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Monday, May 24, 2021

[Review] The Asylum’s ‘Aquarium of the Dead’ Is as Fishy as It Sounds

Although The Asylum has a reputation for releasing opportunistic mockbusters alongside major genre releases, Aquarium of the Dead doesn’t parallel Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead all too much. The timing is right and they both feature zombies, but with the exception of the undead tiger in Army, Glenn Miller’s movie boasts a whole menagerie of reanimated beasts. Not to mention, Michael Varrati‘s original story and Marc Gottlieb‘s screenplay have nothing to do with a heist.

The trouble all begins when a resident octopus becomes sick at the Shining Sea Aquarium and employees take emergency measures to save it. They think they failed, but the dead mollusk returns to life as well as escapes into the air ducts after killing two people. Meanwhile, Miranda Riley (Eva Ceja) is busy wooing Senator Bailey Blackburn (Anthony Jensen) so the facility can get some tech upgrades. This is when the only survivor of the octopus attack, Dr. Karen James (Madeleine Falk), interrupts and fills everyone in on what’s happening — the standard medicine administered to the dying octopus somehow reanimated it, and as predicted, the other animal inhabitants will be zombified by the octopus’ contagious bacteria.

The infected crabs, crocodiles, starfish, and even a dolphin are all now roaming freely.

It’s no surprise Aquarium of the Dead sounds eerily like Zoombies; they’re apparently all part of the same franchise that began with another zombie outbreak at the Eden Zoo. The linking element is a batch of contaminated epinephrine that, in this particular shared universe, behaves much like 245 Trioxin in the Return of the Living Dead movies. It’s a simple idea with a lot of potential if Asylum decides to make more of these cost-effective creature features. And with such a straightforward plot device, Miller doesn’t waste too much time with idle scenes or chatter. Chaos soon erupts in the aquarium where characters become trapped with the aquatic dead, and the basic formula audiences have come to expect in these movies unfolds with little to no variation. Is that a bad thing? So long as someone is expecting only cursory and uncomplicated amusement, the short answer is no. 

It feels petty to point out the budgetary limitations and chintzy visual effects of an Asylum production, but that’s like ignoring the pink elephant in the room. Or in this case, a zombie octopus. The movie relies on both nature stock footage and the characters walking and talking in circles inside a conveniently empty and also labyrinthine aquarium. The overall scenario has the appeal of a horror video game where every level of the setting is inhabited by a formidable foe or two; a crocodile crawls by at one point, bloodsucking starfish and spindly crabs swarm on several occasions, and a walrus impales someone with its tusks. Not to mention, there is a pair of sleeping sharks lying in the middle of a corridor, and the only way around is to hop over them. The animals are not remotely threatening-looking, so it’s up to the actors to make them seem otherwise.

Other Asylum movies have a tendency to drag in pace, but this one moves fairly fast. Yes, the characters pad the runtime by talking when there aren’t any zombies around to fend off; it’s almost better to not see the animals too often considering how crude and flat the CGI looks. And on top of repeatedly shooting the actors’ reactions to something scary rather than showing what they’re seeing, the editing tends to be erratic.

All these imperfections aside, something as hurriedly made as Aquarium of the Dead still manages to wring out a smidge of perfunctory entertainment for avid B-movie fans. Come for the premise; stay for the zombie walrus.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3666587/review-asylums-aquarium-dead-fishy-sounds/

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