I decided to take a break from Bigfoot and Wolfmen movies to check out a different kind of a terror, one of the dozens of horribly cheap Killer Fish movies that came out in the late 1970s looking for that filthy, sweet Jaws lucre. What is the undersea menace in this one? We have to check it out.
Up From The Depths (1979)
Well for the first hour the undersea menace is endless, incredibly boring scuba diving footage. Holy damn is this movie dull. Every once in a while, a character will get attacked by a POV cam, a close up of a fish mouth and a squirt of ketchup and some bubbles. Ooh, scary. This is typical of these kinds of movies. Outside of the water, I believe the filmmakers were attempting to make a comedy as all of the “actors” in the cast are swinging for the fences and striking out often. This movie is broad, loud and painful. On top of general filmmaking incompetence, did I mention it’s also really, really cheap?
After about 30 seconds of research, the bare amount I’m willing to give to this turkey, I discover it’s directed by Charles B. Griffith, a Roger Corman productions alum who wrote and directed the original Little Shop of Horrors and writer of Death Race 2000. So he’s intimately familiar with exploitation films. He must’ve known this was dreck while it was happening.
So we have a by the numbers rip-off of Jaws, but without the drama, tension, thrills, great acting, scary monster, several classic sequences and, you know, just about everything that made that movie a classic and this movie a forgotten turd staining the floor of the Amazon Prime Dungeon. The movie predicts the plot of The Meg, as a rising ocean temperature brings in a new breed of fish to attack Hawaii. The characters make it a point to explain the man-eating fish is not a shark. After we get a good look at it, hilariously sitting immobile on the ocean/swimming pool floor, it sort of resembles a tuna. So this movie is a Prehistoric Killer Tuna movie.
How do I count the ways this movie is terrible? First off, they try to pawn off The Philippines as Hawaii. Then they have a bunch of middle-aged non-actors hanging around a rather squalid luxury hotel. Occasionally characters get eaten by a rubber fish maw and the other characters act as if nothing is wrong. There’s a drunken, over-acting boat captain, a big-boobed model, a bickering retired couple and the scuzzy hotel manager who has a bald mullet and insists on wearing a sombrero without a top to it for half the movie. That guy is the biggest offender of over-acting. He gives a speech and. every. single. word. takes. for. ever. to. get. out. He’s milking the crap out of this underwritten role and he’s hateable. He’s candidate one for a Killer Tuna chomping and we have to appease our blood lust with him only accidentally shooting his own toe off.
I will say that as soon as the terrible-looking rubber fish shows up, eats a balsa wood boat and goes on a killing spree, the movie becomes unintentionally hilarious. There is the standard scene of panicked swimmers rushing out of the ocean. Then they run in terror for what seems like an hour, before the retired couple suddenly remembers that fish can’t walk on land. Then in order to keep the movie going, the bald jack-ass hotel owner offers everybody the paltry sum of $1,000 and a case of cheap rum to anybody who kills the Killer Tuna. So then there’s a very long, supposed to be funny sequence where the entire village grabs fake tourist decorative spears and rushes to their boats to try and kill the fish. Some rednecks with a flamethrower blow up their own boat. A pot-bellied shirtless guy wearing a loincloth grabs a katana and then finds his boat is stuck on the rocks. And in the funniest sequence, the scumbag, alleged hero of the movie has his friend chomped by the Killer Tuna, then they use his friend’s body for bait. Nice. Pre-dating Weekend at Bernie’s, they strap the corpse to a tow-line and drag him through the water. It’s the only fun idea in the whole movie.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This movie is very long and tedious with lots of nothing happening, and what does occur happens very slowly. The movie picks up just a smidge in the second half, but there are still several interminable scuba diving sequences, just the Killer Tuna picks up his noshing pace. Although, none of the really annoying people are eaten and about 90% of the cast survives. Needless to say, the Killer Tuna really sucks as a monster.
If you’ve seen Jaws, you know how this goes. The alleged hero feeds his explosive strapped friend to the shark and kaboom. A bloodless underwater explosion. Then the hero’s girl jumps in the water to swim to him, and they cavort as a blood-drenched surf threatens to engulf them. Gross, but not in a good way. About a 2 out of 10 on the Kill-O-Meter.