Wednesday, September 4, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (2006)

Marine archaeologist and bikini top fan Nicole (Victoria Pratt) and two of her students (Kristi Angus and Cory Monteith) are searching the waters of Desolation Sound in British Columbia for artefacts, particularly a mask and a humungous opal supposedly once part of the more mythical treasures of Troy, which she hopes are buried under water among the cargo of a Chinese freighter that sank somewhere around there a few decades ago. Just when Nicole's theories are about to be proven right, her ship's skipper is killed by a giant squid, which is the sort of thing that throws a wrench, or rather a tentacle, into treasure hunting proceedings, particularly when the boat's motor breaks a little later. And when the harbour town they anchor in at nights doesn't seem to have people making their living repairing boats.

Fortunately, underwater photographer and all around sea person Ray (Charlie O'Connell) comes to the rescue, willing to help, repair, and become Nicole's new skipper. Ray has a little secret: twenty-five years ago, his parents were killed by a giant squid in the same waters, and he has been obsessed by the seas and what lives in them ever since, never finding a way to explain why the squid acted like it did back then. This - assuming the murderous giant squid Nicole and co. encountered was the very same squid as Ray does - seems like as good a chance for finding closure as he's going to get. It sure helps that Nicole and Ray are hitting it off rather well (one can't help but imagine a row of particularly healthy descendants in their future, and shudder).

Alas, the giant squid - later to be theorized by Nicole to be the original mythical Scylla - isn't our heroes' only problem: evil Greek pirate from an evil Greek pirate family Maxwell (Jack Scalia) has come to town with his black-clad team of bad guys, and he really, really needs the treasure to buy back the love of his - presumably evil - Greek pirate family. Obviously, him being an evil pirate and all, he's willing to do anything to get it.

Tibor Takacs's Kraken is another of those SyFy movies not really as much of a creature feature as the marketing makes it out to be. Instead, this is another cheap but fun adventure movie that just happens to contain a giant squid among the lethal dangers its heroes have to pass; in practice, Jack Scalia's boat-exploding, henchmen-using ways are a much greater threat.

Which is only a bad thing if you want to see the movie the film's marketing material promises, instead of just a fun piece of nonsense. Given the quality of the SquidGI, I'm actually rather happy it isn't more often on screen than it is, for, how shall I put it, it's about as believable as the film's rampant misuse of Greek myth.

No that I truly disapprove of the film's use of what one of its four writers must vaguely have remembered about Greek myth from school. Myth, legend and folklore are there for the taking, they are meant to be changed, misused or put in a dialogue with pulp tropes, so using Scylla and mythical Troy (not to be confused with the actual ancient Troy, unless your name is von Schliemann) to make the treasure McGuffin in a cheap adventure movie more interesting as Kraken's script does is a perfectly fine thing to do. The best way to respect cultural achievements of the past is to build upon them, even if one's building is just a SyFy Channel film.

Takacs, as is his usual wont, realizes the whole adventure without a budget for globetrotting she-bang up to his usual standards, with an eye for simple, yet effective scene-setting and straightforward storytelling.

The acting's mostly okay for what it is, with Pratt and Scalia as the charismatic stand-outs, and O'Connell the void low budget films (made for TV or not) love to cast as their male leads. Fortunately, Takacs is in this game long enough to avoid putting too much weight on O'Connell's shoulders (and really, why would you, when you can have Scalia mugging into the camera?), so it's not much of a problem.

In the end Kraken is a fun enough piece of SyFy film.

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