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Film / Frankenfish

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Frankenfish is a 2004 horror film by Mark A.Z. Dippé, the director of Spawn and starring Tory Kittles, Mark Boone Jr., and Muse Watson.

In the film, when the body of a man is found decayed in the swamps in Louisiana, medical investigator Sam Rivers is assigned to investigate the murder. He travels with the biologist Mary Callahan to the location where the victim lived in a floating house, and he meets the victim's family and friends. Sam and Mary find that Chinese snakeheads, genetically engineered and belonging to a wealthy hunter, are attacking and killing the locals. While the group fights to survive, the hunter Jeff arrives with his team to hunt the predators.

The film includes the following tropes:

  • Asshole Victim: Eliza's boyfriend Dan. Seems to be the only reason for him being part of the cast. Also, Jeff and his hunting party. The audience probably didn't really object when Eliza planned to rescue Sam and ditch Jeff to his fate.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted almost completely, or arguably even rendered irrelevant. The very first film character we see is a black dude who promptly gets eaten - But that's meant to be a cameo role and anyone regardless of race can play that. Not only that, the main cast is actually pretty diverse with a good mix of white, hispanic, asian, and black actors. Elmer, a white guy, is the first of the main cast to die and in fact the only two survivors are Sam and Eliza (both black).
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Mary dies - see Necro Non Sequitur below. This makes her the only cast member to be killed by something other than the snakeheads.
  • Bury Your Gays: Although her actual sexuality is left ambiguous, Mary makes some not-so-subtle suggestions to Eliza at one point. Needless to say she doesn't live to see the credits roll. Averted for Eliza herself who, despite apparently having experience in that department, survives to the end.
  • Covers Always Lie: The DVD cover strongly implies some romantic or at least sexual involvement between Sam and Mary. Nothing of the sort ever happens; not even remotely. Sam also never gets a Walking Shirtless Scene (Mary on the other hand does get her partial Walking Swimsuit Scene, fortunately).
  • Deep South: The story takes place in a swamp in Louisiana. No rednecks to speak of, but more than enough loony folks to make up for it.
  • Dirty Cowards: When their local guide accidentally falls into the swamp and gets carried off by an unseen assailant, with his upper body still above water and screaming his lungs out, Mary and Sam don't even attempt to go after him. Sam just points his handgun for some heartbeats, they uncouple their boat and bail on the poor sod without looking back. These are the main protagonists we're talking about, mind you. Bonus points for Mary being the one responsible for the guy going overboard in the first place.
  • Dwindling Party: Only Sam, Eliza, and Dan are still alive in the end, however Sam and Eliza are more or less the confirmed survivors while Dan is already in the process of being devoured by many of the monster snakehead's babies, so his hopes of survival are probably slim to none.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Jeff. He's the whole reason the genetically engineered snakeheads even exist in the first place.
  • Expy: The movie feels like a slightly more serious Tremors in a swamp setting, so naturally there would be comparisons between the cast.
    • Sam (Tory Kittles) mirrors Val (Kevin Bacon) as The Protagonist. Him killing the final snakehead even resembles Val's killing of the final Graboid!
    • Mary (China Chow) and Eliza (K.D. Aubert) are Decomposite Character of Rhonda (Finn Carter), where Mary provides background exposition with the movie's settings while Eliza is the potential love interest for the protagonist.
    • Ricardo (Raoul Trujillo) is obviously a thin-veiled copy of Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) given his bravery and weapons.
  • Fan Service Extra: The prostitute/escort who was giving Jeff an offscreen blowjob, and arguably Bobbi. For instance, if the movie is trying to establish Jeff as someone with vices, it could have just shown Jeff picking up the phone next to a bottle of booze and it would have freed up a little movie budget for other more important moments. Similarly, establishing Roland and Bobbi as a stoner/hippie couple is sufficient if they are just meant to be one-dimensional characters fated for the Sacrificial Lamb treatment.
  • Fiendish Fish: The group of oversized mutant snakeheads terrorizing a small village and fishing community in the bayou.
  • Flat Character: No-one in the cast gets more than the most basic introduction and background, much less Character Development. That Sam and Eliza went to the same school and both had a secret crush on the other back then is as far as it gets.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Most, if not all of the characters that were killed off did not have a lasting impact on the rest of the survivors - regardless of the prior relationships established. The deaths are written merely to showcase how dangerous the situation is, via a Dwindling Party. Notable ones are:
    • Eliza immediately agonizes over her mother Gloria's death, only to seemingly forget about it for the rest of the night. It is believable when she's still struggling to survive her ordeal, but not so much when she's all smiles and kisses with Sam right after the last monster was killed off...
    • Other than contributing to the movie's exposition as well as a little fanservice in the first act of the movie, Mary's character adds no further value to the plot afterwards. At least Eliza's whiny boyfriend served to annoy the other protagonists, but Mary did or said nothing else of any interest. The writers seemed to at least subconsciously agree with this, and so she was killed off unceremoniously. To add insult to injury, Mary wasn't even killed by the monsters but from a firing shot triggered by an accidental explosion, and true to this trope, like the rest of the casualties she's just as easily forgotten by the survivors.
  • Franken-X: The movie title, obviously.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: This is Gloria's hat. It was implied that she put a love potion in Sam's tea in an attempt to bring her daughter Eliza and Sam together. Sam later made a Brick Joke at the end of the movie, admitting that he didn't really drank Gloria's tea.
  • Jerkass:
    • Dan did nothing much but quarrel with his girlfriend Eliza and also whine about his later predicament throughout the whole movie, before becoming the final Asshole Victim in the ending.
    • The hunters in general, but almost all of them are one-note characters so it's hard to tell whether they are intended that way. In particular: Jeff only cares about hunting the monsters - regardless of the casualties he's indirectly responsible for, and while he rescued Sam, Eliza, and Dan from the sinking houseboats, later on he forced Sam on gunpoint to help him capture the final snakehead.
  • Karmic Death: Jeff paid a lot of money for a bunch of genetically engineered monster fish so he could hunt something that's capable of putting up a fight to make it more interesting. Three guesses how that ends for him, and the first two don't count.
  • The Load:
    • Dan, Eliza's boyfriend, is the most obvious case. Other than loudly whining about his predicament, he never helped the group in anyway. Without him around, it would not have changed the outcome of how the other characters survived/died!
    • A less obvious example would be Mary. Her primary role in the movie is expository, meant to explain the dangerous situation that the protagonists will be in. While far from as whiny as Dan, her usefulness to the plot ends right after the protagonists became fully aware of the dangers, and for the rest of her remaining dialogue she's either Developing Doomed Characters or making Captain Obvious analyses of what's going on.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: How the last snakehead eventually bites it - by jumping straight into a swamp boat's rear propeller.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The entire female cast qualifies.
    • The two hot blondes that show off their ample racks at several opportunities. One is the prostitute/escort who was with Jeff, the other is Bobbi, the female half of the hippie couple in one of the houseboats.
    • Eliza had a moment of Toplessness from the Back when she put on a new shirt. Funnily, a later scene unintentionally exposed her bra underneath that same shirt, making this a mild continuity error.
    • While the topless women are undoubtedly the most egregious fanservice moment in the movie, Mary's (played by China Chow) mild fanservice moment early in the movie did nothing for the plot either. There's no good reason for her to be a bikini while she's doing serious work in the swamp. In a mild subversion of this trope, none of the other characters commented on her dress nor do they mention anything related to her physical appearance.
    • Even Eliza's mother Gloria, though blind in one eye and the eldest by far, looks pretty good for her age.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The snakeheads. Just look at the page image (the middle part this time).
  • Necro Non Sequitur: The main action takes place on houseboats; through a complicated series of events there ends up being an unoccupied houseboat, on fire, with various weapons laying on it. Just as one character on another houseboat starts explaining how they have a plan to escape, the heat from the fire causes one of the guns lying on the deck to cook off, shooting that character in the face.
  • Nice Guy: Gloria is the friendliest and most generous character in this movie, and is pretty amiable to everyone despite still mourning her husband John's death. She gave the other characters voodoo charms in hopes to ward off the unseen danger in the swamp, even inviting Sam and Mary to stay for dinner. This sparked off the movie's 2nd act where the snakeheads began attacking the houseboats.
  • Recycled In Space: It really feels like a straight-faced take on Tremors in the swamps.
  • Sequel Hook: The fish have babies!
  • Smooch of Victory: Sam and Eliza after the final snakehead's death - Right after the night when Eliza went through the trauma of seeing her own mother and the rest of her neighbors killed by the swamp monsters, and not to mention still presumably mourning after her father was killed a couple days earlier...
  • Stress Vomit: Happens to Mary after she and Sam discover the remains of the Chinese boat crew that brought the snakeheads into the swamps, complete with Vomit Indiscretion Shot.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Despite the monsters' prior experience with injuries from hunting the human protagonists, who possess the advantage of being out of water and are armed with deadly projectile weapons, thus making them comparatively more dangerous than an alligator, the monsters continued risking their own wellbeing with human prey instead of giving up in favor of easier ones. Other than dropping the "genetically engineered" term, the movie never tried justifying these snakeheads' unpredator-like behavior.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Virtually every single decision that's made in this movie is Face Palm-worthy. Given that the film doesn't take itself too seriously, it's probably intentional. In particular:
    • If there's indeed the sudden presence of a dangerous beast prowling the swamp, the first logical thought would be to find appropriate ways defend oneself - just in case. The protagonists however, dallied around until one of the characters was seen killed in front of their eyes. No, the neighbors are still not banding together with weapons to prepare for the worst. And what did Sam brought with him after initially seeing the gruesome aftermath of the monster attack? Just himself and a gun which is of limited use against underwater creatures.
    • Despite the monsters demonstrating more than once that they can jump out of water to kill, the characters stayed near the edge of the water more often than they had to, exposing themselves to unnecessary risks. Not only that, no one thought of the possibility that there's more than one of these giant snakeheads - Namely Ricardo's biggest mistake.
    • Jeff, a supposedly experienced hunter, chooses to leave the boat and enter the water, putting himself at a tactical disadvantage, so as to capture the biggest and strongest giant snakehead, despite the group barely surviving earlier encounters while they are ON boats.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: A very loose creature horror adaptation of a real-life incident with Chinese snakeheads brought in from Asia that happened in Crofton, MD.
  • Won't Do Your Dirty Work: Being forced into helping Jeff capture the final snakehead, Sam initially goes along with it until the other hunter who is accompanying Jeff was killed by the beast. Sam immediately backs out despite Jeff's gun pointing at him, wisely reasoning that he would be dead either way. Jeff realizes he's right and retreats as well, although by then it was seconds too late for him and he got devoured as well.