The makers of Frankenfish, the title being derived from an outlandish nickname that's been attributed to the Snakehead breed, made a smart move by not just making another Jaws wannabe. Well, to be honest, for about the first 35 minutes, that's exactly what Frankenfish is. For the most part though, Frankenfish is Tremors on the bayou with big, smart, genetically engineered man-eating Snakehead fish in place of the Graboids and with people trapped on backwater houseboats instead of creaky homes out in the desert. With a bit more budget and one more rewrite, it could have been just as entertaining as Tremors, too. It doesn't quite succeed to that degree; but as far as low budget, made-for-video monster movies that are forced to premiere on a channel that seems hell bent on giving its namesake as bad a reputation as humanly possible, this one is surprisingly fun.
This isn't to say that the film is a complete success. Clichés are still abound, characters are mostly one-dimensional albeit likable, and it still takes about a half-hour before the movie really kicks into gear. The biggest problem I had with the movie was the explanation behind the enormous Snakeheads and how they got into this Southern bayou. It's one of the worst explanations I've ever heard in a b-movie. It's so moronic that I almost wonder why they even bothered to offer one. Perhaps with a bit more follow-up it could have been somewhat palpable, but when you hear it you're probably going to be appalled by the lameness. Even worse, this explanation leads to the introduction of a couple new characters that figure prominently in the third act, which is based around several people trying to capture alive a 25-foot killer Snakehead with a tranquilizer gun and their bare hands. I don't think so. Also, if you've just witnessed a person getting devoured by something in the water, I don't think you'd go back to tell their loved ones and stick around to have a casual dinner with them before notifying the proper authorities that there's something big and hungry on the loose.
So what is it that makes Frankenfish entertaining despite relying on a lot of clichés and one-dimensional characters? For me, I just liked the Snakeheads and the way they went after their victims. For one thing, they didn't just use cheap CGI, as everyone else seems to do these days. Yeah, there are numerous scenes of CGI Snakeheads, but most of those scenes are brief or are seen in quick blurs of fast action. The filmmakers wisely made the decision to mix the CGI with animatronics, making the illusion of these huge Snakeheads more believable by being more tangible than just a computer effect. I don't know about you but I've had it with 100% CGI movie monsters that look like escapees from a Playstation 2 video game. The Snakehead effects may not be as realistic looking as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, but at least when they appear on-screen they won't appear so fake looking that you're inclined to roll your eyes or begin groaning.
You got heads being bitten off, people being bitten in half, faces being blown off, and my personal favorite, let's just say people and airboat fans don't mix. There's a lot of red viscous on display here and I have a hard time believing much of it will get past the channel's censors. I'm not much of a gorehound myself but I do admit that there are movies where blood and guts can help matters and this is one of those movies. So many of the recent slate of killer animal movies have been so tame in that department that seeing some of the gore is actually refreshing, assuming one could describe a body exploding in an airboat fan using the word refreshing.
Hey, if nothing else, Frankenfish is still better than Anacondas.