the underdog (or under-cephalopod)!
this review contains statements defending Octopus
II. Other critics reviewing the film clearly
despise it. Draw your own conclusions!
low-budget sequel to the equally low-budget, though
enjoyable, monster flick, Octopus,
is essentially Jaws with tentacles
(at least at heart).
Set in New York -- more specifically in and around New
York harbour -- the Octopus of the title arrives State-side
with minimal explanation and begins surreptitiously
munching on assorted denizens of the Big Apple's foreshores.
Our protagonist is a harbour patrol cop (Burke), who
is the first to realise that he and his soon-to-retire
partner are not dealing with an ordinary homicidal maniac.
Naturally, his theories about (and then direct experience
of) the Big Cephalopod that is threatening to disrupt
millennial July 4 celebrations are treated with contempt
by his stupidly abusive superiors. The mayor wants a
peaceful and uneventful harbour-front fireworks event
(tourism is important, you know) and is not willing
to listen to anything that threatens to disrupt it --
stricken boats, smashed wharves and dead bodies notwithstanding
(when oh! when will they learn?). So it's power-driven
self-interest versus public safety, with our hero (and
the mayor's disaffected female aide) racing against
the odds to prevent a catastrophe.
the familiar nature of that synopsis, Octopus
II isn't that bad a film at all. It's not original
or groundbreaking, but is a reasonable low-end monster
flick that holds interest and looks pretty good. Filming
along the foreshores of the Hudson River and on location
around NY harbour offered a great opportunity for the
filmmakers to give the movie a picturesque quality;
the filmmakers took the opportunity and the open, sunny
setting makes the whole thing sparkle. The film also
has decent acting and direction, OK dialogue and competent
cinematography. More importantly, it has a monster that
seems part rubber, part CGI and part real octopus, which
we get to see just often enough to keep us interested.
Arguably there's a tad too much flailing about with
rubber tentacles, but Wein's direction keeps things
visually on edge during these moments and the acting
has made us care about the fate of the main characters.
There is a well-crafted climactic action sequence, too,
involving a scuba-driven attack on the octopus's lair,
damage to one of the harbour tunnels accessing Manhattan
Island, a bus-load of kids (including Brave Girl-in-Wheelchair
and Mayor's Female Aide, now Hero's Love Interest),
collapsing concrete, flooding water, car crashes, old
lady and dog, long urgent climb, and imminent death.
Even though it looks a bit like it comes from a different
movie, it's all rather effectively suspenseful, despite
fact, the whole movie worked for me despite the cliches
because generally it was done well enough to transcend
its cliche-ness. Hence I was willing to ignore annoying
logistical problems, too (such as the inappropriate
repetition of SFX shots and the school bus with kids
that takes a hell-of-a-long time to get to the scene
of the inevitable climax, with constant cutting between
bus interior, external shots of bus en route, scuba-guys
attacking octopus, and crowds involved in ID celebrations).
Admittedly the final token re-appearance of the octopus
just when we thought it was dead (oh, yes?) is all rather
indicative of the fact that the filmmakers were having
trouble organising the pieces into an appropriate ending
(especially as the main climax barely involved the octopus
at all, so the beastie HAD to come back, didn't it?).
But I found myself forgiving all that.
reason for this forgiving attitude came from the fact
that the filmmakers include a bit of giant monster destruction
just for those of us who want our giant octopi to act
more like Harryhausen's animated model version in the
classic It Came From Beneath the Sea.
Hidden menaces are all very well but sometimes you just
want them to get some confidence, come out into the
open and wreck stuff. Well, fear not! There's a nifty
scene where the octopus, rather bigger than it has been
up to that point, attacks the Statue of Liberty, terrorising
the gathered crowds, ripping off Liberty's head and
sending the hero plummeting to his doom. It turns out
to be a dream sequence, but the filmmakers clearly wanted
to put in a bit of giant monster mayhem even if it didn't
really fit with the scenario, and this was the best
way to manage it. They gain kudos there, so I'm inclined
to grant them the less-than-satisfying (even cursory)
short, this is a fairly unoriginal low-budget monster
film, but what the hell? If you like that sort of thing,
it's enjoyable. If not, why did you read this review?
Octopus 2: River of Fear]