19th Oct2014

‘Damn Sea Vampires!’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Cassie Scerbo, Jonathan Lipnicki, Kevin Dobson, Brandon Beemer, Jaqueline Fleming, Jimmy Sweetwater, Lawrence Turner | Written by Brook Durham | Directed by Don E. FauntLeRoy

Damn-Sea-Vampires-DVD

After seeing Cassie Scerbo’s fantastic performance in Sharknado I made it a point to track down and watch anything new movie she was in, which coupled with the ridiculous new re-titling (this film originally aired on US television as Beasts of the Bering Sea), made Damn Sea Vampires! a must-watch. It doesn’t hurt that the film is also helmed by cinematographer Don E. FauntLeRoy – who cut his directorial teeth on two Anaconda sequels and a handful of Steven Seagal movies, including one of the star best post-2005 flicks, Renegade Justice (a personal fave).

Damn Sea Vampires! follows a family of treasure hunters: siblings Donna (Scerbo) and Joe and their father (Dobson), who spend their days dredging for gold beneath the Bering Sea. Having already lost a crew member, swiftly followed by their father, to a sea vampire attack; Donna and Joe join forces with a dedicated marine biologist (Fleming) and a loyal deckhand (Beemer) to take on the [literally] blood-thirsty creatures.

Arachnoquake had Bug Hall, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus had Debbie Gibson, Sea Beasts had Corin Nemec and Mega Piranha had Tiffany and, like many of these cheap and cheesy Syfy channel movies, Damn Sea Vampires! continues the same trend of bringing back former child stars in a leading role. In this case its a totally unrecognisable Jonathan Lipnicki (he of Stuart Little and Jerry Maguire), as Scerbo’s brother Joe, who – judging by his appearance – has apparently been buffing up during his leaner acting years!

This is yet another example of a movie following the Syfy channel movie formula (a group of strangers are thrown together against an unknown force) even down to the familiar soundtrack. However Damn Sea Vampires! sees everyone throw caution to the wind and instead of your usual killer sharks, giant octopuses or variants thereof, we get sea vampires – strange CGI-rendered creatures who look like  manta rays, but with human-like qualities and piranha-shaped faces – some of the strangest creatures to ever grace a Syfy channel movie: even moreso than the shark/robot or shark/octopus combinations we’ve seen in the past.

Unlike Sharknado, which walked a fine line between movie and spoof (and had a number of knowing winks to the audience to let them in on the “joke”), Damn Sea Vampires! takes things much more seriously. Which, frankly, in turn makes the film all that much more campier! I guess it doesn’t help that the titular creatures are some of the worse examples of CGI I’ve seen in ages, looking like a flashback to the early days of low-budget CG creature creation… Thankfully the terrible CGI is offset by the cast, who do a fantastic job with a very much paint-by-numbers script which seems more concerned with exposition than anything else.

Speaking of the script, it seems someone who worked on this flick is a fan of the same kinds of movie I am. First off there’s a ridiculous Alien-inspired chest bursting scene in which a baby sea vampire is birthed from the chest of Donna and Joe’s father. And if that wasn’t rip-off-worthy enough, there’s a number of deaths seemingly inspired by Don Coscarelli’s perrenial VHS favourite, The Beastmaster – as the sea vampires wrap themselves around their victims in the same way the strange winged man-eaters did in that 80s film.

Fair enough, Damn Sea Vampires! isn’t going to win over any new fans but if, like me, you love these low-budget creature features with a passion, then this is sure to please. The film is out now on DVD from Sony.

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