Continuing our recent creature feature film watching trends, ‘Frankenfish’, a movie rather surprisingly not about a dead fish reanimated with lightening but of a giant genetically altered snake-head fish, is something of a refreshing change in that it has some (although limited) reference to a real threat.
You can do your research if you feel you need to, but simply put the snake-head fish was an environmental disaster. They got loose in a pond in Maryland and effectively porked their way through everything destroying food-chains and mucking up the whole natural ecology in the region. This movie is loosely based on this disaster, although there are naturally a few changes here and there. The fish is around 12ft long instead of 12 inches, and rather than preying on small aquatic life they prefer to eat humans, and rather than being restricted to a lake or pond they are terrorising members of a house boat community in deep south USA. Ok, very loosely based.
The plot is the usual; a dead body is found hideously mutilated. At first the police suspect local predators except nothing natural could do that sort of damage. In response to the mystery local law enforcement and a wildlife expert are sent in to investigate but soon find themselves battling with a monster fish, desperately trying to stay off the menu.
In all honesty one of the best things about this movie is that it gets going almost straight away with very little setup and storytelling; I hate it when the movie tries to keep the identity of the creature a mystery when it’s quite clearly displayed on the front cover of the DVD box. The budget isn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination and the gore effects are more amusing than shocking. The models and prosthetics are as fake as fake can be and the blood looks like cherryade poured into the river, but at least the deaths start pretty early on, and continue quite frequently throughout. The gore never reaches excessive heights but the odd missing limb and decapitation was welcome addition to the usual dragged under the water deaths.
The CGI was another welcome surprise. Again, it’s not great, but it is done well enough that there are frequent in and out of water shots which means that it’s at least believable that the fish is there. The monster looks pretty funny, but after seeing the fish it is based on in real life there is a reasonable amount of resemblance.
With any movie of this nature there are some shortcomings. The acting is pretty dodgy, and despite the constant threat of being eaten, the mood of the characters doesn’t often reflect the scenarios in which they are placed. The story does go off on one a little bit, with this irritatingly cliché set of hunters which come into the movie about halfway through, who then in turn acting in the most stupid of manners considering the situation. This by the end leaves the story feeling a little drawn out, but I suppose there had to be a bad guy to get his comeuppance he end of the movie.
Overall, Frankenfish is definitely the best of the monster bunch that we have watched recently, and if you can tolerate all the corny aspects of a made for TV monster movie then you will be rewarded with a reasonable mix of creature effects, some quite surprisingly good deaths and a sensibly short run-time.