Monday, January 12, 2015


Watched the movie Frankenfish, my friends. An intention to see a crappy movie moved me to see what the Internet had to offer. By crappy I don’t necessarily mean inept, but one that does not aspire to proverbial Hollywood notice. Crappy is not used pejoratively here.

I never saw Sharknado but I think the scale here is smaller, and probably good for that. The movie begins as do so many good things, in a Louisiana swamp. A fisherman in a boat catches something that pulls hard. So hard indeed that he is pulled into the water. Panicked thrashing and a reddening of the water tell the story.

Switch to a murder scene, an eviscerated body being investigated by authorities. The sheriff arrives to tell the medical examiner that there’s another job to do, down in the bayou.
First note: I expected accents to be thick and overplayed. In these movies without hope of A-list distribution, there’s always someone chewing the curtain or, amounting to the same thing, not giving a shit. This movie provides an exception.

The medical examiner is a good-looking young black man. I mention race because of the setting and because of some elements later on. There’s really no racial tension here.
The M.E. must investigate the death of the person we witnessed dying. From the corpse the M.E. determines that no alligator caused the death. It shore enough don’t look like a human wounding, but the M.E. is sent anyway. The next day he arrives at the dock to meet the marine biologist who will accompany him.

She’s a young, good-looking white woman. They set off on a five hour journey upriver to the little houseboat community where the victim lived.

The camera work supplies us a rather idyllic scene as they motor upstream. Several times the camera follows behind at roughly water level, allowing the expanse of river and woodland to become central.
At some point, the biologist removes her t-shirt, wears just a halter. The M.E. never, thru the movies, removes his t-shirt with the flannel over. The hottie in halter element doesn’t go far. By the time she reaches the houseboat community she has put the t-shirt back on. She adds a button up shirt later. Continuity hounds might have something to work on.

After some journeying and nascent meet cute, they come upon a scene. The M.E. stops the boat, and there’s some suspense. It proves to be some local up to his neck in the river. The biologist doesn’t understand but the M.E just says watch. Since I’m watching the movie, I do too. Eventually, the local raises his arm to reveal that a large catfish had bitten hold onto the man’s hand. The biologist thinks this is an outrĂ© way to catch a fish. The M.E. admires the catch.

The local is exactly the character who should be missing some chromosomes and teeth, and talking with an impenetrable accent. He’s a little weird but nothing overplays. You always wonder what happened when a filmmaker shows taste.

The local agrees to deliver them to the widow of the victim, in the houseboat community. Here we get our chance to meet some swamp weirdos. The local first directs our heroes to the house of some imbedded hippies. They’re no help. Across the way is the brother of the hippie guy. This guy appears to be someone carrying the weight of his war experiences. He talks to no one. The wife of the attack victim agrees to meet with the M.E. and the biologist.

She’s the black swamp witch we have been expecting. She’s a trifle weird but mostly just swamp mom with a civilized daughter. Her daughter is there with her boyfriend. The boyfriend is classic white asshole lawyer; the daughter is legal aide in his office.

Witch mother has, she indicates, been keeping the monster at bay, you know, by lighting candles. I think she mentions an unusually large boat for the bayou run a-ground and boding evil nearby. The M.E. and biologist investigate, led by the local. The hold is full of eviscerated bodies. I neglected to mench that earlier a dead, eviscerated alligator was found, to impel the mystery. WTF could be going on here?

The local is pulled from the boat by a large shark-like fish. The other two hightail it back to witch woman’s place. “Mistah Kurtz, he dead”, basically. No one seems especially emotional about the guy’s death.

There’s a scene in which an Asian hood somehow tracks the missing boat electronically and reports to his boss. The boss is a Southern bossy type, and he orders them all, including a blowhard big game hunter, to go find that boat. I’m a little confused at this point, but happy to know there are layers of mystery to this entertainment.

So okay, their friend the local is dead, let’s have dinner. Witch woman works up a feast of turtle, which the M.E. loves and at which the biologist grimaces. Luckily there are bottle and bottles of Corona, [insert advertising tagline here]. Turns out the M.E. and the witch woman’s daughter knew each other at Nawlins High School, or she admired him from afar. Something. Meanwhile, the lawyer continues being an asshole, directing assholeness at his girlfriend. He also kvetches.

The daughter angrily goes outside and the biologist joins her. There’s a conversation in which the biologist tells the daughter to find someone better, while drinking Corona. The daughter replies, it’s so hard to find a good man, while drinking Corona. The biologist says, who says it has to be a man? while drinking Corona. The daughter doesn’t react nor does the biologist blink. We move on to other things.

The hippie guy next door hears something in the water. Investigating, he suffers a slight head removal by way of leaping fish. The lawyer makes some apt observation like, the fish took his fucking head off.

The hippie wife, in extremis, wants to save the head, I think, so she climbs into a boat, which quickly gets knocked over by the fish. After some helpless shouting, she’s chewed up.

Ricardo, the brother of the hippie guy, manages to kill the fish with a gun—did I mention there was a fish with a gun?—and it was close. The fish got on deck of his houseboat and slithered menacingly towards him, but he managed to shoot it. He then cuts the heart out, throws it on the barbie, then announces that he’s eating the heart of the fish that killed his brother.

Soon enough, a fish leaps from the water and finishes him off. And then the fish makes like Moby Dick and starts crashing into the houseboats, and they start to sink. I’m not sure why, but the daughter offers to ride a basket on a line to the hippie houseboat, to get something I guess. The M.E. shoots the fish that nearly gets her, splashing her with blood.

She goes to the bathroom to weep and look at the blood all over her. Eventually she washes it off, and the wash water drains into the bayou. 

Witch woman gets killed somehow. The asshole lawyer survives. The biologist announces there’s a way that they can be saved, pointing toward Ricardo’s houseboat. Just then, a fire started during the fish attack causes Ricardo’s gun to go off, splat, into the head of the biologist. I didn’t see that coming. Obviously she didn't either. The M.E. dutifully checks the pulse of what’s left of her neck and announces her death. I had tentatively arrived at the same conclusion.

At this point, the hunter arrives with his men in a fan boat. He finally lets us understand that the fish is a mutated version of a popular Chinese fish. He wants it not to eat but because it provides the ultimate hunting challenge: the fish hunts back. Note: I read “The Most Dangerous Game” in fifth grade.

One of the fish manages to leap into the fan of the boat, thereby splashing blood everywhere. Splashed blood has become a theme. The hunter forces everyone to find that derelict boat, which he had used to smuggle the fish to this country. No wait, he wants to track the blood trail of the final smuggled fish. Along the way, the asshole lawyer falls out of the boat and ends up in mud at the shore.

The Asian and the hired hunter quickly get killed, likewise the hunter. The M.E. and the daughter hightail in the fan boat. The fish givers chase. The M.E. does something, and the final fish gets chewed up in the fan, splashing the cutely met couple. Covered with fish gore they kiss then determine to swim home. Last scene, the asshole lawyer wakes. A small fish leaps onto him, then more, and then they start attacking him. The end.

Obviously a lot of edifying points to this movie. The thing is, it did its job. It had a little tension, a little humour, a little mystery. The lack of connected interest in all the deaths could almost be the movie’s point. The actor’s react, but without scale to the event. This seems like a director’s choice rather than acting incompetency.

Variants of that last scene are extremely common. They basically negate the forgoing. Despite the sense that our heroes survived, the locale for all remains Up Shit Creek.
The death of the biologist remains the greatest mystery. First, that she had som
e plan, which never gets revealed. Second, her death isn’t by the fish, which, given her professional status, should be her nemesis as the one who knows fish.

Her death may have been a way to let the real love affair take wind. I just assumed early on that meet cute attractive male and female will develop the much-needed love affair. The lesbian hint wasn’t strong enough to remove her from the game. I’m overthinking. Anyway, whoever filmed it might actually be a professional.