- Released Internationally on 20/08/10
- Released in Malta by KRS on 22/09/10
Preview (First published 01/09/10 in VIDA magazine)
Back in 1975, a small film started the blockbuster phenomenon and kept many people out of the sea all summer. That film was Steven Spielberg's masterpiece of marine terror, Jaws. Amongst the many imitation films that followed, 1978's Piranha was noticeable for the small size but great numbers of its titular meat-eater. Over three decades later, we're invited back to the beaches to watch more young, unsuspecting bathers get chewed upon, but this time it's all in glorious 3D. The Jaws feel is very evident in the film's trailers, including the appearance of Richard Dreyfuss amongst the stellar cast. Ving Rhames, Elizabeth Shue, Christopher Lloyd, Kelly Brook and Eli Roth will also be there, but you can bet they won't all make it to the end credits.
In a nutshell
Earlier this summer, I assumed that The Expendables would end up being the biggest blood-bath of the year, with the highest body-count. I was very wrong. If blood and gore are what you enjoy seeing splashed across the big screen, then this should satisfy your cravings like an all-you-can-eat buffet. If you're squeamish, however, you should avoid this like the plague.
Oh, the horror!
I'm not saying a spot of well-designed and well-placed gore isn't one of the ingredients of fascinating cinema. But here, it's delivered in proportions and detail that make Saving Private Ryan look like a Jane Austen adaptation. With a seamless mix of computer-generated effects and some very well-done prosthetics and make-up, most of the cast end up chewed, dismembered, minced or skinned. It's not pretty. And by the time a scantily-dressed blonde is sliced in half by a wandering cable, you'll probably be so numbed by the incessant carnage that you'll find it laughable. Which may have been the filmmakers' intentions, to be fair.
Oh, the plot!
A brief mention of the plot should manage to give a good picture of what you're in for. Thousands of toned party-goers in swimwear descend upon Lake Victoria for the annual Spring Break party. Just as they're arriving, an underwater tremor opens up a deep fissure in the seabed, linking with an underwater lake and unleashing a horde of feisty non-vegan fish from the Mesolithic era. Dinner is served, and very soon everyone with even a foot dangling into the water becomes a potential victim.
Oh, the tension!
There isn't much. The opening scene, with Richard Dreyfuss standing in for Jaws' skinny dipper, sets the tone nicely. But sure enough the effect is soon undermined by the discovery of his nibbled corpse. I realise that it's not fair comparing these sort of films with Jaws, since that was the first big film of its kind, but let's not forget that there are many reasons why that classic is so loved and respected. One of them was the lack of gore. Spielberg managed to create palpitation-inducing levels of tension by not showing the predator, and by only sparingly showing the effects of his teeth. Fear of the unknown is a powerful beast, and this time around that beast is slain around five minutes into the film. The only real tension is conjured up during a final scene with the main protagonists racing against time, but by then some of you might have already headed for the bathroom.
Oh, the good stuff!
It's not all bad, however. For a film that promises nothing more than sex, sea and blood (as proudly proclaimed on the teaser posters), it proceeds to give you exactly that. The subplot involving Kelly Brook, with a tiny crew trying to film a porn film on the lake, provides lots of on-board and underwater nudity and playfulness, with the use of opera music that some purists might find unsettling, but which works. But the endless beautiful bodies on display only help make the eventual butchery more shocking. The cast are obviously in on the joke and try to make the whole affair as camp and fun as possible, especially Eli Roth in his very brief cameo, which ends in a way befitting of the horror director. Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, The Addams Family) is also fun to watch in his few scenes, as he adopts his favourite wide-eyed expression and marvels at the wonders of nature, much as he did at the wonders of the flux capacitor.
In the end
There is no hidden agenda here. Someone wanted to make a film full of beautiful bodies, underwater flesh-eaters, and more graphic bloodshed than anything else in recent memory. That is exactly what they delivered. It has its moments, but everyone should know exactly what they're in for.