Not being one for sweeping generalisations, but I’m going to take a stab at the fact that if you’re reading this then you’re into horror movies. If that’s the case then the name Brian Yuzna is one that you’ll be very familiar with. He’s a producer / director whose legacy has perhaps been a little forgotten in recent times despite an output from the mid-80s onwards that heralded some iconic and unforgettable movies. Just a glance at his resume flags up the genius of Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986), Dolls (1987) and Society (1989). He shot the only sequel to Return of the Living Dead that is remotely worth seeing – Part III (1993), and a segment for the overlooked Lovecraft adaptation Necronomicon (also 1993). The 90s saw him as a legend in the home entertainment market with titles such as The Dentist (1996), Progeny (1998) and Faust (2000), but recent years have been less kind… which brings us to Amphibious.
After a short post-credits sequence that sees boyfriend and girlfriend Julie (Elke Salverda – thankfully her only acting credit to date) and Logan (Timo Ottevanger) being killed by an unseen sea creature (with some very decent make-up effects on Logan). The action then switches to Dr. Skylar Shane (Janna Fassaert), a marine biologist who is on a research mission to find some prehistoric fossils aboard a boat captained by the grumpy Jack Bowman (Michael Pare). Whilst on their expedition they run onto some smugglers posing as fisherman including the jovial Irishman Jimmy (Francis Magee).
As Jack sorts out some unfinished business with the leader of the smugglers Boss Harris (Francis Bosco), Skylar begins to chat to Tamal (Monica Sayangbati), an orphan sold into servitude on the fishing platform by her uncle. She takes pity on the girl after hearing her story and having lost a child herself decides to follow her instinct and try to help her any which way she can by informing the police when she gets to the mainland that the girl is being held on the fishing platform. The officer she speaks to takes little interest in what she has to say, but as the night wears on it soon becomes apparent that with Tamal’s knowledge of black magic she has the ability to look after herself just fine… and summon a very big fish.
If you compared the intelligent and lurid social commentary of Society against the hammy creature-feature nature of Amphibious there would be only one winner. However, I think it’s important to analyse films in comparison to their contemporaries, and for this film then that would be specifically the output of SyFy Channel and The Asylum. Against these poor CGI-laden duplicates Amphibious fares pretty damn well. The premise boasts a level of originality, the Indonesian setting gives the movie a different flavour and with the inclusion of some practical effects alongside CGI, the creature effects aren’t too shabby.
That said, some of the acting is pretty woeful – but that’s predominantly due to the casting of a multinational, multilingual cast all working in English. Everyone does their best and no-one phones it in, but some of the dialogue is particularly clunky and the occasional dubbing distracts a wee bit. I mentioned Yuzna’s CV at the start of the review, and it’s fair to say that if Grimmfest ever fancied laying on a Brian Yuzna retrospective I’m pretty sure Amphibious wouldn’t feature! In assessing the movie though, I have to ask myself the question “in the last few years, have I seen a better creature feature?” – staggeringly the answer is probably no.