Feb 1, 2009

Up from the Depths

Up from the Depths is an eccentric effort of z-grade, low-brow killer shark entertainment. Fresh off the hot block of Jaws copycats comes a film generally loathed by all but I did it! I struggled to look past the budgeted flaws and the amateur everything to find something charming and glorious; a sense of humor and moral direction. Armed with a lethal cast of Television actors and ridiculous set pieces, characters, and re-dubbed lines of dialogue, Up from the Depths guarantees a regretful, but flourishing cinematic experience with shaky-cam death sequences underwater.

The worst idea ever when hunting sharks with spears.

In the very opening scene of the film, a scene of a scientist and his beautiful assistant are conversing with lines so stilted that you cover your face with your palm. From there, a dramatic zoom-out lands framed on two hula dancers' derrières. The synchronized shaking rhythm of said behind casually frames the cast credits starting with the name Sam Bottoms. How dreadfully appropriate. In a blink of an eye, we are introduced to a tourist island getaways inhabitants and increasingly idiosyncratic personalities, not limited to a delirious Japanese man with fits of samurai flashbacks, an alcoholic con-pirate, a heavily side-burned heart throb, and the bumbling goofy owner of said hotel that gives us such memorable lines as "There's no sharks in the Hawaiian archipelago!"

Of all the wacky situations, of all the violence, my favorite aspect of the film is the sardonic vantage of the chaotic riot sequences that frequent almost all of the killer-shark-terrorizes-beach genre, as small of a genre as it may be. Up from the Depths has been called a shameless Jaws ripoff many times but the pride behind making this film goes a lot farther than most spirited film makers have shown. A couple I've admired over the due course of the film explode, along with the others, in a fit of panic as the ancient "shark" has devoured more than enough of the temporary residents. As the constantly shunned wife screams, the husband replies "Fish can't walk!". She snaps back "Everybody is running!". He smiles while shaking her silly and gleefully responds "Fish can't run either!" They both throw back a hearty laugh and embrace each other as panic spreads like wild fire. This really throws an outlook on films starting with Jaws that frequent the formulaic scene of a killer confined in the water while people scream at the top of their lungs running in circles. An animal behind bars is no more a threat than a beastie in the ocean. Common sense is definitely prescribed in Up from the Depths.

One scene in particular is worth a special mention. A group of kids repeats an activity of diving off a rocky mountain. Seen it before, threat level alleviated for now. Upon diving under the blue sparkling water (the grainy film stock detracts from this), a screeching violin begins reverberating, grating your ear canals. In the murky water, in the back ground, you can see a faint enormous creatures snout and let me tell you, this scene is practically horrifying in a sense. It sticks with me while pondering the many highlight scenes in this film. I can't stress the importance of this film enough, mainly concerning the idea that copycat films can beat a heart of their own.

Up from the Depths is a film about returning ancestral sea life coming back to haunt us, us who've dominated their waters with oil rigs, nets, trash, and other man made befuddlement. The line "They were here first" rings shallowly in my cerebrum. Griffith is right. Creatures were here first and in no way are we to decide what lives and what dies. Before too much sympathy can come to that of the sea monster, it's promptly blown up in the name of science. In such a barbaric nod to science, the scientist screams before his last breath not to be thrown back in the water with "it". The heartless pirate decides to blow the shark up with an explosive charge. In regards to science, Up from the Depths is an important film that debuts a concept of films having heart over the blind predecessor. It's also nice to like something that appears to be hazardous to everyone's health. Like smoking before smoking was cool.


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