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Bad Biology 2: My Megalodon Misery

Folks, I have dedicated my life to the review of sharksploitation movies. A lot of them are bad. Fun bad, but still kind of bad. I knew that going into this ridiculously specific niche review lifestyle. Yet, in the dark of night, when all is quiet, I pull my comforter a little tighter and shudder at the blatant bastardization of science in these films. It can, at times, be truly breathtaking. 

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Independent Director, John M. Ware Talks Zombies

It has been a while since I posted anything. I apologize, but I ran out of interviews, and some people let me down. Enough of that. Enough of that. It’s a new year, and here are hopefully some new, more frequent posts.

Recently, I ran into John M. Ware. If you are a fan of the Syfy Channel, the name might be familiar to you. He wrote, directed, and starred in Thr33 Days Dead, which was broadcast on the network. The making of the movie was also featured in the Syfy series Town of the Living Dead. He agreed to participate in one of my little interviews about zombies.

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Getting Six Feet Deep with Phantasm (Part One)

My earliest exposure to the magic and mystery of horror films came at Top Hat Video, a now-defunct VHS rental joint in the town where I grew up. The town in question was a sleepy little suburb of Salt Lake City, and the vast majority of its residents were Mormon, which led to more strictures than one might think. One such stricture was the community’s approach to R-rated movies, which they viewed as not only morally questionable, but downright sinful (Utah is the state that gave us the Clean Flicks and Angel Vids controversies, after all). The upshot of all of this is that Top Hat had a special room in which they kept their spicier fare. In a normal town, such a room might be where the video store kept their softcore porno tapes; where I grew up, it was where R-rated content was kept, including the vast majority of horror movies.

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Dam Sharks!: Beavers beware

I thought I had seen it all. This movie showed me a whole new world of possibilities. A world where bull sharks inexplicably build river dams. Out of tree branches…and body parts. I waited the entire film to receive some sort of explanation for this odd and un-sharkylike behavior. There was a passing notion that perhaps they were hoarding their food supply but that was never really explained to any logical conclusion. Especially since, instead of eating the food supply, they just kept adding the bodies to the dam to make it bigger. 

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How Not to Horror: Evil Clown Edition

My love for the “evil clown” trope (or “motif,” if you prefer) runs deep. I have written before, on more than one occasion, about my thoughts regarding the taxonomy of evil clowns. I would encourage you to read my previous thoughts on the subject because I want to emphasize how broad and omnivorous my hunger for evil clown stories is. Hell, I have even penned one myself: “auguste,” which was featured in the 2019 anthology Deadman Humour: 13 Fears of a Clown. From Ramsey Campbell’s claustrophobic (and coulrophobic) The Grin of the Dark to every incarnation of Stephen King’s It to 2014’s modern classic Clown, I love the vast majority of them. I even have a lizard-brain appreciation of questionable offerings like the Chiodo Brothers’ 1988 “classic” Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

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2 Headed Shark Attack: Double the suck!

I know you people are busy. I am going to jump right in here and cut to the chase. This movie sucks like a toothless black hole. The shark itself is presented with a mixture of CGI and rubber. I would say it growls but it is more akin to a whooshing sound. The shark is a different size depending on the scene. Incredulously, the filmmakers thought teeth that appear just like your mother’s tried and true rubbermaid spatula would be a totally believable method to pulverize human flesh. 

Observe.

Seriously, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. This is like nothing I’ve ever seen. 

The most disturbing thing of all about this entire concept of a 2 headed shark, is that either the filmmakers purposely made it look like God ripped a bong hit and created backwards male genitalia with testes-jaws, or they decided to have a poor shark grow head boobs. Either way, folks, I am gobsmacked. And a little nauseous. 

I am completely aware that future films continue to explore 3, 5 and 6 headed shark attacks. Oh goodie. I guess I’ll have to review those someday. Inexplicably though, I can find no mention of a 4 headed one. Why, I wonder. WHY? These are the things that keep me up at night. 

So the plot…ok hang on. It is too generous to describe this movie as having any discernible plot. So I’ll start again. So this movie’s series of continuous moving pictures show us a bunch of college students that wander aimlessly around an atoll in the middle of the sea with not much happening at all. There is a boat or two involved. Carmen Electra is supposed to be a doctor (tee-hee) and arches her back a bunch of times. A guy who sports a cleft chin, a dark tan and a cavernous mouth is the captain/teacher. Brooke Hogan (yes Hulk Hogan’s kid) stars as a girl who sports a cleft chin, a dark tan and a cavernous mouth. And boobs. That’s how you can tell them apart. 

I mean, how deep am I expected to go in this review before my two, maybe three readers, set themselves on fire from the banality? I can’t afford to lose you guys so I’ll keep it brief. 

The atoll that they wander around on is quaking and sinking into the watery abyss. Why and how? I dunno. They must figure out a way off the island and at the same time avoid the deformed menace that patrols the inky deep. One of the students is a meathead named Cole who acts as the mustache-twirling villain for the film. Brooke Hogan’s Kate is the only character with any shred of sense in her bleach blonde brain. That concept in itself walks the razors edge of credibility. 

The climax of the film is pure and utter stupidity, but at some point the remaining kids manage to blow off one of the shark’s head chesticles. The only part of the movie I really enjoyed was counting the times the filmmakers forgot which head, left or right, got blown off. It changed every 3 to 5 seconds. Brilliant! 

So settle in with a cleft-chinned friend, set your brain to neutral and try to light the soggy fuse that leads to this piece of sharksploitation dynamite. At the every least, you’ll get to see some of the most confusing shark anatomy in cinematic history. 

See ya next time!

Director: Declan O’Brien

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

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Organized and Disorganized Monsters

It’s wise to avoid binary distinctions. The impulse is understandable, given organic life’s penchant for symmetry, and in particular the bilateral symmetry that shapes our human bodies (and, indeed, the body plans of most multicellular life). Yin and yang, black and white – reality is more complicated than that, and any attempt to shoehorn the messy chaos of existence into neat categories will backfire sooner or later.

With all that said, the task of categorizing often begins with a simple separation into two groups. So it was with the dawn of forensic profiling, when the concept of the “serial killer” was first being hammered out. This time period is exquisitely portrayed in Netflix’s Mindhunters, two seasons of which are available now. It’s a compelling show, not just for its pitch-perfect portrayals of various human monsters (seriously: watch the comparison of the real Ed Kemper to Cameron Britton’s portrayal, it’s downright eerie), but also for the peek it offers into a fairly radical historical change in how the FBI thinks of – and therefore tracks and catches – serial murderers. And one of the first distinctions that became clear when forensic profilers were making sense of senseless brutality was the distinction between “organized” and “disorganized” killers.

Those categories mean more or less what you’d imagine they do. Organized killers plan their crimes, stalk their victims carefully, think ahead about what evidence they are leaving – they try, in short, to walk among us, cloaking their cold machinations as they select their prey. Disorganized killers tend to kill in a frenzy. They don’t plan, they savage; they often leave abundant evidence at the scene of their carnage. Forethought is not their strong suit.

The organized/disorganized dichotomy is reflected in horror in one of the great internecine divides of the genre: werewolf and vampire. Serial killers are monsters clad in human flesh, so it shouldn’t surprise us that our own psychology is reflected so clearly in our monsters; after all, we are where our monsters come from. The vampire represents, in this sense, the organized killer. She lives among us. She stalks her prey carefully, and generally, to avoid detection, plans ahead. She is cold and methodical.

In other words, if we are speaking in terms of binary archetypes, vampires are organized killers; werewolves are disorganized killers. All human myths have human roots; these two ancient human stories have their origin in the duality of human savagery.

There has been an interesting innovation in recent decades in American horror cinema, and in horror and literature at least since the publication of John Fowles’ The Collector in 1963; the serial killer as sympathetic villain (even at times an antihero). In this sense, we’re not talking about some crazed undead slasher, or a mute figure looming in an emotionless mask. I’m talking Hannibal Lecter. Dexter. Jigsaw. Jolly fellows whose mayhem is portrayed as hideous, yes, but whose tortured or brilliant psyches are the real monster of the story. It is, in a sense, humanity finally coming to terms with the most brutal truth of all: that monsters are entirely and completely human.