Laura di Palma
Horny Fish Horror
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Creatures from the Abyss (aka Plankton) (1994)
18th Jun 10
Tragically dressed teens vs. Randy Mutant Fish
Being a fan of hilariously dubbed, awesomely awful Italian horror in the 90’s was a dispiriting and lonely affair: it was such a barren time for pasta-land splatter that us die-hards even got unhealthily excited by such mundane fare like Wax Mask. You don’t hear an awful lot about Creatures from the Abyss but let it be known that it’s entertainment value is on a par with such gems from its home country as Burial Ground and Dario Argento’s recent, loveably rubbish Giallo. Shriek Show gave it some DVD shelf life in the US and over here you can pick it up so cheap you’ll have enough change out of a £5 note to buy that 14 year old girl down the street some sweets and a knock-off JLS CD.
Our heroes: a generic bunch of fake-American young folks who look like their idea of the crazy future would be 1989 despite the fact that this was allegedly made in 1994! They get stranded in Miami during a summer storm and are forced to take refuge on a deserted oceanographic research ship. Fortunately for everyone, especially those without minds of their own, the geekiest member of the group explains everything - almost like he’s an unemployed movie narrator - they find on board just in case someone out there in the audience wasn’t totally sure. “It’s a lab!”, he says as they enter a room full of lab equipment that could never be mistaken for anything other than a lab. Later on he notes, “It’s full of frozen fish,” for those of us born without eyes or the power to accurately define frozen fish as frozen fish.
After making the mistake of eating some of the on-board fish (leading to a splendidly gross protracted vomiting sequence) the teens find a scientist foaming at the mouth and learn of the experiments that have been conducted at the ship on various, apparently extinct species of fish. These carnivorous, horny fish can live out of water and became horrifically mutated after feeding on plankton contaminated by dumped radioactive waste. At certain points, despite this simple premise, it’s anybody’s guess what is truly going on. But, fortunately for all of us doomed mortals, life is too short to be concerned about such things when a movie is this much fun.
Punctuated by marvellously gratuitous soapy nude shower scenes and sub-Piranha II scenes of bum-biting / face slapping rubber fish fastening themselves to the throats of screaming characters (“Dammit! DAMMIT!!!”), Creatures is a real blast. It’s a movie in which someone actually delivers the line “Professor, how long have you been fucking fish?” while someone else earnestly notes, of the fish, “They frighten me…they have an evil expression”. The ensemble cast boasts brilliantly dumb and hot-in-a-retro-80’s-way bikini clad girls who, when alone with each other, have a tendency to hold their breasts and state “I think it’s time to buy a new bra”. The guys have got mullets and include a slasher-movie joker character who does bad Elvis impressions, gropes the girls and is responsible for at least three extended fake scares.
You know you’re going to remember this movie, however, at the point where a sex scene is interrupted when the guy turns into a giant mutant fish midway through the act of love ; just like in real life, the girl only notices something is wrong around the moment one of his eyeballs drops in her mouth. Thereafter, the movie descends into total nuttiness, with tentacles leaping out of plugholes, a camper-than-Christmas ship control voice (“Is anyone listening?” “Evacuate!”), extraordinarily terrible optical shots that might have impressed a 1898 cinema audience, bizarre monster sound FX, a bravura stop-motion fish-octopus-man thing and a cheer-worthy animated exploding ship at the very end.
The groovy synth/electronic score and the downbeat shock end are 80’s to the core, and it matches Troll 2 and Crawlers for unbridled hilarity, dopey acting and quote-worthy dialogue (“You have a strange way of sleeping…with your legs apart and no panties on!”). It also delivers all the boobs, OTT grossness and lunatic plotting you could hope for, with some of the wilder moments resembling trippy cut-price riffs on the famous set pieces of Carpenter’s The Thing.
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