Plankton [Creatures from the Abyss] (1994)

(aka, Creature dagli abissi)

It’s a hallucination.  It has to be.  It’s the only explanation I can find that makes any sense.

No, I’m not talking about the absurdities of Plankton’s overloaded plot, or the scenes which cannot be forced to make any sort of logical sense.  I’m talking about the existence of this film.

It can’t possibly be real.  It must just be some collective hallucination forced on us all by the people responsible for this film.

A group of teenagers take a trip in their dinky inflatable boat.  But they left the gas behind and end up stranded on a little island.  However, rather than do the sensible thing and stay there, they try to row back and get caught by a storm.

They spot a boat and board it, but are surprised to find that no one is on board.  It’s a marine research ship and it is completely empty.

Except, of course, for the evil killer fish.

That sounds sensible enough, but things just keep going out of whack.

For starters, this supposed research ship is a weird, ultramodern pleasure palace of a ship, with modern art, mirrored tiles on the floor, a supposedly high-tech talking shower, and the most outrageously pornographic lamp any horndog of a guy has ever put in his bedroom.

Not to mention that bizarre talking fish decoration on the wall.  I know I’ve have torn it out after the first day or two at sea.

But even this only hints at the true weirdness here.  There are several scenes which never get explained — nor can they be, without breaking all the rules of this universe.  There’s the whole, unresolved question of drugs — maybe it’s just plankton, but then why is the only survivor they find mainlining the stuff?  Then there’s a lengthy scene where one of the girls tries to wash her hands in the high tech bathroom, only for the sink to malfunction, the toilet paper dispenser to spit out the entire roll onto the floor, the shower to turn on and off, and the overly sexy computer voice to spew out a non-stop foul-mouthed monologue the entire time.

Let’s see you explain that one with killer fish.  Or plankton.

There’s actually a fairly slow build up here as it takes quite a while to get on the ship, and we spend a lot of time with them just hanging around on the ship, long enough for the girl with the biggest breasts to take two showers.  It’s halfway into the film before we finally see the monsters, although there have been hints and monster cam throughout.  It actually works fairly well, although these scenes do go on a bit longer than they should.

But they obviously figured it would be a bit of a consolation to the audience if they kept all three girls in their beach clothes through the whole film.  Even after, I will point out, they all strip off and dry themselves, and take hot showers.

I mean, after all, the only clothes on board are men’s clothes.  Much better to put those wet bikinis back on, right?

We also get several scenes where the hero digs through the research records the crew left behind which prove to be bizarre and pornographic, supposedly about men having sex with fish or something of the sort.  Mind you, when he’s reading it off the computer screen (which is quite cool as it is apparently just a big transparent screen with no visible computer components inside it) we can see that it does not, in fact show anything that he is saying.

This, once again, defies any logical explanation.

Unless he’s hallucinating, I suppose, but he wasn’t the one shown taking the white powder.

But it really gets bizarre when the fish monsters finally show up, in a scene where a fish monster actually flies circles around the hero until someone shoots it out of the air with a harpoon gun.

Only it is flying around with no visible wings or big fins, at an absolutely absurd speed, with some sort of highly pixilated computer animation.  Or maybe they’re just cutting and pasting — or photoshopping — a picture of the fish.

Whatever it was, it is weird and cartoonish and completely unreal.

However, this is just the warmup and we finally get our real first look at the big bad when someone turns into a monster and the creature that emerges is insanely silly.

It is, in fact, the first of several monsters we see, each more ridiculous than the last.  They are a mixture of practical effects and somewhat crude stop motion animation and are both inventive and goofy beyond words, with colors that are far too bright and cartoonishly evil faces.

All this coming to a close with an over-the-top finale, featuring a goofy warning system we’ve never known the ship had before, telling us the ship was about to explode (although it had no way of knowing this); an unexpected nuclear reactor; and a last, completely expected, nihilistic surprise.

I don’t care if this is an Italian film…

Well, sort of.  Mostly.

It’s also sort of mostly a Florida Regional film.

You know, American crew, American actors, shot in Florida…

But whether it is an Italian film or a regional film, that isn’t enough to explain this film.  It’s full of all sorts of absurdities, like carrying out an attack on a room full of pickled fish.  It overflows with strange, ominous, sex-crazed dialogue, it somehow combines slick, ultramodern luxury; a ludicrous parody of modern high-tech conveniences; and a dark and scary basement, complete with rats and a total lack of visible lighting, in the very same ship.

It’s like a drug crazed fantasy, which has somehow grown so big and intense that even the audience is now completely stoned.  There can’t be a movie like this.  No one would make such a thing.  It has to be a collective delusion.  It has to be.

But the truly unsettling thing is that it isn’t.  And, what’s worse, the director, Alvaro Passeri, who created special effects for an impressive number of Italian films, including The Raiders of Atlantis, actually made Five movies.

And they are all just as maniacally strange as Plankton.

Good grief, it’s not just some collective hallucination, it’s one that lasted at least a decade!

And I’m not sure we’ve escaped from it yet.

After all, there are four more Alvaro Passeri movies out there that I’m going to have to watch!…

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4 thoughts on “Plankton [Creatures from the Abyss] (1994)

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