It’s not right to say that I’m afraid of the water – when I was in Boy Scouts, I got my Swimming and Lifesaving merit badges (for those of you unfamiliar with those, they are both water-intense), and I swam the Mile Swim at scout camp. Moreover, I grew up a block or so from a lake, and my brothers and I used to go swimming there all the time during summer. Plus there were canoe trips, occasional kayaking, and ice skating when the weather was right. But I have a sort of terrified fascination with the concept of being over or in deep – I mean deep – water, like one of the oceans. So for me, every time I watch a movie that deals with creatures deep down in the darkness, the underwater scenes automatically have a sort of tenseness to them regardless of what I expect to happen. And although this one was no different, the movie failed to add anything on top of that.
Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep is a 2006 SyFy (Sci Fi) Channel original movie about marine archaeologist Nicole (Victoria Pratt, Mutant X, Day Break) on a personal mission to save her career and regain credibility by finding lost artifacts that everyone thinks only exist in legend. Along the way she is joined by Ray (Charlie O’Connell, Dude Where’s My Car?, Sliders), an underwater photographer whose parents were killed by a giant squid when he was a child; and opposed by Maxwell (Jack Scalia, Dallas, Red Eye), a mobster whose family deals in recovered antiquities. From there, things go more or less as expected, with threats, thefts, and lots of squid-induced death. Though it was interesting to see Cory Monteith (Glee) out of his natural habitat.
As with most SyFy Channel movies, the main stumbling blocks were plot, dialogue, acting, and special effects, although to be fair, the acting was decent enough to not get in the way. As for plot, the main surprise was how peripheral the titular sea monster was to the main action of the movie (diving for shipwreck treasure), though there’s also a completely random scene wherein three young people are out drinking and fishing in the rain, only to get eaten by the squid; except there’s no explanation of who they are, there’s no reference to them after they die, and no one even finds their boat the next day. They just show up for one scene, die, and are then completely ignored for the rest of the movie.
The dialogue, while containing two admirable references to Spielberg films (okay, okay, one of the references is obligatory these days for any movie dealing with large predatory sea creatures), certainly could not be described as witty, sharp, or terribly engaging. It got the job done, but not much more (though it also didn’t need to do much more, I suppose). And regarding the effects, well, see for yourself – some scenes with the squid were fairly decent; others, not so much. Basically, as long as the CGI squid was only trying to interact with CGI environments, it was okay; but otherwise (like when it was eating divers, for instance) it was hard to look past the computer part of Computer-Generated Imagery, and ended up looking alternately silly, fake, and unfortunate.
I think my quasi-fear of the deep ocean stems from the ability of things to attack me not just from in front of, behind, to the left of or to the right of me, but also from above, in a more practical way than on land, and, most unsettlingly, from below. The thought of swimming along, looking down, and just seeing teeth, from a shark, from a squid, from whatever, kinda terrifies me, a little bit. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.
Now, on to shark-jumping, the main focus for us here at Jumping Sharks. First of all, based on the images of the squid in the movie, it appears that the inspiration for the so-called “kraken” was a colossal squid, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni (please keep in mind that this is entirely my own speculation, and is in no way based on written accounts by anyone involved with the movie; also, any research done is the result of five minutes on Google and ten or fifteen minutes scanning the most promising hits – no scientific papers were studied for this review). As such, my main question was – is it possible for a creature mainly known for thriving extremely deep in the ocean to survive at the surface for as long as did the one in the movie? As it turns out, it seems the answer is “yes”, or at least a resounding “maybe”. Marinebio.org reports that juvenile colossal squid can be found between the surface and depths up to 1000m; since there is no frame of reference in the movie for how old the specific squid is, nor does it follow that adult squid must stay deeper than juveniles just because they’re bigger, it appears that the squid in the movie could survive for extended periods of time, albeit perhaps uncomfortably, at depths which are also SCUBA divable
The next question raised was about the actual size, as monster horror movies tend to unrealistically exaggerate the size of the creatures (or have them change size throughout the movie; see Anaconda for more on this); however, comparing shots from the movie against real-live pictures with a similar frame of reference, it seems they got the size pretty well-on, give or take.
As for how the squid attacked its victims, some scenes were good, and some were not so good. Although this video, of pictures taken by researchers in 2004, is of a giant squid (not a colossal squid), I’m going to guess that it’s a decent approximation of how colossal squid hunt. Given that there are scenes wherein the kraken knocks people off of boats or just grabs them directly with its tentacles, I’m going to have to call shenanigans on the movie. On the other hand, that’s about the only thing this one has that’s biologically unrealistic based on available Google research, and I’m willing to forgive them one oversight.
Oh, and it’s implied that the squid might in fact be the living basis for the sea-monster Scylla, from Homer’s The Odyssey. So there’s that.
And, because I would be remiss not to conclude this entry with it, I leave you with a joke:
What do you get if you cross a duck with a squid?