Ahh SyFy Original Movies... You know, normally when you blunder into one films of these you can make a pretty good estimation about how the next 90 minutes are going to go, and it's not just that these are made on the cheap for SyFy Friday (or whatever they call the movie nights now) but by the studio that produces them. Asylum Pictures makes horrific borderline legal knockoffs of new films – for example the same weekend Battle: Los Angeles opened (a theatrical release about an alien invasion told from the on-the-ground perspective of the soldiers trying to drive the aliens from LA) SyFy aired Asylum Pictures' The Battle of Los Angeles which is an alien invasion told from the on-the-ground perspective of the soldiers stationed in Diablo Canyon and menaced by CGI flying saucers.). You can usually spot an Asylum release by the appearance of C. Thomas Howell in the film as he's one of their directors, name stars, and possibly owners. As bad as these films are, and they are plenty bad, they often contain some small percentage of tongue-in-cheek self deprecating humor a about how preposterous the plot of the movie is.
Then there's Roger Corman's New Horizon's who as of late are doing the giant monster of the week thing, you know, Dinoshark, Megapirahna, Giant Shark vs. Mega Octopus, Dinocrock, Supergator, these too are often self deprecating, some feature "where are they now" stars like Tiffany and Debby Gibson or "didn't I see that dude in Skyline" stars like Eric Balfour, Eric Roberts (looking befuddled), and a pre-dead David Carradine.
Then there's UFO pictures, which his like New Horizons only with even less money, lower quality CGI and more men in rubber suit pictures. In these too, there's plenty of rib elbowing to remind you that these 90 minutes of your life aren't really wasted if the cast realizes that the movie they are in kind of stinks.
Cinitel, the makers of Behemoth take a somewhat different tack with their pictures – Yes, these are made on the cheap too, Behemoth was created for a staggeringly small 1.3 million dollars – in that they tend to focus more on natural disaster movies about super storms, Ice Quake, Polar Storm, Earth's Final Hour, Snowmageddon, and the few of these I've seen are played absolutely dead straight, there isn't a giggle in the whole script from the cast about the predicament in which they find themselves.
Behemoth, a Cinitel picture, is the same way only instead of terrifying CGI snowstorms we have a tentacled mountain. Behemoth stars TV actors Ed Quinn from Eureka as Thomas Anderson, Cindy Busby, as Grace – Thomas' sister, and Pascale Hutton as Emily and the "name" former X-Files costar William B. Davis as Thomas and Grace's dad, William.
When Mount Lincoln, known for its persistent rumbles, threatens to erupt and wipe out the tiny rural town of Ascension, it's up to Thomas the logger and his geologist former girlfriend to save the day. Really, in short that's the whole movie, of course there are some subplots, one where Thomas' sister and her boyfriend are hiking on the mountain and have to be rescued, another where William and the local diner owner, Zoe get trapped in the diner and spend 20 minutes trying to climb a 4-foot ladder. Actually, Behemoth has a hell of lot of plot stuff in to which makes up, I guess, for not having a lot of monsters stuff, which is admittedly weird for a monster film.
Cintel seems to specialize more in weather pictures that don't rely on progressively complicated monster sequences than on, well, on monster pictures. So for the first 87 minutes of this 90 minute movie we see a tentacle, a mouth, and an eyeball. The rest of the monster stuff is made of squirts of CGI carbon dioxide and shaky camera to resemble Earth tremors. When we do get to see the monster it's – say it with me now – uniform CGI gray. But we never really get a sense of what the monsters are or what they want or why they're buried in Mount Lincoln and that's due to some clumsiness in the script by Rachel S. Howie.
The screenplay throws us a bone with William, The Professor of classic literature and myth, who's also seemingly schizophrenic and off his meds (no, really) and prattling on and on about signs and portents that the Earth itself is preparing to cause a massive, catastrophic event to prevent armageddon, but his warnings are never coherent enough or clear enough for either us in the audience of anyone in the cast to make sense of. In some scenes he's surrounded by clippings and pictures of weather phenomena, drawings of snake monsters, old illustrations of Krakens, Mayan god pictures, and all manner of goofy paranoid weirdness. That's meant to play opposite the science side where Geologist Emily is certain that the mountain is going to explode Mt. St. Helen's style and wipe out everyone in town. Also, it's leeching carbon dioxide that kills anything three feet from the ground or lower. Finally we get a military guy who's trying to recover some case from some test site that gets destroyed in the first two minutes of the movie.
All of this foolishness is played dead on straight like all of the characters are in an episode of Dragnet as co-written by David Mamet and Cormac McCarthy, which if this was a truly scary film would be totally fine, but it's not, it's a giant monster picture about rocks.
Part of the problem is that the characters are presented with an absolutely ridiculous plot but none of them ever manages to notice it, and, once we finally get around to seeing the Behemoth monster parts, the giant eye, or the big snappy jaws like a huge ant lion, the characters don't react at all to them – because all of those things were composited into the film later and no one told them, "hey, there's a giant set of insect mandibles poking out of this giant hole here. You should be amazed and terrified by them." Instead we get characters who dodge 5000 foot CGI tentacles with a "whew!" and immediately go back to doing what they were doing before moving two feet to the right or left. In some cases looking casually over their shoulders and walking away as a snapping, drooling giant maw is clacking and yawning right behind them.
Finally, the characters are all really, really, wooden. The only one who seems to relish the overt goofiness of this film is, ironically, William B. Davis who made a career out of playing the straight man to Cuckoo-bananas Mulder and Scully on X-Files. He chews up some fine scenery here but doesn't have enough to do that actually influences the plot so he's more like a diversion from the rest of the mundane stuff going on in other parts of the surrounding areas. Thomas and Grace and Emily are fine enough I guess, but you never get the sense that these are in any way shape or form real human beings.
The direction is straight on TV quality, which makes sense as the director, David Hogan is a veteran of several TV shows including the visually dynamic programs as... er... Fashion House. So you get everyone in dead center of the screen, nothing going on in the background, alternating close-ups to show conversations, also because it's 2011 and (because a project with a 1.3 million dollar budget can't afford a steadycam) loads of Star Trek Enterprise hits ion storm and throws Captain Kirk to and fro crappy fake earthquake handheld camera stuff.
The story doesn't make too much sense either, and like in any monster picture set in a remote location, in this case what appears to be a town of about 5000 masquerading as a town of 120, there's no real good reason why a world-ending monster would show up here to inflict it's mountainous vengeance on humanity rather than in, say, New York City, or Los Angeles, or Washington DC. I am not sure what a Lovecraftian rock Kraken hopes to accomplish by busting out of a small mountain in the middle of the boondocks with no visible means of locomotion. Also baffling is why the military sends only one guy to deal with the menace, and that the military already knows how to defeat this monster that hasn't appeared on Earth in millennia. But I'll leave those quibbles to the philosophers. Behemoth doesn't take enough risks to be a biblical end of the world movie, never attempts to be frightening, and fails to deliver on monster smashing action.
Okay, Behemoth comes to us emblazoned with a sticker for it being a SyFy Channel original which should be warning enough that it's probably going to be on SyFy Channel when you get home from the store with the DVD and you'll have paid out good money for something you could ostensibly sit through for free.
The DVD comes with one special feature, an embossed, cardboard slip case to protect the precious clamshell case that further protects the nearly priceless (price $10) disk inside. This slip case allows you to enjoy Behemoth for even longer as it increases the number of steps required to insert the DVD by 100%, thus stealing even more of your precious and finite life span that you could have spent snorting fire ants, masturbating to cave paintings of megafauna, or microwaving gerbils and Barbie dolls. As an added bonus, the DVD also physically manifests in a circular shape perfect for throwing like a Ninja Star at the cats who won't stay off the kitchen table. Finally, the lettering on the box (and identical slip case) is all in English so native English speakers can, in fact, read the exciting synopsis of the film thus nullifying the need to ever watch the film at all. Non-English speakers, however, are out of luck.