Over the years, it’s often been said that fish is “brain food.” What this means is that eating fish helps with both cognition and memory (so long as it doesn’t contain high levels of mercury, of course). The basic hypothesis behind this is that the high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids found in some types of fish help produce more complex fatty acids which in turn bolster brain cell walls. This is why so many drug manufacturers peddle their Omega-3 pills to anyone with the money to buy them (and probably more than a few without it). However, a recent study conducted at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center posits that Omega-3 is of far less consequence than popularly believed, in yet another case of “He Said, She Said” that the medical industry loves to go through every couple of years (“Red meat is bad for you,” “No, wait. It’s good for you,” “No, wait…”).
Aside from the occasional piece of salmon or Chilean sea bass, I’m not overly fond of seafood, myself. Maybe this is why I have a memory like a sieve (then again, maybe not). But what I’ve noticed about the expression “brain food” is that it is commonly misused in terms of making you smarter, and that’s simply not the case. It aids your brain in functioning better, but it doesn’t augment intelligence. There are likely as many inherently “smart” people who don’t eat fish as there are “dumb” people who eat it ritually. If you seek proof of this, simply take a gander at Alvaro Passeri’s Plankton (aka Creatures from the Abyss, aka Sea Devils, aka Object X, aka Piranha 4 [I didn’t even know there was a third one]), because the film contains one of the most repulsive scenes of idiots eating fish I have ever witnessed.
Five people, including a pair of sexpot sisters (Laura Di Palma and Ann Wolf), a non-sexpot girl (Sharon Twomey; we can tell she is not a cinematic nympho because she wears spandex rather than a revealing bikini like the other two), her smart (he wears glasses but doesn’t eat fish) boyfriend (Clay Rogers), and their annoying perv friend (Michael Bon) go out for a little rafting in the Atlantic Ocean. Getting caught in a deluge, they come upon a seemingly deserted Oceanographic Research Institute boat, do some awkward partying, and get attacked by some semi-aquatic monsters.
This movie is a combination of two things: John Carpenter’s The Thing and Dead Teenager/Cabin in the Woods films. To the first point, the film has creatures which emerge from being frozen to terrorize humans. Said creatures come from an environment inhospitable to humans (here the briny deep rather than the cold reaches of outer space). It has a small group of people in an isolated location which ostensibly ratchets up the tensions between them (this also plays to the second point). It has monsters that inhabit their victims’ bodies and transform. It has a big explosion at the end which may or may not have destroyed the threat. It has stop motion effects.
To the second point, you have a mix of boys and girls whose sole purpose in life is to party and have sex and get picked off in gruesome ways (with the exception of the couple who are actually devoted to each other and thus are earmarked for final couple status). You have the two single chicks stripping, showering, and so forth for the camera (“I think it’s time for a new bra”). You have the extremely irritating “fun guy” character whom no one in their right mind would put up with for more than about five minutes before wanting to kill him (he likes to play practical jokes, talk about the size of his dick, and cajole his pals into taking unidentified drugs with him). Said “cabin” in this instance even has a dark, cobweb-festooned “basement” where horrible things may lurk around any corner (including, but not limited to, a babbling scientist played by trash cinema [and television] director Deran Sarafian, who is also named after a character in the Carpenter film [Clark]).
Where Plankton distinguishes itself is in the level of sheer weirdness with which it imbues every single frame of its runtime. There is a talking, winking clock (it’s shaped like some half-assed, cycloptic fish/mermaid/thing) that comments on what’s going on and blithers incessantly, usually at the same time. There is a character vomiting up green slime with beetles and worm-type things in it (this puddle of puke will remain on the floor for the remainder of the film, even when other characters go into the bathroom to shower or wash up; I cannot, in my wildest dreams imagine the smell not being overpowering, and I’m amazed no one steps in it). In the “These Things Happen” category, there is a character having sex with living fossils (offscreen; I haven’t yet decided whether this is merciful or not, though I’m leaning toward the latter, all things considered). There is a character oozing caviar out of her vagina. There is an oversexed A.I. in the bathroom who moans lasciviously and heavily encourages getting dirty while getting clean (and evacuating, but there’s a lid for every pot, I suppose). There is a fish-stomping scene that would likely have thrilled John Waters to no end. There is the supposition that androgynous fish-monsters become sexually aggressive when stimulated by “inquisitive minds” (I guess I can buy that one). At every turn, the film strives to outdo itself in strangeness and sleaze, and boy howdy, does it succeed.
This is what makes the well-trodden plot feel fresh (or at the very least interesting). This is not to say that it’s well-made, because it isn’t. The film’s opening intercuts the “kids” out on the ocean with smash cuts of closeups of the monster (flicking its tongue, shrieking, et cetera) and Clark assumedly being attacked/molested by same. But the way that this is done is completely incoherent. Naturally, this matches the rest of the film, which chugs along, constantly topping whatever bizarre plot point/dialogue/nude scene occurred mere moments before, none of it making any sense whatsoever, but somehow still managing to be massively entertaining. The one solid piece of information that I could glean from this film is that no one involved in its production actually eats fish on a regular basis.
MVT: The film is nuts in that marvelous way that drunk people sitting around and solving all the world’s problems with a type of “it made sense at the time” logic both fascinates and confounds.
Make or Break: The big sex scene starts with a character stroking the giant phallus on a brass lamp (to turn it on; get it?) and proceeds (uphill? downhill?) from there. It’s indescribably in poor taste across the board, but I couldn’t turn away (sort of like staring at a traffic accident, but without real human beings coming to harm).