Review: Eye of the Beast
James Van Der Beek plays a Richard Dreyfuss-esque research scientist sent to a small Canadian fishing village to investigate the decrease in the population of fish in the local lake, not to mention three mysterious deaths. The lack of fish has meant that the village is doing it kinda tough, making tensions between the white villagers and the indigenous population rise even higher than normal. The indigenous people believe a giant squid creature to be responsible for killing off all the fish, whilst the whites pig-headedly scoff at any such suggestions. In fact, they think it’s just an Indian conspiracy to close down the fishery. Not surprisingly, Van Der Beek starts out agreeing with the whites, but soon turns around to the indigenous way of thinking. But what will the company backing his little research gig think when Van Der Beek starts crying ‘Giant Freaking Squid!’? Alexandra Castillo plays the town sheriff who would like to play unbiased peace-keeper, but her mixed heritage sees her not entirely embraced by at least the white population anyway (They think she’s in league with the Indians in their crazy conspiracy plot, a plot by the way, that has at least one Indian dead- They ain’t exactly thinkers, these villagers). She also sorta kinda has the hots for Van Der Beek, who is viewed by the majority of the community (both ethnicities) with either surliness or suspicion.
Far superior to most of the post-“Anaconda” monster/animal attack films (especially those from the SyFy Channel, where this one indeed comes from), but that’s faint praise for this mediocre Gary Yates film from 2008. Basically, it doesn’t suck, but it’s not worth seeing, either. It’s exactly the kind of forgettable film I hate reviewing. Say what you will about their artistic merit, but at least “King Cobra” and “Python” had moments of unintentional hilarity (specifically Pat Morita karate kicking the title creature in the former, and any scene with Wil Wheaton in the latter). Truth be told I had more fun scribbling down lame Canadian jokes in my notes than in anything that was actually happening on screen. I figured this was gonna be like a Canadian “Jaws”, eh? Or would it be a Canadian Nessie, eh? Or just a giant hose poking out of the water, eh? Get it? Hose…Hoser, eh? Eh? I’m hilarious, I know. Sometimes the movie made the joke for me; When noises are heard from a bush, instead of a wild dog, here it’s an otter, eh?
There’s a lot more drama-oriented scenes than one normally finds in a cheesy monster flick, but part of that is because the budget is clearly so small that we end up with a lot less monster attack scenes than we would otherwise. Less monster attack scenes, of course, means less opportunity for tension-building. It’s a wise decision to cut down on the monster stuff, in that the FX aren’t stellar, but for the approach taken, it needed better supporting cast to sell the dialogue scenes. Even the leads aren’t great, with Castillo pretty and likeable, but pretty mediocre, and Van Der Beek essentially playing his role like a muted version of his one big role on “Dawson’s Creek”. He’s not awful, but stiff and barely changes things up from his standard schtick, suggesting that like his “Dawson’s Creek” alum Joshua Jackson he can’t play anything else, at least not play it any differently. The difference is, Jackson was highly entertaining on that show and crap everywhere since, whereas Van Der Beek was just OK as Dawson and barely adequate here. I was also somewhat disappointed that for a Canadian film, Van Der Beek didn’t adopt his hilariously dopey Canadian accent from “How I Met Your Mother”, it was the best work he’s ever done (He was one of the worst “SNL” host in history, and let’s just pretend “Varsity Blues” never happened). Here, he admittedly gets laughs for his ten reasons why fishing is better than sex, I’ll give him that.
The scenery is nice in a John West Tuna kinda way, I guess. Some of the cinematography is a bit dark (presumably for the budgetary reason I mentioned above), but some of it shows off brilliant blue-hued lighting and shadows and fog. The supporting characters are stock standard surly fishing village character-types that you’ve seen a million times before, but they surprisingly aren’t boring. It’s just that none of the actors are worth a damn, really. Meanwhile, was anyone else hoping they’d just let the Scandinavian Canadians and Injun Canadians have at it? Anyway, the screenplay by Mark Mullin is hardly original, but certainly isn’t to be blamed here. It’s really the monster footage, or lack thereof that cuts this one off at the knees. Some of the tentacle footage is dark enough and water-logged enough to make the FX look a little more realistic, so it’s certainly no “Mega Piranha” or “Anaconda”. If that giant headshot is CGI, it’s far from the worst I’ve ever seen and dark enough that I’m not 100% sure, so it’s definitely the best FX shot in the film (The rubber tentacle shots at other points in the film, not nearly as competent).
It has moments, and doesn’t suck like most of these films tend to, but I’m not recommending it, unless you absolutely have to see every James Van Der Beek movie ever made. There just isn’t nearly enough monster footage to sell this, it’s a big flaw. Anyway, for a giant squid movie, you could do a lot worse but that’s hardly an endorsement. For some reason, I feel like playing “Maniac Mansion” all of a sudden.