any successful movie, Jaws inspired a slew of rip-offs - Orca,
Devilfish and Pirahna
leap to mind - and some were good, but most were awful. Guess which
category Up from the Depths falls into?
begin with Dr. Whiting (Charles Howerton) a marine biologist studying
something-or-other off the coast of a fictitious Hawaiian island. Much
like Vancouver often fills in for New York City, it's really the Philippines
doing a quite passable Hawaii, but this is beside the point. Dr. Whiting
sends his grad assistant, Sandy (a measurably bad actress) scuba diving
alone (some marine professional!). She runs into something horrible
off-camera, and gets eaten.
Whiting is actually a fairly minor character in this; our true hero
is Sullivan (Sam Bottoms) a beachcomber whom nobody seems to like, except
Rachel (Susanne Reed) the head of PR for the local Mega-Resort. Sullivan
spends most of his time (and therefore, a lot of our time) scamming
the tourists, along with his salty sea dog uncle Earl (Virgil Frye).
is during one of his fraudulent treasure dives that the Beastie chows
down on Sullivan's mark, and the bunco artist
swears revenge. Not much later, the Beastie puts in an appearance at
the beach, prompting someone to scream, "Oh
my God! It's a monster fish!", and sparking a panic-stricken
rush inland, even though one character has the sense to point out that
fish can't walk.
seems that Whiting has been discovering fishy species that are usually
found at great depths in the ocean very near the surface. It
is his theory that the Beastie is some giant species hitherto unknown,
which has decided to visit the neighborhood. Being a scientist, he (of
course) wants to catch it alive and name it the Whiting Bigass Hungry
Fish or somesuch. Forbes (Kedric Wolfe), the manager of the resort,
has other ideas, and places a bounty on the Beastie's head. This leads
to a herd of drunken tourists manning boats with a motley collection
of weapons, including spears, crossbows, and a homemade flamethrower.
being the scientist who wants to catch it alive, is munched by the big
fish. Sort of. When Sullivan opens his wetsuit, it appears that someone
poured a pint jar of red Tempera paint on Whiting's chest. "His
insides are all busted up," deduces Sullivan. Finding himself without
any bait (and I'm not kidding about this), Sullivan wires the biologist's
corpse with explosives and trawls him along like chum, eventually blowing
up the ever-hungry Beastie. The end.
major question that one asks while watching Up From the Depths
isn't the obvious one: Why
make a Jaws rip-off four years after the fact? but the rather
more cogent Why am I even watching this? The first question you're
probably asking is, So how's the monster? After all, that's the
reason we watch these things. The ads present a sorta-interesting, spiky
prehistoric shark kinda thing; I am sorry to report that the actual
monster - at least, as much as we see of it - appears to be little more
than a big damn grouper with catfish thrown in and a couple of shark
fins glued on. With teeth.
attacks consist of (sometimes) a very quick shot of the Beastie, somebody
and red paint released into the water. A more cynical reviewer would
imply it's the same footage, used over and over again. What the hell.
It's the same footage, used over and over again. Then somebody
tells us what just happened, and we are expected to take it on faith
that this is, indeed, what happened. We are asked to take a lot on faith
in this movie, including the death of the monster.
such a skimpy showing from our Beastie, a lot of screen time is left
to fill, and that is taken up
by.... comic relief, a phrase which strikes terror in hearts
everywhere. We are given comical drunks, comical drunken Japanese businessmen,
and comical Midwestern whiners, who also get drunk. And best of all
is the comedy stylings of Forbes and his endless supply of off-pink
wardrobe items (please note: I am being sarcastic here). There's some
subplot about a Playmate visiting the resort for a photo shoot, but
it's mainly there to get us our T & A and all-important R.
director of this often-sad experience is Charles B. Griffith - if the
name sounds familiar, it's because he wrote Little Shop of Horrors,
Bucket of Blood and It Conquered the World, among others
- And amazingly, it's not his first directorial effort, either
(In fact, Griffith's had quite the varied career - click here
for his sizable Internet Movie Database filmography). This explains
the comic relief, but much too much is presented with no fanfare or
build-up; there are many, many opportunities for suspense that
are simply squandered. In particular, the interesting setup involving
scores of drunks with various implements of destruction promises carnage
aplenty, but remains curiously unexploited. It's just as well - I couldn't
have taken the Thrash-and-Billow Death Loop much more.
acting of the majors is perfectly adequate, and only descends into odiousness
in the case of the comic relief... and did I mention how much of this
movie is comic relief?
Up from the Depths worth your time? Sadly, I have to report that
it is infinitely disposable - so much so that I can't even do the ironic
thing and use it to wrap fish. The fish would complain.