Back in the days when Roger Corman still made movies that didn’t go straight to video, he once said something to the effect that he didn’t make B movies. He thought, or felt, or realized, that his formula of lightning fast paces, actors in small clothing, and concepts that could be explained by a poster would one day be taken over by Hollywood.
He was right, and good for him, I suppose. Unfortunately, the cost of his being right was that he now is a follower of the industry instead of a leader – trying to get his micro-budget exploitation flicks out the door around the time their big-budget counterparts hit the theater.
Corman’s name is brought up about halfway through “Aquanoids,” as one character and three day players attempt to rattle off as many movies that feature deadly sea creatures as they can. It is, I suppose a ploy on the part of the filmmakers – “We know what we’re ripping off,” they seem to be saying, “So that makes it okay, right?”
The opening scene takes place sixteen years ago. On the beach, a couple decides to go for a late-night swim, while a man with binoculars looks on. The man will, as dictated by the rules of film, later show up as the drunken guy who has spent his life searching for proof that the sea creatures really exist. The couple is grabbed by a “thing,” which is, of course, the Aquanoid of the title, and both the kids are ripped to shreds.
And then, suddenly, it’s the present day, and our hero, Vanessa, a marine biologist, is off to check the waters for… something… pollution, perhaps. I suppose I should mention that it’s the fourth of July. This makes its own amusement when Vanessa and her boyfriend step into the street to watch a parade, which I guess the filmmakers couldn’t afford to put on, because we don’t get to see any of it.
Back to the story. Vanessa finds some shells, which is apparently bad because she has a fit about it later, and she’s attacked by an Aquanoid, which also upsets her.
So she runs to the mayor, and does the usual heroine duty of yelling that he must tell the people! He can’t let what happened sixteen years ago happen again! In true “Jaws” fashion, he says he can’t close the beaches but he’ll have someone look into it.
Vanessa huffs about the shells, says she’ll keep the mayor from building a new mall if he doesn’t do something about pollution, and takes off.
She collects her friend, who is having sex with a local drug dealer because, one suspects, the film had gone too long without gratuitous nudity. They head off with flyers in hand, trying to keep people off the beach.
Then, dead bodies start appearing. The mayor convinces the local coroner to cover it up, the same way he did sixteen years ago. This sort of begs the question, though, as to why no one ever loses his job or retires in this community.
There’s more plot after this, but it’s a moot point to reveal it. The identity of Vanessa’s father is revealed, which is quite a surprise, if a pointless one. Exactly what the Aquanoids are trying to accomplish with some of the local swimmers comes to an extraordinarily gross ending, for those trolling the video shelves in search of gore.
And while this film may compare itself to the films of Corman, that’s quite unfair. Corman was never a great filmmaker, but he was always going out of his way to try to entertain people. Many of his cheapies are small classics even today because he had an eye for talent – so many great writers, directors and actors came from the Corman stable that there’s no way it could be considered coincidence.
But there’s nothing to pull “Aquanoids” out of the sludge, and it never even reaches the level of a good Troma flick. The acting generally is passable, but too often veers into an area where you feel uncomfortable laughing at actors who seem to think they’re doing a good job. The dialogue occasionally is witty, but the story is a mess, a series of excuses for getting people we’ve never encountered before into the water so that they can die painfully in fairly uncreative ways.
The creature, I’ll grant, looks pretty good, and many of the gore effects are impressively realistic and gruesome, but that’s all there is to recommend this film.
According to Cinemacabre’s web site, “Aquanoids 2” already is a go. Perhaps they can redeem themselves on a second go-round. A little more camp, a little more story, a little more fun, and maybe they can pull a better sea-beast out of the ocean.
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