MegaSharkAn early effort from the aptly named Asylum B-movie outfit, involving a giant shark, a giant octopus and eighties teen queen Debbie Gibson. Need I say more?

The cute blonde Debbie—sorry, Deborah—Gibson was one of two teen singing sensations from the late eighties (the other being the red haired Tiffany) who found herself washed up with the onset of the 1990s. Proof of Ms. Gibson’s less-than-exalted status can be found in the fact that she headlined this straight to video outrage from 2009.

The Asylum’s other productions include Stuart Gordon’s KING OF THE ANTS, SNAKES ON A TRAIN, SUPERCRCOC and MEGA PIRANHA. The director of this film was Jack Perez (credited as Ace Hannah), whose other credits include the 1993 camcorder classic AMERICA’S DEADLIEST HOME VIDEO and the impressive 1997 neo noir THE BIG EMPTY—and so is capable of far better than what he provides here!

During an underwater whale watch in Antarctica a massive prehistoric shark emerges from the ground, just as a giant octopus attacks a Japanese oil drilling platform. The hot blonde oceanographer Emma (Gibson), who was there for the initial shark sighting and now finds herself investigating the mega shark’s handiwork (specifically a large chunk bitten out of a beached whale), is fired from her current job…just as the mega shark leaps out of the ocean and snatches a commercial plane out of the air.

Emma focuses her attention on the giant octopus, concluding that the two creatures were loosed by global warming. And the mega shark is still on the loose, devouring a battleship while the octopus destroys a fighter plane with a swipe of a tentacle.

Emma and her equally studious colleagues are drafted by the US government into figuring out a way to track down the shark and octopus. After some brainstorming Emma and co. decide to bait the shark and octopus by planting respective pheromones in the ocean to lure the shark to San Francisco and the octopus to Tokyo Bay.

Yet the dropping off of the pheromone in San Francisco Bay is a disaster, with the shark biting off a chunk of the Golden Gate Bridge and then swimming away. The attempt at luring the octopus isn’t much more successful, leading Emma to propose a new idea: let the two creatures kill each other! This takes the gang to the bottom of the ocean, back where the whole thing began; there the shark and the octopus have their final mano-a-mano.

I’ll say this for director Jack Perez/Ace Nannan: he doesn’t waste any time getting to the good stuff. The mega shark turns up in the very first scene and has its best moment—the airborne plane snatch—in the first twenty minutes. Unfortunately the special effects in this and other scenes are far from special—the shark is nearly always viewed from the front in a frequently recycled shot with its mouth opening and closing, while Perez is constantly lingering on the puppet-like octopus’ open right eye—but conceptually, at least, the film is fun.

Ultimately, however, the film is too self-aware for its own good, with pithy jokes, histrionic performances (including that of Ms. Gibson, who’s pretty but not much of an actress) and perfunctorily edited scares. There’s little-to-no urgency in sequences like the one where the shark races toward the doomed battleship, or the final shark-octopus struggle. Slick and assured when a rougher, more handmade approach would have better fitted the material, it’s ultimately much closer in tone to SNAKES ON A PLANE than THE GIANT CLAW. What makes most classic B-movies fun is that they took their goofiness seriously, as most monster movies don’t need intentional comedy to generate laughs, this one included.

Vital Statistics

MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS
Asylum

Director: Ace Nannan
Producer: David Michael Latt
Screenplay: Ace Nannan
Cinematography: Alexander Yellen
Editing: Marq Morrison
Cast: Deborah Gibson, Lorenzo Lamas, Vic Chao, Jonathan Nation, Mark Hengst, Michael The, Chris Haley, Sean Lawlor, Dustin Harnish, Dean Kreyling, Stephen Blackehart, Dana Dinatteo