Frankenfish (Review)


Tory Kittles as Sam Rivers
K.D. Aubert as Eliza
China Chow as Mary Callahan
Matthew Rauch as Dan

Two Sci-Fi channel movies in 2004 explored the dangers of Snakehead fish becoming gigantic and devouring people en masse. The first reviewed here was Snakehead Terror, and now we move on the the second entry on the Snakehead Double Feature, Frankenfish. Instead of being normal Snakeheads, these snakeheads are big because of Genetic Engineering, thus giving the Franken- part of the title a double meaning. (Frankenfish is a common nickname for Snakeheads, as they can walk on land for a limited time.) The traditional Sci-Fi channel elements are proudly displayed here as well, though in different amounts as the literal deluge of movies forces them to rotate in and out a few of the elements to make the films less cookie cutter, the results being similar to adding different colored frosting to identical cakes. The better cake is the cake with the prettier outward design. Frankenfish holds up better than the competition, though it is a tight race. At the end, there will be a chart for easy comparisons.

Right off the bat, this film gets us started with a Louisiana fisherman deep in the Bayou (in an area now probably flooded to high heaven by Hurricane Katrina) as he checks his traps, yet something is hunting him as well, he’s yanked into the murky water and only blood surfaces. We jump miles away, where Medical Examiner Sam Rivers is investigating a murder. An actual black person as a star? And it’s not Coolio? Color me impressed! Sam Rivers is send down to the small swamp town where the fisherman died to investigate his death, as they don’t take kindly to strangers there and Sam grew up in the community. Sam reluctantly goes, and they’ve recovered a small portion of the fisherman’s body, which is stored in a cooler and looks like someone went to town on him with a lawnmower. They quickly determine it isn’t an alligator, which I also like, and they didn’t need any super fancy CSI computer to tell them so, despite Sam being an actual Medical Investigator.

To travel to the scene of the attack, Sam is paired with Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Mary Callahan. They used an actual state agency for Louisiana instead of making up names, which gets them more bonus points. They also get bonus points for Mary Callahan being played by China Chow, as one of the hottest biologists ever. China Chow played Katie Zhan in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and was the best of the in-game girlfriends, as she let you keep your weapons after you died. That special ability will probably come in handy in this movie. There is no Hot Coffee Mod in place, so we don’t get a cheeseball computer sex scene minigame within the movie, though that would probably have spiced things up a bit. But with the enhancements she brings to the table, the Frankenfish are in trouble! It’s a four hour boatride to the scene, so China Chow does what any sensible babe biologist does, inexplicably switches into a bikini top. I am not complaining in the slightest. They run across a severed alligator head just floating in the bayou, left by the Frankenfish as a warning to other alligators. They don’t say this, but it’s my theory.

Sam and China stumble across local swampman Elmer, who’s catching catfish barehanded, a practice called “noodling.” He noodled himself a big one, and it’s currently chomping down on his gloved hand, as China observes. To which Elmer replies: “Some strange fellow stick his hand in your hole, wouldn’t you bite him?” He has a point. Elmer takes them to the local boathouse town, where the fisherman lived. His widow is a blind in one eye voodoo priestess, and she has a daughter named Eliza, who is visiting from the city with her white lawyer complaining boyfriend Dan. Elmer’s niece also lives there, with her husband, a white Rastafarian hippie goofball. The last member of the houseboaters is a tough guy with scars named Ricardo. Ricardo is someone’s brother, but no one is Mexican, though I think they are implying the Rasta-man is his brother. It’s badly explained, but will come into play later, so stay tuned to this channel. Voodoo Mama gives Sam and China some good luck trinkets of the Cajun kind, and they set off, first getting the movie’s required nudity out of the way by seeing Rasta-man and the Niece getting some rays in the buff. Elmer leads Sam and China Chow to where an abandoned boat is, left after a hurricane. The trouble with fish being scared happened just after the boat appeared, so they think it’s connected. Oddly, the boat appeared after a hurricane, and I saw this the weekend Louisiana was getting hit by the hurricane named Katrina. Hopefully there are no real Frankenfish chomping on citizens, because they aren’t going to even get a smart black guy and hot Asian girl boating in to check it out with FEMA these days.

Sam and China hop on the boatwreck, and after observing a few chopsticks, China determines the boat crew was Chinese. Only Chinese people would cook Chinese food! No one is on the boat, and all the equipment is dead, except for a piece that starts flashing after Sam messes with it but they don’t notice. A random Asian man in a random city notices, as a GPS machine he has lights up. He drives off, leaving the audience wondering what the crap? Some of the crew is still on board, but in pieces in the basement. Sam takes pictures as China vomits over the side. Time to leave, and China accidentally knocks Elmer into the water, which he laughs off, until something underwater grabs him and pulls him away, soon he is nothing but a bloody stain in the water. Sam and China get out of there as fast as they can, before they become dessert. Hey, back to the random Asian man. He gives the GPS machine to another random Asian man! Is this a relay race? Some Asian version of Hot Potato? No matter, Random Asian Man #2 (who is named Anton) calls up Jeff the White Hunter, telling him the merchandise has been located, and Hunter Jeff, wearing an open robe, says he’ll be down personally. Finally the Asian subplot is paying off, the boat was delivering Chinese food and it’s three months late!

Down on the Bayou, the remaining house boaters aren’t going to leave despite the Frankenfish attacks. Rasta-man and his nudist wife just want to live and let live. Voodoo Mama doesn’t like what is going on, because it’s evil magic. Ricardo doesn’t want to leave; he wants to kill the Frankenfish. Eliza’s boyfriend Dan just complains, as he does through the entirety of the film. It’s too late in the day for Sam and China to leave (what were they going to do beforehand? Camp out? They didn’t plan this through much.) Meanwhile, the Hunter name Jeff is dragging his tracker friend Ban, a random driver we never see clearly, and Anton the Random Asian #2 with him as he goes to collect his “merchandise.” Sam and China end up staying with Voodoo Mama and the family, and at dinner we find out Eliza had a crush on Sam in high school, Voodoo Mama tries to slip Sam some love potion tea, while Dan whines more, causing Eliza to run off, and China going to chat with her about how men suck. This non-exciting character development is dragging, so the movie kicks it up a notch. Rasta-man is on his boat, and sees something in the water. He leans over to get a closer look, like you should do when something is in the water killing people, and promptly gets his head bitten clean off! His wife freaks, and jumps into a small boat to escape by herself. Now, we got a fish that jumped way up and bit a man’s head clean off, and you’re trying to get away on a little dinky boat? I don’t think so, and neither does Frankenfish, as he snags the boat, knocking the wife, named Bobbi, overboard. By now, everyone has rushed outside to see the commotion. Bobbi is swimming to the houseboats, but a fin has surfaced chasing her down. Both Sam and Ricardo shoot at the fins, driving them back periodically, but at the last second Bobbie gets flipped out of the water by a Frankenfish and devoured. “It’s doing what animals do” says China Chow, just as the biologist in Snakehead Terror said. This snakehead is probably full of the Mary Jane after eating some Rasta-man, he should be so high he should be swimming in the air above the swamp.

The Frankenfish starts attacking every smaller boat in the water, trapping everyone on the larger houseboats. The survivors formulate a plan, to start one of the houseboats and drive off. It would be a good plan if the only houseboat that worked wasn’t the one where everyone just got eaten, and all the means to move between boats wasn’t just destroyed. There is a bucket line connecting Voodoo Mama’s boat to the Rasta-man’s, so they send Eliza over on that. The line snaps close to the end, drawing the Frankenfish’s attention. He strikes, but Sam shoots him just in time as Eliza scrambles aboard. This fish has been shot like ten times now, why does it still have the muscles to do giant leaps out of water? Eliza discovers the engine of the boat has been taken apart, and used for bong pieces. So no go on the go away by boat plan. Ricardo decides to set a trap himself, and uses some bait. The Frankenfish leaps aboard to devour him, but instead eats a mouthful of shotgun blast, as Ricardo sends the Frankenfish to swim with the fishes….wait, I mean to fly with the birdies. Anyway, it’s dead. Hey, that was pretty easy. I guess the movie’s over now, we can all go home…huh? It’s still going? Okay, but with the title billing star dead, not sure what will happen. Oh, Ricardo is cutting out the heart of the Frankenfish, and frying it up on a grill. This causes China Chow to laugh at how absurd the scene she is witnessing is, which would be my reaction, and gives this movie a neat bonus. Ricardo grabs the cooked heart, and takes a big chomp out of it, claiming it’s for his dead brother. I guess the Rasta-man. Or some other guy. No time to speculate, as the Frankenfish’s friend leaps out of the water and eats Ricardo! It’s like the Hatfields and the McCoys! I guess this also means the movie is still going, which is should since it’s around an hour in. The attack on Ricardo’s boat also knocks over the grill, setting the houseboat on fire.

By now, China Chow has figured out the fish is a snakehead, and she didn’t need some fancy CSI computer like the biologist in Snakehead Terror, just first row seats at a giant snakehead feeding orgy. Frankenfish attacks the Rasta-man’s boat, with Eliza hiding out on the roof. China Chow has a plan, but we don’t get to hear it, as the fire on Ricardo’s boat sets off his shotgun, which blasts China Chow in the face! Yes, as Dan whines: “The house shot her! This is INSANE!” Poor China Chow, doesn’t even get a good death by monster. At least her character proved too much for the Frankenfish to handle. Being shot in the face with a shotgun is not an uncommon fate of her girlfriend character in Grand Theft Auto when gamers get frustrated with her complaining that you’re simultaneously driving too fast and too slow. The fire also sets off a propane tank, which shoots into the air and lands on Rasta-man’s boat, causing the houseboat to explode with Eliza on top, she’s hurled into the drink. The explosion attracts the hunting party from earlier, who are now in Louisiana and have found the boat wreckage. Eliza managed not to die in the well rendered explosion, so Sam swims out to get her as the Frankenfish moves in. Voodoo Mama cuts her hand to put blood in the water to distract FF (yep, I’m not writing Frankenfish again, unless I forget and do it anyway, which I probably will.) The small cut distracts FF from the struggling bait in the water right in front of him, allowing Sam to get her to Ricardo’s burnt out houseboat. FF buzzes for Voodoo Mama, who is follows Dan up onto the roof of her houseboat, but unfortunately, only the top half of her body makes it.

FF isn’t going to put up with dinner hiding out on the roofs, so he damages both the remaining boats so they start sinking. Just then, the hunting party arrives in a fanboat. Sam tries to warn them something is in the water, and the group of four immediately get knocked into the water. They swim for houseboat safety, but the unnamed driver is instantly knocked into the propeller of the fanboat, turning him into Gumbo. See, normally I’d say he was turned into hamburger, but I wanted to give it a cajun flair to go with the location. That’s what I call “Good Writing!”

Okay, I’ll knock it off. Hunter Jeff comments that he paid for the FF so he could hunt something that’s never been hunted before. Now they are all being hunted by something that’s never hunted before, and it’s pretty good at the job. Jeff shoots several tranquilizers into FF, but they have no effect, and FF slurps up Anton. Sam manages to shoot FF with a flare gun, which drives FF off. Hunter Jeff gets on his fanboat with Ben and threatens to drive off, leaving the rest to their fate. They convince the hunter to take them with him, but he’s going to kill the FF before he heads out of the swamp.

Turns out it’s a trick taking them with them. The hunter and the tracker need a warm body as bait to send out ahead, and as Dan is a sobbing drunk, and Eliza is a woman, Sam is volunteered. They track the trail of blood in the water (the FF seem to lose gallons of blood with no ill effects, real miracles of nature. Sam is in the water now, with Hunter Jeff and Tracker Ben behind him. Sam finds FF#2, dead. Hunter Jeff then mentions that he paid for three of them. Soon Tracker Ben just starts freaking out for no reason at Hunter Jeff, and Sam doesn’t stick around for this, and runs back to the boat. FF#3 has some Tracker and Hunter lunch, then chases after Sam. Sam makes it to the fanboat, which Eliza has hotwired during their absence. They boat off at top speed, a giant mutant snakehead chasing after them. The Frankenfish keeps crashing into the back of the fanboat, causing Dan to fall off the boat. FF ignores him, and keeps his eyes on the prize, the fanboat. Sam gets a plan, and knocks off the cover of the fanboat’s fan engine, then drives the boat straight at an island, him and Eliza leaping off. FF#3 follows straight into the spinning blades of death, and keeps pushing forward despite being ground up into Bayou Burgers. See, I added some local flair again. It’s cool, man! Sam and Eliza are splattered with Franken-guts. It’s Franken-disgusting, yet Franken-awesome. The FF#3 is now dead, which means they are all dead. Sam and Eliza kiss, then head back to see if Dan survived falling off the boat.

Dan did survive, but has an unfortunately encounter with a shock ending: Frankenfish Babies! They’ll make your dreams come true, Frankenfish Babies, they’d do the same for you! Frankenfish Babies, they eat Dan like it’s going out of style, Frankenfish Babies, giving this film an easier to write sequel than Snakehead Terror.

So, Frankenfish is the superior giant snakehead movie, but not by a clear margin. Snakehead Terror succeeds in having a larger giant monster, and more smaller monsters, giving more kills. The characters are more likable in Frankenfish, and even the villains are more villainous, or annoying, just overall more quality in the cast. Sam is a far cry more likable than Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner, and China Chow runs rings around Lori Dale. The films manage to have many similar aspects, compared below:

Snakehead Terror Frankenfish
Cop: Sheriff Cop: Medical Examiner
Female Biologist Hotter Female Biologist
Love Interest (Biologist) Love Interest (Voodoo Daughter)
Hunters Hunters
Snakeheads shot Snakeheads shot
boat propeller kills fish boat propeller kills fish
Snakeheads outrun boat Snakeheads outrun boat
Exploding Boats Exploding Houseboats
Annoying Teenagers Annoying Neighbors
Cigarette Smoking Man White Rastafarian
They’re predators, they do this They’re predators, they do this
Growth Hormones Genetically modified
All the juice in town runs through here The house shot her!
Fish Electrified Fish BBQed
No Shock Ending Shock Ending

If you must see one Snakehead killer monster movie, see Frankenfish. Eat the heart of your enemy while watching, you won’t be disappointed. Just stay away from burning houseboats.

Rated 5/10 (Sticking it in the hole, Voodoo Tiki, Rasta-man’s favorite hobby, China Chow being hot, Victim Number One)

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