At some point the script for Eye of the Beast came across the desk of James Van Der Beek's agent, who then decided to pass it along to his client. Although I have no proof, I'm sure Van Der Beek started reading the script, put it down, and called his agent to ask, "Are you sure you didn't mean to send this to Casper Van Dien? He does garbage like this." And then Van Der Beek's agent said, "No, Jimmy, this is for you. They want you, baby." And even though he read the script, and thought, "This crap was so much better when it was Jaws," he had bills that had to be paid.
For anyone who has not seen Jaws, or the countless imitations that followed in its wake--be they good films like Piranha or crap like Grizzly--then there is a slight possibility that Eye of the Beast might seem like an original concept. But, for the sake argument, let's just assume that none of us are so cinematically illiterate that we haven't seen Jaws, or even The Beast, a made-for-television rip-off written by Jaws scribe Peter Benchley. And if that's the case, then this film--also made for the boob tube--will seem all the more glaring in its lack of originality.
Van Der Beek stars as Dan Leland, a scientist sent to investigate a small fishing town where the fish population has dwindled considerably. Now, if you can buy Van Der Beek as a scientist, then you will no doubt have the constitution to watch this entire film, because otherwise you will be rolling your eyes every time Van Der Beek says anything remotely scientific. But even if you are able to somehow accept good old Dawson Leery as a scientist, you're likely to have a problem buying into the concept of a giant squid stalking the waters of a lake. That's right, I said "a giant squid stalking the waters of a lake." It seems that the nefarious culprit that has been eating all the fish--and most recently any person who gets too close--is a giant squid that has eluded detection for decades, but has become so hungry that it practically swims to shore and gobbles up unsuspecting tourists. Of course, no one believes Leland when he suspects that it is a giant squid, accept of course for Kat Tomas (Alexandra Castillo), the Department of Fish and Wildlife cop who once saw the deadly creature (after it killed her father in front of her eyes), and who takes an immediate liking to our dashing scientist hero. No one believes Leland or Kat about the giant squid, which only adds to the already boiling racial tension between the Native American fishermen and the commercial fishers, all of whom are going broke because there's no more fish to catch. But thankfully, the squid attacks one of the "bad guys," which makes it possible for him to change his mind and help Leland hunt and kill the deadly cephalopod.
Honestly, if I had known that Eye of the Beast was a made for television film, chances are I would not have bothered watching it. But I didn't known this, and was instead suckered in by the DVD case, which features a painting of a ferocious looking squid crushing a man so hard his guts are exploding all over the place. That was the film I was hoping to see, 'cause you can't really go wrong with giant squids crushing guys so hard their guts explode all over the place. Unfortunately, there isn't really any of that in the film. In fact, the film is low on gore, and aside from a bit involving a very fake looking tentacle getting severed, there isn't even anything that comes close to making you squeamish.
Perhaps the only thing worse than B-movies devoid of much in terms of even the lowest of low brow entertainment is a made-for-television-B-movie devoid of much in terms of low brow entertainment. Eye of the Beast is not a stab-yourself-in-the-eye piece of garbage, but it is not something that really warrants the cost of renting it on DVD. If it were on television, with commercials to provide welcome distractions, then it might be a not-so-total-waste-of-time. But as something you would voluntarily pay money to watch, and consciously put in your DVD player, and then sit and watch, it is not worth your committing to.
Eye of the Beast is presented in 1.66:1 widescreen. Shot on hi-def video, the picture quality is good, but the lighting is flat and the color design is washed out, giving the film a drab look that can best be described as "lifeless." The clarity of the image, mixed with the blandness of the picture, makes for an unfortunate combination that results in the fake squid looking even more fake. Perhaps if the filmmakers had gone out of their way to make the picture look a bit worse, you wouldn't notice how bad the monster looks.
Eye of the Beast is presented in stereo. The sound mix isn't that good, and the audio levels are very low. You will have to crank it up to hear the dialog that's not really worth listening to. There are no foreign language tracks or subtitles, but there is closed captioning.
There are no bonus materials.
If you were at home, and Eye of the Beast came on television, and you couldn't find the remote control to change the channel, and both of your legs were broken so you could easily get up and turn to something else, then I would recommend this film. Otherwise, I would have to say there are much better ways to waste 90 minutes.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]