Who wants to watch a laughably bad, indifferently acted, and lacksadaisically filmed Giant Killer Crab movie? I do, I do. This is one of those doozies that you hope for when skimming through your favorite streaming service on a drunken Friday night. This bad boy is written by Ricou Browning, the man in the Creature From The Black Lagoon rubber suit, and it features an exceptionally unscary monster and is gleefully terrible in every facet of production. Yeah, you know we got to check this out.
ISLAND CLAWS (1980)
Once in a while, I discover an incompetently made giant monster movie that puts a smile on my face. Island Claws is so obscure, the Mystery Science Theater dudes haven’t even watched it. And despite coming out in 1980, the picture quality is so terrible it looks like it’s shot on VHS. The over-lit sets and cheerfully hammy acting add to the overall sense that a local Florida Community Theater group borrowed somebody’s camcorder and shot this over a long, drunken weekend. It doesn’t look like there were too many second takes left on the cutting room floor. In an early scene, the bickering owners of the primary set of the movie, a seedy looking Crab Shack, have an argument where the grumpy owner spends the entire scene with a mouthful of clam chowder so that he has to swallow it to finish his line. “Everybody knows it damn well (gulp) killed him. That’s what everybody knows.” Yep, you got to leave that take in. It must be horrid stuff because he’s still chewing on it for the entire scene. I know, I’m easily amused.
The minimalist story features an off-camera nuclear accident that has caused the local crabs in a tiny Florida town to grow really fast. We never see any of this because that would require special effects. But characters continually discover crab claws and compare the size to previously found ones. Yep, the props are getting larger.
For a good while, there’s nothing going on except for badly acted melodrama until the blonde investigative reporter falls off her bicycle while riding along the movie’s other main set, a dirt trail. She is harassed by a clump of unintimidating crabs. Thankfully, the crabs are more scared of the actress than she is at pretending to be of them, so she gets away okay. But not so much for Amos, the goofball banjo player at the Crab Shack who is attacked by incredibly slow-moving, non-threatening tiny crabs in his trailer and then they improbably blow it up. This incident is immediately forgotten about.
So the bulk of the movie alternates between nature footage of normal, run of the mill crabs, and dull, badly acted chit-chat. Then to add to the general shoddiness of the movie, throw in some casual racism. Just when the crab attacks are becoming an epidemic, the racist locals decide that the Haitian villagers are responsible and decide to get a big ol’ lynching party together. This is a thoroughly unneccessary and unseemly plot complication. I mean, it would take a total moron to see a mutilated dog and decide to grab a rifle and shoot all the Haitians, but that’s what happens here. It’s especially terrible because it adds up to nothing when the big ol’ grandaddy crab pops up to interrupt them over 70 minutes into this 90 minute movie.
Yup, that’s right, a Giant Crab Monster finally shows up looking as scary as an animatronic, barely articulated dinosaur in a typical history museum exhibit. Oh, and it growls like a lion. So the thoroughly immobile Giant Crab waves its large pincers up and down, managing to hit nothing, and just stands there as the villagers shoot at it continuously for the last 20 minutes of movie. It’s hilarious.
By my count, I think the army of tiny crabs actually kills more people than the big, daddy crab. He’s that pathetic. And where was that thing hiding for the whole movie? It’s a big, giant roaring immobile crab. Apparently it was just lurking around the Crab Shack, waiting for the appropriately dramatic moment to jump out and go “Boo.”
Unsurprisingly, this is the only film credit for Writer/Producer/Director Hernan Cardenas, especially considering this movie allegedly cost $3.5 million. Where did that money go? Please tell me they didn’t waste a million bucks on that crappy Giant Crab Monster. This movie has about half the budget of Jaws but only with an infinitesimal fraction of the drama, tension, skill, star power and filmmaking talent.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Incompetent, woodenly acted, with a laughably shoddy, roaring Giant Crab Monster. Yup, you need to check out Island Claws.
My favorite bad movie line comes when the blonde, bland hero is trying to put the pieces of the mystery together and he quizzes the doctor attending to a crab attack survivor,
“Doctor, right before you operated, did she say anything about the crabs again?” In jovial bad-acting tone the doctor replies, “Yes she did. She mumbled something about them, yeah.” Hero: “Okay, can you remember if she said ‘crab’ or ‘crabs’?” Doctor: “Sorry, I can’t.” Gee, thanks filmmakers. That was a totally unnecessary but amusing dialogue exchange.