Eye of the Beast
From the “How Did My Career End Up This Way?” Series,
or the Sci-Fi Channel Maneater Series
So I’m James Van Der Beek. I’m sitting in my trailer during the filming of the Sci-Fi Channel movie Eye of the Beast. Or more accurately, I’m crouching with my head buried in my hands, muttering to myself, “I’m Dawson. I’m Dawson. I’m not in a Maneater movie. I’m back on the WB with Katie Holmes sneaking through my bedroom window. I’M DAWSON, DAMMIT!”
So I’m Phil Fasso and I just sat through Eye of the Beast. And I’m wondering if the, ahem, “creative” forces at Sci-Fi know their output isn’t up to the standards of a 2nd grade school play, or if they’re so far deluded they tell themselves, “Yeah, this is gooooood.” What other reaction could I have, considering that in the opening scene, the lake monster feels up teenage girl while she’s making out with her boyfriend? Yes, you read that right. I can’t make this stuff up. And it only gets worse from there.
After that moonlight opener, we meet the sheriff/fishery department/undefined role cutie who portrays the equivalent of the town cop. She jogs to her office, where the murdered girl’s brother meets her to discuss his missing sister. Enter Van Der Beek as a scientist sent from NORA to research why the fishing’s taken a bad turn. The captain and his crew that are hired to take him out instantly dislike him and treat him with palpable disdain. When they discover pieces of a boat and the dying boyfriend from the opening scene, the debate about whether a giant squid exists begins.
None of this is entertaining. In fact, it suffers from the same problems of every other Sci-Fi movie I’ve seen. The acting ranges from wooden to amateurish to absolutely terrible,. With the exception of Van Der Beek’s Dan Leland and the female lead, Kat, these characters are so thoroughly dislikeable that I wanted to see them end up swallowed by a lake monster. The script has so many holes, I’m convinced it’s a first draft. A few of them: Dan’s there to help the fishermen, yet they hate him on sight; Dan has committed some sort of wrong in his early career, but it’s never mentioned what; the town is reluctant to believe a monster squid is the cause of its problems, but once the boat’s captain brings a huge tentacle to the town bar, they’re all giddy to buy into it; townsfolk who have hated each other for generations suddenly work together happily at the drop of a dime. The score is an insult to the great John Williams, as it rips off some of the minor themes of Jaws shamelessly. The monster certainly doesn’t help. A mixture of CGI and practical effects, neither of which look believable or anything in the neighborhood of scary, its on screen time is thankfully brief. The only thing that distinguishes this dreck from any other poorly made Sci-Fi movie is a blatant stream of racism. The dialogue between the white seafarers and their equally prejudiced Indian counterparts is poorly handled and appallingly unacceptable.
The only redeeming thing in the entire movie is Van Der Beek. He acquits himself nicely as the attractive young man who’s trying to save a town’s people even if they don’t really want him there, or if his bosses refuse to believe him. Though no Robert De Niro, he’s not a terrible actor, as he brings just the right hints of emotion to the role. Though I’m sure those, ahem, “creative” forces hired him more for his looks than for his acting, After all, he is Dawson.
Eye of the Beast has absolutely no extras, except a trailer for the Man Eater series that starts automatically with the disc. But it does sport some interesting cover art. which portrays an octopus almost fully out of the water, crushing a bloodied fisherman in a tentacle. The art belies the actual movie, as there’s very little blood, the monster only appears above water once, and it’s not an octopus. It’s a squid. The cover did, however, draw my 3-year old nephew, Little Al, to the disc as it sat on my floor. He grew quickly bored with the movie. Even more damning, he wasn’t scared at all.
Having suffered through Eye of the Beast, I’m not expecting much more from the rest of the “How Did My Career End Up This Way?” series. I’m sure the other movies give home to poor acting, plots full of holes and monster that can’t terrify a toddler. As for this movie specifically, I can only offer this: Remember, Van Der Beek. Deep breaths, and just keep repeating, “I’m Dawson. I’m Dawson. I’m Dawson.”
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