Sharktopus is the first film in a series of Shark/Octopus cross-breed films released in 2010. It was directed by Declan O’Brien (Wrong Turns 3-5) and written by Mike MacLen with a rewrite penned by Stephen Niver. The film stars Eric Roberts (over 689 credits, look him up) as Nathan, Kerem Bursin as Andy, Ara Lane as Nicole, and Hector Jimenez as Bones. The film originally aired on the SyFy channel.
The film opens to a music montage worth of Baywatch as we see the sights of the Santa Monica pier. Sunscreen and skin fill the screen as a bikini-clad young woman ditches her friend by going to swim in the ocean alone. The friend on the beach notices the tell-tale shark fin in the water, but just as the shark is about to take a bite, another creature saves the swimmer by killing the shark.
It seems the Navy is at it again, and creates the next super-weapon by fiddling with the DNA of a shark and an octopus. After many different trials, Nathan Sands’s team has produced the “S-11” prototype weapon, which is able to be remotely controlled thanks to a device attached to the creature. It is the S-11 that saved the woman in the bay from certain death. The scientists explain to the Navy that the device allows them to control the “sharktopus” and demonstrates by having it swim close to a boat offshore. While they intended the creature to get as close to the boat as possible, it swims too close and ends up damaging the controlling device, setting the creature free to roam the ocean.
Even though the device is damaged, the team traces the sharktopus to Puerto Vallarto, Mexico where there are a series of additional attacks. The team enlists the help of a former member, Flynn, to help capture the beast. Flynn agrees to help -for a price – and is informed there only two darts/additional devices available so they don’t have a lot of chances to take it down alive.
The shark continues to feed along the coast until the ultimate showdown between it, Flynn and Nathan’s daughter, Nicole.
Let’s get the positive things about the film out of the way first. The film was produced by the legendary Roger Corman. You may know Corman from his work on such films as The Little Shop of Horrors and a slew of cult-favorite films. The marketing of the film relied heavily on Corman’s name on posters and trailers. Eric Roberts as Nathan did a very good job in the film with what he was given, portraying the sleek scientist. One never quite knows a hundred percent if Nathan is actually evil, or just an opportunist. Roberts’s performance helps keep the film from swimming into the depths of the implausible.
Another highlight of the film is the pirate radio station broadcasting from a boat in the marina. The main host, Captain Jack, is expertly portrayed by Ralph Garman (Ted) whom I remember from KROQ in Los Angeles.
The special effects shop charged to do the effects, Dilated Pixels, did an OK job with what they were given and have been involved with a lot of impressive productions. However, the sharktopus is a bit too “crisp” with no bump maps (texture) besides the shark’s smooth skin. In addition, the lighting on the sharktopus is oftentimes exactly the opposite of the lighting of the main characters, which results in awkward, harsh shadows. The film could have learned a thing or two about “less is more” rather than trying to fit the entire sharktopus on the screen at once. As such, we never quite get the sense of scale of the sharktopus since it seems to shrink and expand in the scene as needed.
With all of its faults, it is easy to see why it has endeared itself in the minds of genre movie-buffs in the same way the series of Sharknado films have become recent classics. Although campy at times and awful at others, the film manages to use both Robert and Garman as anchors that lift it up rather than hold it down.
All-in-all Sharptopus is a fun romp if you enjoyed any of the Sharknado films, but those looking for a serious horror film will be disappointed.