|In Short:||Really kind of good. Did not see that coming|
|Recommended:||Yes. And not for it's awfulness. Didn’t really see that coming, either.|
|ROBBIE:||I saw it… eat Krissy|
The previews on this DVD really set the mood. “Man has always been the dominant species… until now!” warns Voice Over Guy. And then a fast-paced montage of When Mutant Animals Attack! movies come at us in a flurry of urgent drum beats and quick cut/blackout terror: In the Spider’s Web, Blood Monkey, Maneater, Croc, Grizzly Rage, Hybrid, The Hive, Shark Swarm (co-written, as you may know, by our own David Rosiak)… and in amongst them all is the particular piece of cinematic wonder with which we concern ourselves herein, a film with an even more evocative title: The Eye of the Beast.
Let us begin.
A couple are making out in a speedboat, on the water, at night. We already know this will not end well. The girl, Krissy (Larissa Tobacco… yes, that’s actually her name) hears something amiss and utters that old horror movie stand by: “What was that?” Her boyfriend (Brian Roach), typically, is more concerned with the smooching than her suspicions... until he hears it, too! The piano music lets its gentle, discordant refrain make itself known, and it’s clear that their happy-fun-time of flagrant promiscuity will soon draw to a very final close. “Robbie, I’m scared,” Krissy trembles winningly. But just when they think it’s safe, we get a shot of the boat in which they’re heavy petting from below the water… then a big waxy tentacle squirms its sinister way aboard. And then the boat is enveloped by a gigantic, many-armed monster from the deep!
Oooh, this movie is gonna be great! I love it when movies are so bad. And Eye of the Beast is just my kind of bad. And yet, oddly, is not too bad at all.
So, it’s the next day, and we are introduced to our small island fishing community’s hot Sherriff, Kat (Alexandra Castillo) who lives with her Mom, has maybe one button too many left undone on her uniform shirt, and isn’t too worried about the missing person’s report she just got on Krissy from that doomed young lady’s belligerent elder brother (Ryan Black). We also meet a working class couple (Arne McPherson and Kelly Wolfman), the guy of whom is a fisherman(of course) and they ponder the possibility that the scientist who is coming to town is vegetarian, because, the woman declares defiantly, the days’ meals involve salami and chicken. (As a vegetarian myself, I already don’t like these people.)
Then we cut to a ferry boat that has just docked. Cue cute bespectacled kid with the captain’s hat, surly teenager and their attached parents… and then a slightly grizzled James Van Der Beek turns around slowly, and ah, of course, he’s the scientist they thought might vegetarian, and had no interest in catering to his no-good beatnik dietary constraints. Van Der Beek presents us, here, with a valiant attempt at a beard, a David Beckham haircut, and a kind of defeated air as he looks about him, as though wondering just what had brought him from the Dawson-y heights to this depressing pass. (Perhaps made even more so by the fact that the marina could easily have been Capeside’s, except that he wasn’t wearing nearly cool enough sneakers.)
Welcome to Fell’s Island! We have merchandise warning visitors of a scary many-tentacled Lake Monster (oh, yes, this island’s on a lake), and grizzled old salty seadogs ever ready to tell visiting holidaymakers of this legend. Oh, but don’t worry, backpack-clad family none-of-whom-are-abouttodie, you’ll be perfectly safe. There’s no such thing as lake monsters really.
Van Der Beek makes his way into town and meets with hot Sherriff Kat, who, it turns out, is actually a mere Fisheries Officer, but also “the only law in town.” Convenient. Dawson is Dr. Dan, a visiting marine biologist from NORA (the fictional Nation Oceanographic Research Agency), called to answer the vexing question of where all of the usually bountiful harvest of fish may have gotten to. (Nope, no giant Lake Monster here!) That carnivorous husband, whose name is Gunnar, takes our good Doc out on his boat overnight with all his troublesome science equipment (Gunnar, he would have you know, doesn’t truck with equipment), and while out there they come across the shattered remains of boyfriend Robbie’s boat… and boyfriend Robbie. He lives long enough to tell them of Krissy’s fate, and soon finds a bunch of sinister toothed circles carved into the boat’s once shiny panels.
Back on shore, Dan and Kat go on their first date, leisurely searching for missing vacation Dad (oh, yeah, the tentacle got him a while back). We delve a little into Dan’s daddy issues but then, hey! Dead body! And it’ll be 72 hours till the Coroner can arrive! And what’s with those markings, again?
Dan hits Google to find out (hey, if it was good enough to help Bella figure out that Edward was a vampire, why shouldn’t it help a Ph.D. from a pretend scientific institute figure out the “anomalous circular abrasions” were made by a giant squid?), and somewhere in here Kat and Dan start to really hit it off. Also, several subplots emerge: Dan’s word is considered suspect by the higher ups in his marine whatever organization; Kat believes her father was killed by the Lake Monster when she was a child and the whole town has mocked her for it mercilessly ever since; racism is rampant in this town; non-vegetarian catering wife of Gunnar (who’s pregnant, incidentally) is still really mad she had to make lunch for Dawson; and Kat’s Mom would really like some grandchildren.
And Dan makes the following claim: “Fishing’s the best! Fishing’s better than sex!” and he and Kat then attempt to provide Top 10 proof of this claim.
10. If you catch something when you’re fishing, it’s a good thing.
9. You don’t have to pay extra to watch fishing on TV at your hotel.
8. If you videotape yourself fishing, there’s no danger of it ending up on the internet.
They get progressively worse.
As do matters throughout the town. Kat decided she has to beach the fishing boats to save the townsfolk from the Beast; none of them appreciate it until, AT LAST, Gunnar and Gunnar’s shrewish wife are attacked by a giant tentacle! They survive, bring evidence of the monster to the town and mount a desperate nighttime hunt for the thing, with Science Guy Dan providing a hopefully foolproof plan for taking this giant and possibly ancient lake squid out instead of, y’know, calling in a specialist team to study it and make him world famous. (It is a squid with forty-foot arms found in a lake, after all.) But he doesn’t make the call, because he loves Kat now, and wants her to get her revenge.
Revenge is eventually gotten, although if I were Kat I’d want to exact a little from the townsfolk who had doubted me all of those years. She really doesn’t get much of an apology from anyone.
But you know what? I don’t feel the need for one either. Usually, at the end of a movie of this genre, you hope to see at least some sign of remorse on the part of the filmmaker, maybe some small indication that their responsibility for your wasted hours weighs heavily on their conscience. But with Eye of the Beast, and I can’t believe I’m even thinking this, but I actually believe the filmmakers should be proud. Sure, it’s dumb, the premise, the script, everything, but it somehow is also... kinda clever. And as for James Van Der Beek… well, he should be proud, too. He improves as the movie progresses, and by the end he’s actually a pleasure to watch.
Though I think we all could’ve done without the beard.
-- Rachel Hyland