We may be creeping back towards some sort of normality after a year or more in various lockdowns but it seems that the world is still not quite right and that the natural order of things remains completely out of kilter. Allow us to present to you as evidence Aquarium of the Dead, the latest low-budget effort from Asylum Studios, shameless purveyors of cash-strapped mockbusters (Ape vs Monster being another recent effort, riffing on… well, we can’t begin to imagine) since the late 1990s. Aquarium of the Dead is piffle, of course, but it’s actually not bad and there’s a reasonable chance you won’t feel like shooting yourself in the head when the credits roll out of sheer embarrassment at having sat through the whole thing.
Directed by Glenn Miller (not that one) and written by Marc Gottlieb, Aquarium of the Dead takes us to a (curiously-deserted) aquarium off the coast of southern California. Here a couple of fish fodder fools… sorry, aquarium employees… are attempting to save the life of an ailing octopus. They inadvertently inject it with contaminated epinephrine (a link to previous aquatic Asylum efforts that have sadly passed us by) and the creature comes back to life, kills the two hapless employees and escapes into the aquarium’s air ducts where it spreads its bacteria to assorted starfish (seriously), crocodiles, sharks (inevitably), and even a dolphin and a walrus. Much shrieking and running around from assorted stereotypes trapped in the building ensues along with the usual obligatory shonky CGI. Aquarium of the Dead is knock-off nonsense (its release timed to coincide with Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead) but it has a strange charm all its own. Despite its budgetary deficiencies, it’s actually competently directed and actually looks like a film, not something thrown together in a warehouse and the acting is nothing if not enthusiastic (special mention for Madeline Falk, whose turn as Dr Karen James is hilariously over-the-top/just plain bad…you decide). Gottlieb’s script is refreshingly self-aware too; there’s a neat gag riffing on the Sharknado franchise, some decent character banter, and a scene where one of our heroes rages “I ain’t dying today” before… well, dying today. The effects are as bargain basement as ever but they get the job done, although a sequence where characters are attacked by static, motionless starfish isn’t quite as terrifying as all the on-screen screaming and panic might suggest it is.
Ultimately, we all know where we are with an Asylum movie. It’s fast food for the brain but at least Aquarium of the Dead is well-cooked and presented in a nice bun [sorry? – Ed] and is unlikely to make you throw up when you’ve digested it all. You won’t go back for a second serving of this particular dish but we’re betting you’ll be tempted by something on Asylum’s menu again sooner or later. Now, about Ape vs Monster…
Aquarium of the Dead is available… appropriately… on streaming services.