As I’m sure you are aware, “Dawson’s Creek” was an award-winning, prime time teen drama that aired from 1998-2003. The previous sentence is about as far as I will go into discussing the show as I have never watched a single episode and have never had much of an interest in doing so, and any additional information provided would be sourced directly from Wikipedia.
For whatever reason, the fame that the show’s success bestowed upon its young stars has seemingly passed by like clouds in the sky, faster for some than others. That’s not to say that these actors and actresses don’t still get work, but just that they don’t receive the juicy roles and media attention that they once may have. Which leads us to today’s movie…
Eye of the Beast is a 2008 science-fiction film made for the Sci-Fi Channel or whatever the Hell they are calling themselves now. The film was directed by Gary Yates, who has directed numerous made-for-television films, including a couple other mid-2000’s SyFy films, as well as a shit ton of those cookie-cutter Hallmark Christmas movies that my mother-in-law loves so damned much. The film stars “Dawson” himself, James Van Der Beek
Van Der Beek plays oceanographer Dan Leland, who is sent by the government (NORA) to determine what has caused the fish to become depleted from the waters surrounding Fells Island, a small, fictional fishing community located in the Manitoba region of Canada. Most of the locals are quite displeased by Dan’s presence in town, including the particularly hostile captain who is forced to take Dan aboard his fishing boat in order to conduct his research. He, like the other locals, believe that Dan will find some reason to close down the fishery.
The only friendly face that Dan encounters is that of Kat Tomas (Alexandra Castillo), the town’s newly-appointed sheriff; “newly-appointed” only a week or so prior, as the previous sheriff met with an unexplained demise. Dan isn’t particularly friendly himself, even going as far as saying that he’s not here to help the town. Whether he actually has any intentions of helping or not, Dan’s arrival in town couldn’t have been any more perfectly timed, as a teen couple has gone missing from the previous evening.
We, the viewer, know that these horny teen lovers were, in fact, attacked by a large lake monster, its large tentacles crushing their boat. The creature isn’t much of a secret, although most people believe it to be nothing more than myth; a local legend that has become the town’s claim to fame. The legend manages to draw a few tourists, including one particular family with a young son who vocally challenges the creature’s existence. He begins to question this skepticism once his father goes missing during a stroll along the lake shore.
Dan sets sail aboard the vessel of Capt. Gunner Thorson (Arne MacPherson – Population 436, Wrong Turn 4), whose crew may be even more cantankerous and callus than he. These men blame the local Cree fishermen for depleting the waters with their nets. As such, they also tend to be a little distrusting of Kat, who is half-Cree, as well as the cousin of the captain of the Cree fishing vessel.
During Dan’s trip with Thorson, the teen boy is found floating alongside the shattered remains of his boat. The boy is pulled aboard, mumbling nonsensically about a monster before succumbing to hypothermia. Dan recovers a few pieces of the debris and notices a series of circular marks on them, similar to those left by the suckers of a large squid. He takes a few pictures before storing them in his bag. However, the pieces are soon stolen by one of Thorson’s crew.
Soon, body parts begin washing ashore, including the teen girl’s severed leg and the missing father’s mutilated torso. Dan has little recourse but to have the lake shut down until more research can be conducted, which understandably angers the townsfolk. However, his attempts are shut down by his own bosses, who (thinking he has lost his mind) not only deny his request for aid, but order him to return home and to abandon this project under threat of having his employment terminated and professional reputation ruined.
While drinking away his sorrows in the local bar, Dan is informed by Thorson’s bartender wife that the town generally believes Kat to be crazy after claiming to have seen the monster squid as a child. While later confronting the woman with his orders to return home, Kat breaks down, revealing that she not only truly saw the creature kill her father many years prior, but that she has admittedly become quite obsessed with the subject. Despite the woman’s convictions, Dan tells her that he will need more proof.
That proof is soon obtained, leading to Dan, Kat, and both Thorson’s and the Cree’s fishing crews setting out to hunt down and kill the giant squid once and for all! As one might expect, most of this ensemble are picked off one-by-one before the the creature fully reveals itself for the film’s final confrontation. However, when the creature does finally reveal itself in earnest, it fails to have much effect. Not because of any failings in the CG used to create the monster, but mostly because the thing just kinda sits there looking more “sad and pathetic” than “angry and menacing”.
Acting performances are overall respectable, possibly above average by SyFy movie standards. As the film’s star and lead, Van Der Beek is never required to do much more than help keep the story progressing, and in these regards succeeds. Then again, as there’s not much emotional depth or any elaborate action sequences required by the role, there is some argument that most any non-descript character actor could have handled the role just as well. This is not a diss towards James, nor is it really one against the screenwriter(s). Just an observation.
There’s enough on display in Eye of the Beast to inevitably lead to comparisons with Jaws. This is the case for most aquatic monster films. However, when you send a sheriff, an ornery boat captain, and a guy who studies aquatic life out to kill that monster, it’s understandable how one can accuse Eye of the Beast of straight up copying the blueprint. This said, unlike a lot of other films that claim to be “inspired” by Spielberg’s blockbuster, the only copycat scene or blatant “nod” to the 1974 classic is that the first victim in both films share the same name, “Krissy”.
Needless to say, Eye of the Beast is nowhere near the caliber film that Jaws is. Hell, it’s not even on par with Jaws 2. If it were, there would be more horror websites talking about the film and not just some outlier like Horror And Sons. What it is, overall, is a generally well-made film that, unfortunately, lacks any real sense of exhilaration or excitement. It’s not the worst way to spend a lazy Saturday night at home, but I’m sure you could find numerous better options. At least this one is fairly safe for the kids. Seeing as how James Van Der Beek has like 18 kids now, he can enjoy this film with them.