Monster Movie Monday: Eye of the Beast (2007)
James Van Der Beek6
Matthew Turner | On 11, Apr 2022
Director: Gary Yates
Cast: James Van Der Beek, Alexandra Castillo, Arne MacPherson, Ryan Rajendra Black
In the mood for a creature feature? Amazon Prime has a veritable menagerie of monster movies, so we’re working our way through them, one killer beastie at a time. Welcome to Monster Movie Mondays.
Directed by Gary Yates, Eye of the Beast is the sixth film in a series of made-for-television natural horror movies produced for the Syfy Channel, collectively known as the Maneater series. The phrase “natural horror” refers to the fact that the depicted beasties are normal, living creatures and some of the films (eg. Maneater) use real creatures rather than special effects. That is not the case with Eye of the Beast, however, which is a full-on festival of fake tentacles.
Former Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek (doing his best to hide a “so it’s come to this” expression throughout) stars as marine biologist Dr Dan Leland, who comes to the fictional community of Fells Island, in Lake Winnipeg, to investigate why fish supplies are low. In addition to attractive, single Sheriff Kat Thomas (Alexandra Castillo), Dan finds a community at each other’s throats, with the Native American population and the white fishermen each blaming the other for the plummeting fish stocks.
However, the Fells Islanders soon have something much more pressing to worry about, as bodies start piling up and Dan suspects that the “anomalous circular abrasions” on the corpses might indicate the presence of a giant, man-eating squid. Could this have something to do with the local legend that’s emblazoned on the town’s souvenir t-shirts?
Eye of the Beast starts well, with a couple making out on a boat on the lake at night and the girl mistaking a giant tentacle inching up her leg for her boyfriend’s “cold, wet” hand. The tentacles in question are obviously fake, but that’s part of the fun with something like this, and at least the production is committed to practical effects rather than over-indulging in cheap CGI.
Yates has obviously learned something about pacing and content since directing Maneater (released the same year), because there are five proper squid attack sequences in the film and they’re interspersed with other creature feature staples like grisly discoveries – limbs being fished out of the water and that sort of thing. He even pulls off a genuine jump scare, with one of the attacks being particularly well timed in an otherwise boring conversation sequence.
In fact, the dialogue is a cut above average for this sort of thing, ranging from a series of Interesting Squid Facts to a very funny flirtation sequence between Dan and Kat, where they’re listing “10 reasons why fishing is better than sex”. The plot is pretty decent too, although there’s some needlessly racist language in the depiction of the town conflict – needless to say, the overtly racist characters meet the grisliest ends.
The film has its fair share of fun moments too, like a fisherman lugging a massive tentacle into the bar and throwing it down on a table. That’s capped with a brilliant throwaway line, whereby the concession stand owner (offscreen) mutters: “I gotta print more t-shirts.”
That said, the film also falls foul of one of the most annoying creature feature clichés, in that the squid literally yanks an entire human adult off a beach without being noticed by three people who are less than 10 metres away. So, not only do neither squid nor human make any noise, but apparently there isn’t even a splash or a ripple in the water immediately afterwards.
On the plus side, the two leads are likeable, and the film more than delivers with an exciting squid vs ship climax that features moments of ludicrous gore, plus a fun ending that just about justifies the film’s title (given that squids are not exactly known for their eyes) and the heart-warming sight of James Van Der Beek punching some fake tentacles. Really, who could ask for anything more?