Warning: Creatures appearing on box art may not appear in movie.
I suppose now that CGI is generally cheap enough that anyone with an
off the shelf PC and some time can render anything from space stations
to dinosaurs to crappy porn made with “poser” it’s no surprise that the no-budget direct to DVD film industry uses the technology as the driving force behind their films.
Like the old days when Roger Corman would think of a cool movie title, design a lurid poster, and set a budget BEFORE hiring a writer; DEJ Productions/.Unified Film Organization (UFO) LLC appears to follow that model but substitutes “create CGI monster” for “think of a movie title”.
“And what did you do with your pirated copy of 3D Studio Max, Johnny?”
“I made some electric eels…”
“I can see the poster already!”
Deep Shock owes a lot to pretty much every other underwater-based science fiction movie ever made, from the TV Show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and James Cameron’s aliens in the trench extravaganza The Abyss to the godawful Deep Star Six and the unwatchable Lords of the Deep.
Okay, so just what the hell is Deep Shock about? And that’s a good question because it took approximately 89 minutes of its 90 minute running time before I realized that I didn’t give a shit and just wanted the damn thing to end.
We begin in a CGI submarine (which, no doubt, does double duty in the other Unified Film Organization (UFL) LLC production Dark Waters starring none other than the poor man’s Adrian Paul, Lorenzo Lamas. Deep Shock forces the DVD viewer through a long preview for Dark Water so for the length of Deep Shock we made a drinking game out of spotting the CGI appearing in the Dark Water trailer and the Deep Shock presentation.
I was bombed just after the credits rolled.
Anyway… So where was I?
Right! Submarines… We are introduced to the captain and crew of the intrepid CGI submarine “USS Jimmy Carter” somewhere in the Arctic Circle. They’ve encountered an unknown sonar signal and try desperately to make whatever it is veer off an apparent collision course. We learn all of this by watching a small group of men crammed into a submarine set (that looks nothing like the inside of a submarine) shouting technobabble at one another. For example:
Sub pilot: Sir… we’ve got an EMP signature ten degrees to port!
Captain: Turn on the Sonar defrivvolator!
Sub pilot: Captain, the defrivvolater can’t function without the
boondoglitron 7! And the signature is closer!
Captain: Load a sub-sonic scatter throwing vacuum inducing Jupiter
Sub pilot: Sir the EMP has disrupted the Chocolatechippinducement engine!
You get the idea. Luckily the majority of technospeak ends here. I guess UFO Films LLC decided to placate the techno-gobbledegook fetish of the average Star Trek fan early and thus spare the rest of the science fiction audience endless dissertations about the non-functionality of imaginary technology.
Cut to… er… The United Nations. Actually, the United Nations Command Center (housed, no doubt, in a college lecture hall somewhere) where Dr.’s Fletcher (Simmone Jade Mackinnon) and Chomsky (Mark Sheppard) are debating the source and impact of an abnormal rise on North Sea water temperature around the Polaris Trench and the solutions to the problem.
Fletcher believes that something intelligent lives in the trench, Chomsky wants to nuke it. It bugs me that they’d name the asshole scientist character and apparent nuke fetishist after progressive icon Noam Chomsky, and I am pretty sure it wasn’t homage. Anyway, the council of G-8 nations backs Chomsky’s plan. Adding insult to injury the G-8 committee fires Dr. Fletcher.
Most viewers will have noticed a bizarre film-making technique by now (and by bizarre I mean stupid) in which the film changes locations, uses an establishing shot, starts the scene within that established location for about 30 seconds, then brings up an intertitle telling the viewer where they are.
For example, we cut from the sub to an exterior shot of the UN, then to the inner chamber where the G-8 nations are having their debate. Chomsky blabs about ocean temperature for about thirty seconds then the screen flash to black and reads “United Nations G-8 Summit”.
My reaction: No shit. Mrs. McLargehuge’s reaction: glad they pointed that out (rolls eyes back to express disdain). Gristle McThornbody’s reaction: I guess they think I’m a moron…
Well, we had to get used to this because it happened, literally, every time they changed scenes.
Dr. Chomsky’s plan requires using the undersea (under-ice actually) base known as Hubris Station to launch two nuke-tipped probes into the trench and the subsequent explosion will close the thing an hopefully, whatever is causing the elevated temperatures.
Yeah, okay. Station “Hubris”… You may have come across this word in your travels, but if not, let me use the standard online definition from dictionary.com: Hubris: Adj. Overbearing pride or presumption: Arrogance.
Of course this means that the station is essentially doomed. Now, what I want to know is why in the hell would any organization worth its salt name their flagship research station “hubris”. Hell, why not name it “Vanity” or “over inflated sense of self importance” or “bad attitude”…
I am guessing the screenwriters meant it to be ironic, but it’s so blatantly transparent to telegraph the fate of the station I wondered if there was even a reason to keep watching.
Okay, we cut to the CGI station and get a few establishing shots of people bumping into each other on the “bridge” when they get the call from Dr. Chomsky to fire the nukes.
Cut to the torpedo room where Hurst (Todd McKimsey) takes the room hostage and refuses to send nukes into the trench. See, he is one of the followers of Dr. Fletcher’s theory. He begs the captain to let him make another call and see if he can get a change of mission from the council (as if he could get into touch with anyone at the UN…).
We cut confusingly to Dr. Fletcher jogging in the snow for about five seconds, then the intertitle “Washington DC” but since she’s in the woods we have no way to verify this location.
We then cut immediately back to the torpedo room, and after a few tense seconds of idiocy get the intertitle “Hubris Station”… As if we would have forgotten in the ten seconds we were treated to Dr. Fletcher jogging. Anyway, we get Hutch begging, again for permission to make a call. He takes the phone and immediately dials Dr. Fletcher.
Cut back to Dr. Fletcher answering the phone in her coat pocket.
The scene cuts back and forth for a while Fletcher explains that she’s off the project and that Hutch should put down the gun and take the offer of immunity from the station captain. Hutch says he can’t do that.
Meanwhile a bunch of security guards armed with shotguns are just outside the torpedo room door.
Hutch says something confusing about a character to be introduced later, but it appears that Hutch has “feelings” for Fletcher.
The security guards burst in and shoot Hutch dead.
The Captain climbs into this weird little protrusion on the bridge that has its own special chair and steering wheel (not to mention two wall-mounted ergonomic keyboards) and commands the torpedo crew to get with the nuking.
As soon as the probes head out into the sea the station radar operator reports several unknown signals approaching the station. They also, inexplicably, “track” an incoming EMP pulse that appears to have emanated from the Polaris Trench.
Now, even a high school physics student knows that electromagnetic energy travels at… you guessed it, the speed of light, that is 186,000 miles per second, so there is no way that they could track an incoming EMP pulse.
By the time you detect the thing, it’d be gone and all your equipment would be little more than ornate paperweights. Okay, we get our first shot of the denizens of the deep, and they are hilarious.
The monster on the DVD case sort of resembles a prehistoric (and I mean Cambrian) fish or a some sort of predatory deep-deep-deep sea species. What we get in the film is a long eel with an extremely silly dragon head and some doo-dads on its back that shoots lightning.
I assume if you only showed parts of them every now and then this would, I guess, be okay. But Paul Joshua Rubin pretty much puts these idiotic creatures on the screen without even so much as a reason. So we get to see them a lot, close up, and in all their stupefying detail.
The eels attack the station and electrocute everyone aboard. This, of course, reinforces the age old adage: If you are going to build an undersea base please make sure it is sufficiently grounded to prevent accidental electrocution.
Well, Hubis, of course…
Cut back to the UN (thoughfully intertitled about 30 seconds from now) where Dr. Chomsky says that the station isn’t offline, it’s dead.
Cut to Sugarbush Maine (again we have no landmark so this could be the woods just outside Newark for all we know) where Dr. Fletcher is struggling to look like she’s been on a pair of cross-country skis before. (Cue intertitle)…
A couple of quick-cuts to camouflage covered legs running through the trees, then cut back to Dr. Fletcher trying not to fall down.
Finally, and mercifully, she stops and looks around but doesn’t see anything. Then LEAPING into frame is Captain Andrew Raines (David Keith) to startle Dr. Fletcher. Uh… didn’t she just look around? How couldn’t she have seen him, dressed in all black, against a backdrop of SNOW!
Oh, right, because this film uses the amazing technique of not allowing characters to react to things not in frame, which seems strange since all of them spend their special effects sequences reacting to NOTHING as the dorklectric eels were added in post production.
Captain Raines explains (of course… we need a little expository dialogue to make the film that much more unbearable) that he’s been sent to bring Dr. Fletcher back and take her, and a team of special operatives, to Hubris Station and assess the situation. Dr. Fletcher reluctantly agrees.
We are then treated to an Indiana Jones rip of a CGI plane flying superimposed over a map with a movement line tracking across the country towards the Arctic Circle. This also gives us a moment to meet the other members of the cast, who will no doubt die in the next hour or so. They are Protas (Armando Valdes) and Arciero (Sean Whalen) both instantly recognizable from a host of commercials. Sean Whalen, for what it’s worth, was in a really funny commercial for the American Dairy Association where he was an Alexander Hamilton memorabilia collector who can’t answer the trivia question “who shot Alexander Hamilton” because his mouth is filled with peanut butter and he has no milk to wash it down.
This revelation, of course, meant Gristle McThornbody and I yelped “Alan Burr!” every time Arciero said anything, a pastime that provided endless minutes of amusement.
Also joining the intrepid cast is Dr. Chomsky who will no doubt be the villain character. But, since everyone in this film can be classified as an idiot, no one assumes that he has plans to reattempt the Polaris Trench nuke fiasco.
The plane carrying the crew crashed on landing and, sadly, all but the pilots escape alive.
The station, miraculously, awaits them in an undamaged state. We learn this after Captain Raines and the others climb down the shaft poking up through the ice and Arciero slinks over to the fuse box and trips a couple of circuit breakers. Of course, because no one wants to appear like they are on an underwater station with no power because it was attacked by giant electric eels, Arciero finds the circuit breakers in the “off” position.
I guess the last guy to die figured it’d be a good idea to turn out the lights.
Back on the bridge Captain Andy and Dr. Chomsky start what will be a prolonged series of annoying arguments about just who runs the mission. Meanwhile Arciero and Protas have “clean up the dead bodies” duty, lucky them, before settling in to the torpedo room where they will spend almost all of the rest of the film.
To their credit (er… I think) screenwriters Brian Mammet and Jeff Rank try really hard to make Arciero and Protas into clones of Parker (Yaphett Koto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) from Ridley Scott’s “Alien” regardless of the fact that the combined ages of Arciero and Protas wouldn’t even equal that of Yaphett Koto at the time Alien was made. Instead we get treated to a mishmash of dialogue that runs the gamut of infantile sexual boasting (as if either of these guys have ever known the touch of a woman…) and nauseating complaints about “getting more pay… this job sucks… blah blah blah…. we’re in a crappy movie… blah blah.”
Once all the bodies are cleaned up, and we have no idea where they are stored because it’s never suggested that they are taken back topside and left to freeze-dry (maybe Arciero ate them… ALAN BURR!!!!), Dr. Chomsky requests a probe be fired into the trench.
Upon firing three of the electric eel monsters start towards the station. Dr. Fletcher receives a communications signal but it’s all gibberish. Apparently she uses the “Quicktime Player” to decypher the incoming signals because that’s the interface on her screen. No wonder she can’t decypher it… Anyway, she and Chomsky bicker a little more about whether to shoot at the eels with a torpedo, and she runs off to the mini-sub bay at the bottom of the station.
The eels attack the station. And in a scene ripped DIRECTLY from Cameron’s The Abyss, one of the eels pokes its head up through the dive hole and does a face-to-face with Dr. Fletcher. Amazingly, since this was full-screen, almost the whole sequence takes place out of frame, so, we get Dr. Fletcher looking orgasmic and bathed in crackly blue light, then we get a cut scene of the eel with Fletcher’s arm and shoulder just off of frame-left, then Fletcher again. In fact, Fletcher and the eel only appear in the shot together once and it looks like crap.
Certainly the fact that the eel looks ridiculous doesn’t help. I mean, we get a real close up of the eel’s face this time and boy is it silly. It’s long, like almost a third of the length of the body, and has thick lips and pegged teeth and little squinty eyes and amazingly enough (but not for this movie) nostrils.
Nostrils? Eels don’t have nostrils because they don’t have lungs! Eels are fish…Hell, why not put legs on the damn things and let them walk around the station?
Here’s my theory, UFO Films LLC wanted to make a dragon movie but didn’t have the rendering power to do full body movement. They also wanted to set this movie in space, hence the station Hubris clinging to the ice the same way a space station would, conceivably, cling to an asteroid. So, rather than upgrade their infrastructure and make a space-based dragon movie, they used whatever upgrade money that did have to purchase Internet porn and instead stuck the dragon heads onto less complex eel bodies, shaded the “space” blue and turned the asteroids from brown to white, retitled the project from “Crappy Space Dragon Movie” to “Deep Shock”.
Of course this is based on no actual information whatsoever, but hey, it’s my damn review.
Okay, the eel (growing tired of mimicking a water spout in a much better movie no doubt) shocks Dr. Fletcher, but doesn’t kill her, then slips back down through the dive hole.
Captain Raines leaps into frame and scoops up Fletcher’s unconscious body and pounds the intercom then screams, “I need medical down here now.”
Okay, who is medical? Doesn’t he remember that the only people on board aside from he and Dr. Fletcher are Dr. Chomsky and the two idiots in the torpedo room (no doubt boasting about scoring with women who wouldn’t touch them even while wearing an EV suit). I guess Raines realizes that “medical” isn’t coming and runs off with Fletcher slung over his shoulder.
During the attack the tube leading to the ice surface is damaged and can’t be used. Great. Now they are all trapped (and so are we) inside Hubris station.
Oh cruel fate!!!
The eels withdraw. Knowing that it’s electric eels to blame for the station woes and for the rising temperature of whatever is inside the Polaris Trench, Dr. Chomsky hatches a cunning new plan to deal with this newly revealed thread. He’s gonna nuke the trench with a torpedo and blow em up real good.
Nothing says Z-grade science fiction better than scientist character
who cannot EVER change their line of thinking.
He doesn’t even change his mind when Fletcher reveals that her brush with voltage has somehow given her the ability to understand electric eel-speak, enabling her to decipher their screeches and whistles as a warning.
Uh, no kidding.
While Fletcher is recovering from the trauma of a CGI eel accosting (as are we) Chomsky sends one of the idiot twins out in “the” minisub. Protas is dispatched to blow a hole in the ice and float a satellite transceiver through the hole to allow communications between Hubris and the gang of G-8 guys at the UN.
We keep cutting back to them (and reading the intertitle that says United Nations Operations Center) but nothing of interest happens there. Right, these scenes are filler.
Back underwater, Protas launches his torpedoes at the ice and instantly draws an angry response from several of the eels (and a big “no shit” from the audience). Immediately Fletcher awakens and reveals her newfound multi-lingual talent. She and Captain Raines rush off to the bridge.
Arciega, stays in the torpedo room and sulks while eels attack Protas’ sub.
A minor power struggled ensues on the bridge as Chomsky and Raines bicker about who is actually in charge of the mission. Raines LOSES! And Chomsky gives the order for Arciega to launch yet another torpedo while Raines insists that Protas sit still in the sub while the eels swim around and around and around.
During this confusion Fletcher breaks the eel’s code and broadcasts another signal (actually, the eel’s original signal played backwards, strangely it sounded sort of like Stairway to Heaven…) and the eels break off their attack.
This change of behavior prompts Protas to speed off in the sub and give the eels yet another reason to attack him. Arciega launches the torpedo and the resultant explosion knocks Protas’ power out and he begins to sink.
Finally the pressure gets the best of the minisub and it implodes, which doesn’t look totally unrealistic, and for this film that’s high
Dr. Fletcher accuses Chomsky of murder because he knew full well that the eels would attack anything they perceived as a threat. Fletcher stalks off to spend more time deciphering the eel-speak, which treats us to some amazingly silly dialogue between her and the eels courtesy of her Quicktime player.
Apparently the eels want the Earth to themselves and are actively heating the polar ice caps to cause great floods and wipe out the human race. There is some suggestion of extra-terrestrial origin but it’s dropped almost immediately, as is the idea that these were genetically engineered. The ideas come up, then are dropped, almost exactly like the three screenwriters were battling over just where the damn eels came from and rather than compromise, each one worked in their theory (of course, pirated from better movies) into the script without the others knowing about it.
So that only ads to the complete and utter confusion of the film as a whole. So at any given moment Dr. Fletcher might change tune mid sentence and suggest that the extra-terrestrial aliens were the byproduct of genetic engineering in South America because the UN wanted to know if electric eels used their voltage for communications rather than just for killing fish and small lizards in the Amazon.
Uh… Now I need a notepad, thanks movie…
Okay, back to the bridge where Dr. Chomsky in the little steering wheel room, explains to the Russian and American members of the UN G-8 operations team (thankfully intertitled so we don’t forget who and where they are) that an overwhelming show of force is necessary to show these damn eels just who runs the show on Earth.
Strangely, they agree, and dispatch two Russian and one American sub to from the Pacific fleet to the North Pole.
Dr. Fletcher, meanwhile, is sitting in front of the computer playing solitaire… no wait… listening to the eel mp3’s when Raines pops in for a romantic chat. See, they were married once and her fanatical devotion to the revolutionary cause of the eels put a wedge into their relationship. Raines asks if she had a relationship with Hutch (the dead guy from the torpedo room in the beginning) and she says she loved him but didn’t love him.
This, of course, prompts Captain Raines to throw the patented David Keith Lip Lock on her and they grind atop her desk for what feels like eons yet neither disrobes. I guess it was a love scene… er… or something.
Raines flits away to, no doubt, take care of business alone.
A little later Chomsky pulls the “you’ll do things my way or I’ll beat you up” on Fletcher but she succeeds in kicking his scrawny ass. Raines enters just in time to finish the pounding.
Later (I am assuming later because we get a UN Command Center sequence to break up the boredom) Fletcher and Raines speed off in the minisub to try and make contact with the eels inside the Polaris trench. That’s when they realize that the sub force has arrived and is targeting the trench with 100, 1-kiloton nuke tipped torpedoes.
The subs launch the torpedoes.
They argue with Chomsky about this endlessly and he doesn’t seem to care that they think provoking the eels further is a bad idea. Of course, the eels leap from the trench and sacrifice themselves by… um…. I guess they ran out of CGI money because we cut to the interior of the Jimmy Carter where the Sonar tech announces that the two Russian subs are gone. The eels then lay their electrical fury on the American sub and blow it up in a scene no doubt used again in that damn Lorenzo Lamas shark movie.
Fletcher then broadcasts a message to the eels and they swarm over towards the Hubris.
Arciega dies. I don’t remember how, but electrocution isn’t a bad guess considering what we’ve seen so far. His last words were, “Alan… Buh…Buh…Burr…” (just kidding).
The minisub docks and Fletcher immediately starts composing a new message for the eels. Chomsky steals the sub and heads off into the briny deep. He is trying to get to the hole in the ice and is broadcasting for emergency pickup.
The eels short out the batteries and he sinks and the minisub implodes. Now just what in the hell would possess him to do that in the first place? Didn’t he see what happened to Protas? Wasn’t he watching when the eels attacked the station and later the minisub?
How in the hell does he think someone, ANYONE, is gonna pick him up UNDER THE ICE in the middle of the north pole?
Raines has a great idea, you can almost see the lighbulb over his head. He and Fletcher are gonna die together and offer the Hubris to the eels.
I’ll wait while you read that again… Yes, Captain Raines is so self sacrificial he’s gonna kill BOTH of them so the eels may live to heat the polar caps in another couple of hundred years.
To do this he “blows the bolts” holding the topmost part of the station together and the Hubris separates and begins to sink. Brace yourselves because this gets really stupid… Apparently the Hubris can maneuver for a while under its own power. Because of some malfunctioning hoobajoob it only has about 20 minutes of power and can hover mid water while the surviving nukes hit the trench.
He and Fletcher embrace as she blows the hatches on several decks allowing the eels entry into much of the station. On cue the batteries run dry and Hubris begins to sink. However, the water filled sections will allow some of the station to maintain its integrity because the pressure is equalized.
Fletcher and Raines climb into an escape pod, or something equally unintroduced until it was needed rescue thingy, and escape through the hole in the ice JUST as a rescue plane flies overhead.
We cut back to the UN (intertitled of course in case we forgot what the inside of the lecture hall looked like) where Fletcher and Raines explain that the area is now unsafe and radioactive and can’t be approached for at least 80 years.
They embrace. Roll credits. Roll eel in sticky rice, top with wasabi, dip in soy sauce, pop in mouth, savor the flavor.
There is just so much wrong with deep shock that it was as if the DVD player was literally sucking the very life energy from we happy few who suffered through it. In fact, I am convinced that had I merely unplugged the DVD and made up a sock-puppet show about electric eels, I could have offered a more engaging production.
I know it’s probably bad form to shit all over a tiny little film company like UFO Films LLC, but in this case they deserve it. Deep Shock is offered on DVD with exactly no extras save for a trailer for In Hell (four skulls) and a shark movie starring none other than Lorenzo Lamas. It’s offered in full screen perfect for continuous “SciFi Channel Exclusive Presentations” where the film will no doubt we worked in between marathons of Space Rangers and The Powers of Matthew Star.
Good place for it if you ask me.
The moral of the story? Easy, your CGI eels may look neato to your mom, but hey, try writing a script first.