For the past year or so, RHI Entertainment has been releasing individual cheap creature-on-the-loose films on DVD under a banner called MANEATER SERIES. Most - if not all - of them have appeared on the Sci-Fi Channel, and fans of that station know the notoriously low quality of films that appear there.
Well, now RHI Entertainment has seen to gathering these movies in three-packs under a banner called MANEATER SERIES COLLECTION. Volume 2 collects the previously released Eye of the Beast, Grizzly Rage, and Croc. Each is reviewed below.
Eye of the Beast (**1/2)
This collection starts off with a 2007 creature feature called Eye of the Beast starring former Dawson's Creek star James Van Der Beek as Dan Leland, a research scientist sent to a remote fishing village in Canada called Fells Island to collect data on the fish population. It seems the local fishermen have fallen upon hard times in the industry, and tempers flare between the white and Native American populations. Leland becomes convinced there's a giant killer squid running amuck and together with local official Katrina Thomas (played by a likeable Alexandra Castillo), they muster up a couple of fishing boats to do battle with the squid.
I was surprised at how much I kind of dug Eye of the Beast. It's about as generic and run-of-the-mill as a giant killer creature film can be in terms of plot, yes, but Van Der Beek and Castillo are good leads. It helps that they're playing intelligent characters. The filmmakers wisely keep the creature mayhem to a minimum (mostly the occasional tentacle reaching out of the waters to grab someone) because these low budget films never seem to have convincing CG effects. A few location shots - including scenes outside Katrina's home - provide a good sense of the cold and remote location the film is set in. It's not a classic by any means, but as far as cheap monster movies go, this one was a pleasant time-waster.
Grizzly Rage (*)
The same can't be said for the second film in this collection: the snooze-inducing Grizzly Rage. This boring flick has four obnoxious teenagers trekking out to the middle of nowhere for some fun in their jeep. They're trespassing in a forested area and speeding along a dirt road when they smack into a bear cub and crash the vehicle. Mama Bear is pretty upset and wants revenge.
And that's pretty much the movie. For a creature feature, Grizzly Rage is amazingly inert. A good portion of the film involves the characters running around the woods and expressing their frustrations while the camera follows them. It's typical stalk-and-slash stuff. Of course, the cell phones don't have coverage, so the teens are left on their own. Every now and then, Mama Bear shows up (and it looks like a real trained bear and not CG) and roars. Her victims are flung through the air, screaming, but the "kills" are largely off-screen. Fake animated blood splashes are laid over the action to make it seem more horrific. A lengthy final run-around occurs after hours with lots of fake-looking lightning flashes and the conclusion is jaw-droppingly bad.
The third and final flick in this collection is the ultra-silly but fun Michael Madsen vehicle Croc. When it was released on its own, DVD Talk sent me a copy to review, and you can read my thoughts on this film here.
Ultimately, Maneater Series Collection Volume 2 has two okay time-wasters and one dud. With no significant extras, this doesn't seem like a must-have item in one's personal collection. Rent it, if you're really interested, or just try to catch these films some Saturday afternoon on the Sci-Fi Channel or Monsters HD.
All three movies are presented in anamorphic widescreen. The trailers and menus, however, are in full screen. The image quality is pretty sharp all around, with location shooting faring well in all three.
All three films have only one audio track: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Croc and Eye of the Beast, and Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo on Grizzly Rage. Croc and Grizzly Rage sound pretty good - although scores / rock songs seem a bit intrusive at times. Eye of the Beast had a weaker mix. It sounded okay, but I had the volume turned up about twice as loud as I would normally.
Croc has trailers for Furnace, Maneater, In the Spider's Web, and Blood Monkey that play automatically when the DVD is inserted. A trailer for the Maneater Series precedes the menu on Eye of the Beast and Grizzly Rage. There's no link to these trailers on the main menus of any of the films. In fact, the only menu options on each disc are Play and Scene Selection.
Eye of the Beast perhaps fares the best out of the three low budget creature feature films collected in Maneater Series Collection Volume 2, though it's not much of a horse race. With no significant extras, this collection of made-for-television quality flicks is a rental at best.