Is there a less successful subgenre among SyFy’s stable of schlock than the natural disaster flick?
I’m at a loss to remember a particular one that works; if you think cgi killer animals come off unconvincing and silly, then consider how large-scale destruction looks on a shoestring budget with novice animators onboard. It doesn’t help that usually even big budget counterparts to such nonsense are often less than engaging; Volcano, Dante’s Peak, and 2012 spring to mind. Into this fray comes the latest from the channel’s infamous Saturday line-up, Swamp Volcano.
Now, before you get carried away, cast any images you might have of crazy cajuns and cooked gators getting thrown about the bayou by underwater eruptions and cascading magma. That, in fact, would be having too much fun with the premise. Consider instead that Swamp Volcano’s alternate title is the less provocative and less interesting Miami Magma, and you probably have a better idea of what to expect.
That would be lame disaster sequences set against the backdrop of downtown Miami as erstwhile heroes like Rachel Hunter (yes, the model) and her sidekick Griff Furst race about trying to warn everyone and save the day. Opposing them is the too thin to even be a stereotype evil oil tycoon, Brad Dourif, and his equally dastardly minion Cleavant Derricks. I’m sure all of these characters have names but I either never bothered to catch them or promptly forgot them, a fact that may seem negligent unless you have seen Swamp Volcano for yourself. The only one I remember is the volcano, who I’ve affectionately nicknamed Wilbur.
Ok, so I’ve cheated and looked up Hunter’s character name, which is Antoinette Vitrini, if you can believe that. It seems her parents have either named her after a posh party drink or a posh Italian hair-care product. Anyway, Aquanet Martini is actually an subversive vulcanologist (really! Subversive!) who is shunned by her contemporaries for her theory that the Gulf was created by some massive, prehistoric volcano. Since this is a SYFY movie not only is her theory correct, but that theorized volcano starts acting up again after millions of years. Before you know it, we are trapped in the confines of a daffy plot that involves volcanic symptoms terrorizing Miami without ever seeming to really wreck the downtown, which is quite frankly, given the trajectory of the disaster, amazing.
I want desperately to like a movie called Swamp Volcano, but it just isn’t meant to be. The script is so intensely cliché that it almost seems plagiarized from other poor SYFY movies like Volcano in New York. The usual suspects are here, character-wise—there’s a young sister in peril, an ex-husband who happens to be a famous adventurer, and the aforementioned corporate baddies. I cared about precisely none of them, although the acting is better than one might expect. Dourif struggles valiantly to make his baddie interesting, but the bland seriousness of the script betrays his effort. The special effects and action sequences are phenomenally lame and are the biggest culprits to making the movie frustratingly boring. There’s the appearance of something called a steam tsunami which seems promising but then goes absolutely nowhere.
What more is there to say about Swamp Volcano? It’s been written by one of the usual hacks (Declan O’Brien, of the quite amusing Sharktopus) and directed by another (Todor Chapkanov). Even given adjusted expectations and a hearty enjoyment of bad movies, I still found it testing my patience greatly. When the film failed to provide suspense or entertainment, I looked for amusement and found none of that either. It isn’t so poorly mounted technically that its funny, and it’s not assured enough to be legitimate fun. Anyone who would turn on the television because the title Swamp Volcano caught their eye will also be similarly disappointed. It’s not just a waste of a few hours, it’s a waste of a fabulously dopey title. When your movie forces me to wish I was watching Kevin Sorbo fight sentient flames in a Jim Wynorski movie, you can chalk that up as an epic fail.
The good news here is that Rachel Hunter, who was passable in this, will be returning for Wynorski’s own Piranhaconda. Given the relatively low performance rate of these things lately, that one is shaping up to be the anticipated SYFY schlock to beat in 2012.