Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Plankton (1994)

aka Creatures From The Abyss

A quintet of bimbos - both male and female - manages to get lost at sea in their rubber boat during a terrible storm. As it so often does, destiny favours the stupid, and our heroes (yuck!) stumble (or whatever the high seas version of stumbling may be) upon a yacht.

The boat is puzzlingly empty of a crew, but it looks as if it hasn't been empty for long. Personally, after the bimbos have inspected the ship's interior, I can't say I wouldn't have been surprised to hear the boat's crew just jumped over board, so strange is it.

One part research lab in !fish science!, one part stupid automated voices in the silliest places and one part party cellar of a mad porn producer, this is a place to puzzle minds much more complex than those of our heroes, so they decide to just don't think about it and make themselves at home.

They'll find out soon enough what happened to the boat's crew - they were all attacked, killed and thrown overboard by mutant fish who have eaten too much irradiated plankton and are now able to live on land. Only one scientist managed to hide himself away in the surprisingly huge lower decks of the boat/ship/yacht/UFO, and he's a bit mad. And sexually obsessed with fish, but, as the film informs us, these things happen.

Anyway, after too many scenes of waddling through the boat, the bimbos are finally attacked. They will learn the hard way that their fishy enemies are quite infectious. Let's hope everybody dies.

By the mid-90s, when Plankton was made, Italian horror film was as dead as the eyes of Silvio Berlusconi, and the few directors still working in it weren't usually able (and sometimes I can't help but think unwilling) to produce anything worthwhile.

Calling Plankton worthwhile would be quite a stretch, seeing as its first half is so drab, slow and boring that I nearly hadn't persevered to get to its more interesting parts. It's starting out like the sort of movie The Asylum has crapped out regularly in the last few years. A bunch of utterly talentless actors, dubbed by terrifying creatures from beyond (the lead actress sounds so much like Minnie Mouse, it's disturbing) does "humour", "squabbling" and "characterization" in a way which manages to be at once boring and physically painful, speaking sentences no human being should be allowed to say, and not much of interest happens. If something happens, the special effects supposed to show it are so insultingly realized that it's impossible to imagine they were made by people with even the least bit of respect for their audience or themselves. The nothing drags on and on and on and on.

But then, at the point in the proceedings when any sane viewer would already have ended the pain either by suicide or destruction of the movie's DVD with a sledgehammer, Plankton suddenly turns…well, not good, obviously, but so totally bonkers that I'm nearly willing to forgive the existence of its first half. Suddenly, the film transforms into a tour de force of one supremely tasteless scene of badly realized special effects mayhem after the other. A guy shape-shifts into a mutant fish-things during a prolonged sex scene; the "intellectual" (aka guy with glasses) of the bunch reads up on the influence the sexual obsession of a scientist can have on fish mutation and asks "How long have you been fucking fish, Professor?"; a girl gives birth to something that looks a lot like caviar; tentacles are trying to pull Minnie Mouse into a sink; idiotic yet wonderful transformations happen; somebody opens the container for radioactive material. It's as if the first half of the script (well, if there was one) had been written under the influence of valium, but the second half after reading a bunch of those horror porn fumettis that always make me think of Italy as the Japan of Europe. Of course, I'm quite thankful for it.

Sure, the acting's not getting any better, but the dialogue is mostly turning into screaming, screeching, and gurgling (with a bit of gibbering on the side), so that's quite alright for everyone's competence level. The special effects are still not very good on a technical level either, but are wallowing in their own ridiculousness with a pure and undiluted enthusiasm that's as infectious as the movie's fishes.

Plankton's second half is so entertaining - and of course so frequently hilarious - that I find it difficult not to recommend it to serious travellers into the realm of the abysmally entertaining. The film's beginning is like a final exam, testing the mettle and endurance of anyone daring enough to study crap-filmology, its second half the high one gets after one has graduated.


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