DVD Review: Dead Sea (2014, Dir, Brandon Slagle)

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In the pantheon of bad movies, believe it or not, there is such a thing as a good bad movie.

Dead Sea is not one of them.

Dead Sea is just bad with a capital B.

As a casual viewer and DVD collector to eventually realize you’re watching an unwatchable movie is disappointing, but as a reviewer it’s down right soul destroying when you then realize you have to watch it all the way through because you’re reviewing it.

I’m a freelance reviewer which means I search out the movies I want to review and try and secure a review copy rather than be in the employ of a site that demands you review whatever they send you or you’re out of a job. I have two sites I review for (You Won Cannes and The Critic’s Word) and God Bless them for allowing my two cents on their sites without any stipulations.

Like Clint Eastwood says in Magnum Force (1973), “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I love movies but I could never do what, say, Roger Ebert used to do. He loved cinema, the good and the bad, and reviewed everything. I’m extremely picky about what I watch. I know what I like, and I simply could not review a movie I have zero interest in. I know my limitations in the reviewing department and work with them the best I can.

Freelancing does indeed cut down substantially on the number of bad movies I see, but trailers and DVD covers are designed to get your asses into theater seats and to buy that eventual DVD or blu-ray of that movie. The trailer for Dead Sea was not overly impressive, but the conditions were right to get me to doubt my initial opinion of it. First off, I’m a big monster movie fan and Dead Sea is about a giant lamprey feasting on people in this California lake, secondly I didn’t notice any lame CGI monster in the trailer.

The clincher, however, was when I eventually came across the cover art for the DVD. As you can see that’s some seriously cool artwork and coupled with those other factors I went ahead and requested a review copy.

I don’t like writing bad reviews simply because everything I could ever say about a bad movie could be summed up in a single sentence, or a paragraph if I really pushed it, so when I God forbid have to pen one of these dreaded things I need come up with some padding for that sentence or that paragraph because no reputable site is going to publish a bad review that goes simply like this: “This movie is horrendous! This movie is the worst movie in movie history! Don’t buy it!”

The plot to Dead Sea is about a “serpent” living in a lake in a rundown little town. It appears every 30 years and feeds on anyone it finds in the water. The town’s people have known about it for a long, long time and when it re-appears they choose someone from the town to sacrifice to it. This is a solid premise for any movie. Very Lovecraftian. And Lovecraftian is always right up my alley. Unfortunately the execution of it in celluloid is botched.

The DVD cover would have you believe you’re about to watch something in the vein of Piranha (’78, ‘95 & 2010) except with a giant lamprey, when in reality you’re getting an angst driven drama about various characters in this seedy town with the creature feature angle shoved so far into the background you’d forget about completely if no one in the final act brought it up. And so far in the background it is there’s never any reveal of the “serpent.” You want a good look at the creature?

Again, go check out the DVD cover.

The human story is not intertwined well with the creature feature angle at all. For 39 minutes I kept wondering what the hell this movie is supposed to be about as the film just moves from what are supposed to be character vignette to character vignette with little to no connectivity at all. Not until this marine biologist is called in does the movie even start to show signs of life and begin to make some kind of rudimentary sense.

With certain unwatchable movies I can tell just by the way it looks that it’s going to be something along the lines of an endurance test to sit through. They way it’s shot, I mean. This movie looks like what it is.

It goes without saying most of the acting was wooden, with the exception of the actress who played the marine biologist who showed some flashes of innate talent.

In my life time I have seen two movies I deem the worst in movie history—Grim (1995) and Troll 2 (1990)—I have now seen a third, Dead Sea, which should be shoehorned in between these two, for Grim is the worst of the three. Dead Sea is now the second worst.

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