Devil Fish (1984) Review

You ain’t seen enough hentai to know where this movie is going…

Devil Fish is a deliciously dreadful entry in the pantheon of bad shark movies, and it manages to outdo itself in absurdity at nearly every turn. Directed by Lamberto Bava, this Italian rip-off of other Jaws rip-offs attempts to blend horror and science fiction, featuring a monstrous shark-octopus hybrid terrorizing the waters off the south coast of Florida (or rather, some place in Italy pretending to be Florida), predating Sharktopus by over 25 years.

When several local swimmers turn up mutilated off the coast of Florida, a mismatched group of experts, including marine biologist Dr Stella Dickens (Valentine Monnier) and local Sheriff Gordon (Gianni Garko), are called in to investigate. They soon discover a monstrous shark-octopus hybrid lurking in the depths, created by dubious science and even more dubious scientific experimentation. As the creature wreaks havoc, the team must battle against time, shoddy special effects, and a nonsensical plot to stop the beast before it devours an entire resort.

While Devil Fish suffers (or maybe benefits) from hilariously bad dubbing, it does boast a surprisingly great score that could make even famed Italian prog rockers Goblin take notice. Watching Italians pretend to be Floridians only adds to the absurdity as they stumble about a plot so thin it’s practically transparent, like ordering a rich, tasty gumbo only to be served a bowl of lukewarm minestrone.

90% of this movie is a slap-happy soap opera with the remaining 10% dedicated to women screaming at and/or because of a giant tentacle. Absolutely nothing makes sense, but the virtuoso prog-rock synth music lures you in like the sirens of old, lulling you into a comfortable numbness that lets you drift along, carried by the tide of ridiculousness, yelling, and electro-rock music, with percussion provided by the seemingly ceaseless slapping between cast members. You’ve heard of movies that slap? Well, Devil Fish SLAPS.

Never mind the tentacles, the acting is a spectacle in itself, with Michael Sopkiw leading the charge. Despite his limited filmography, Sopkiw brings an earnestness to his role that feels hilariously out of place given the movie’s overall tone. The supporting cast, including Valentine Monnier and Gianni Garko, do their best to keep up with the film’s erratic pacing and nonsensical script. The movie’s attempt to build tension through scenes of missing limbs and bloody attacks falls flat, often eliciting more giggles than gasps and the climactic showdown is particularly noteworthy for its sheer absurdity, featuring an explosion of action that tries—and fails spectacularly—to bring the film to an exciting close.

Devil Fish is a testament to the fact that sometimes a movie can be so bad it’s good. With its shamelessly derivative nature, bizarre monster and wooden performances, it’s little wonder that it’s one of the few Shark Weak titles to also gain recognition from the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 crew and if you’re looking for a fishy creature feature to stink up the place, Devil Fish is the perfect catch for you.

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