the workers and leaves Dr. Karen James (Madeleine Falk) unconscious as it slinks into the bowels of the tourist attraction.

Meanwhile, Miranda (Eva Ceja) gives a tour of the facility to Senator Blackburn (Anthony Jensen) hoping to gain the Senator’s favor and attain some much-needed funding to improve the tech equipment inside the aquarium. One of the technicians, Daniel, gets a call for his superior Ellen to destroy the medication they have been using on the animals. He then is charged with giving a VIP tour to Skylar (Brandon Lee W) and the duo set out on their B storyline – giving mainly exposition and one-liners throughout most of the remainder of the film.

The Senator’s tour is interrupted when Dr. James appears and tells them what happened with the octopus – it is now a zombie and is loose in the duct system throughout the park. An employee in the command center, Clu (Vivica A. Fox) puts the aquarium into lockdown. A dolphin then becomes a zombie in another part of the facility and gains its first kill. Seemingly one species at a time ends up turning into zombies, some breaking the aquarium tanks sending thousands of gallons of water into the lower reaches of the facility.

The Senator’s group is trapped because none of the group remembered to bring their cell phones. Responding to the lockdown, two firefighters (names withheld to protect the innocent) arrive and are unable to get in.

The Senator’s group tries to make their way to the control room and encounter zombie crocodiles and a lovable zombie walrus on their journey. They also encounter a platoon of zombie starfish, who can attach themselves to other animals – including humans – turning whatever they latch on to, to zombies. Throughout the film, we keep wondering – where are the sharks? Saving the best for last, the group must go through Shark Cove to get the power back on and they make the shocking discovery the sharks can move out of the water.

The film ends with a revelation from the Senator and an “inside man” who may not have been entirely truthful throughout the ordeal.

Having never seen the other films considered to be in the series (Zombeavers and Zoombies) I went into seeing Aquarium of the Dead with no preconceived notions. In fact, I was unaware of the association with the Sharknado series until I started researching the crew for this review. The film mainly follows three different crews around the aquarium. There’s the Senator’s group, there is David and Skylar, and then there are the two firemen. Apart from all three is Vivica A. Fox is pretty much secluded in the control room.

The lighting and quality of the film itself were actually quite good. The filmmakers did a great job going from the bright exteriors of the park to the gloomy insides. Not bad for filming the entire movie in 6 days. The cast was believable and did a good job with the material with the sad exception of the two firemen who broke the 4th wall with how bad their performances were.

While it is no Sharknado, Aquarium of the Dead was a fun romp around an aquarium. I tried to find out where it was filmed, but IMDB didn’t have it noted. Astute viewers can probably find uncovered signage during the film to figure it out. Having watched the film, I do want to go back and see the other films associated with it.

You can find Aquarium of the Dead streaming online, including Amazon Prime.

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