KRAA! THE SEA MONSTER (Michael Deak, Aaron Osborne, and Dave Parker, 1998)
Anyone who has seen the awful B-movies of yesteryear can attest that bad movies hold the potential of being great fun to watch. Why else would Ed Wood's body of work or the poorly executed genre pictures of fifty years ago still find viewers who laugh themselves silly at the chintzy effects work and wooden acting? Unlike the typical standard used to judge art--or popular entertainment if the "a" word seems too high-falutin'--formal ineptitude is essential to the enjoyment of these particular films. Ideally the makers intended to produce good films even if they were working in schlock. Most bad movies are ordinary. The "good" bad movies display that the makers were serious in the efforts. For example, the failed, self-conscious spoof THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA demonstrated that it's not funny when the filmmakers are in on the joke. The humor comes from conviction in incompetence.
I don't hold any illusions that KRAA! THE SEA MONSTER was made with the highest artistic intentions, but the makers of this low budget, straight-to-video GODZILLA-STAR TREK-MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS hybrid turned out a cheap knock-off without the winking acknowledgements, not as if that would have excused the movie's shoddiness.
Lord Doom (Michael Guerin, with the voice of Jerry Lentz) resides on the cold, dark planet Proyas. In an effort to acquire a home with a more temperate climate, he dispatches the two hundred foot tall monster Kraa to Earth. Once the planet wrecker for hire has wiped Earth clean of civilization, Lord Doom and his diminuitive minions will move in.
The Planet Patrol team
Earth's only hope is Planet Patrol, protectors of the cosmos with more than two thousand outposts in the universe. Station 1645's multicultural teenage crew discovers the problem and attempts to intervene, but cannons breach the station's hull and knock the systems out of commission before headquarters can be alerted.
The crew is able to contact reserve interstellar police officer Mogyar (voice of J.W. Perra), an Italian-accented, semi-aquatic creature that resembles a turtle if it just had a shell, a retracted head with a rotting flesh-like face, and hands. Mogyar doesn't have any weapons aboard his pyramid-shaped ship, but he has a plan to harness the power of some secret weapons in Naples. Unfortunately he mistakenly crash lands in New Jersey. A biker and a diner owner are willing to help Mogyar, but before you know it those pesky feds have detained them all. Meanwhile, Kraa continues his world-destroying rampage, and Planet Patrol works on repairing their station.
Without a doubt KRAA! THE SEA MONSTER is grade A crud. The inattention to detail extends to the typo-riddled credits. The story is so thin that it must have been written on tissue paper. The production values are mostly laughable, except for a daytime sequence with Kraa that turned out well compared to the city miniatures. The acting and dialogue is hokey, but how else could it be? These aren't seasoned performers reciting Shakespeare.
Released in 1998, Full Moon Pictures likely wanted KRAA! to leech off of Roland Emmerich's GODZILLA remake. (Kraa tears through an advertisement for the competition, if there was any question.) Strangely enough, with the guy in the rubber suit stomping on obvious miniatures, KRAA! is truer in spirit to the GODZILLA films than Emmerich's expensive boondoggle, not that KRAA! merits favorable comparison to those Japanese films.
Even without the shameless appropriations from GODZILLA, KRAA! is thoroughly derivative, borrowing from several sci-fi and fantasy sources. Lord Doom looks similar to Skeletor, behaves like Darth Vader, and opens the film with the line "revenge is best served cold," a mangling of a familiar Klingon aphorism. Planet Patrol is a generic blend of the STAR TREK crew and the Power Rangers. Their station resembles the Death Star. Director Alex Proyas' DARK CITY came out in 1998, which must have been all that was needed to name the dark planet after him.
So yes, KRAA! THE SEA MONSTER is a bad film that wouldn't deserve to darken a theater's screen or air beside bargain basement syndicated television programs. Yet it is eminently funnier,in that special "bad" way, and more watchable than CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS.
Alison Lohman as Planet Patrol member Curtis in Kraa! The Sea Monster
Normally I wouldn't waste my time watching something like KRAA! There are too many great films--or even mediocre ones--I haven't seen to make devoting an hour-plus to this junk worthwhile. Still, I was very curious to view KRAA! because it features the debut of Alison Lohman. She was outstanding in WHITE OLEANDER and MATCHSTICK MEN. I would go so far as to say that her performance in Ridley Scott's film was the best screen acting of 2003, be it leading or supporting, male or female. She's one to watch and can next be found in Atom Egoyan's WHERE THE TRUTH LIES. In her small role as Planet Patrol's psychic empath Lohman is unexceptional. (I expect the same is true in the 1999 sequel PLANET PATROL.) Considering the paucity of the material, this comes as no surprise. Reduced to delivering lame, overused jokes about Curtis' questionable psychic abilities, Lohman earns her first screen credit and adds an embarrassing curiosity to her filmography.
Aspiring performers should note that while this up-and-coming actress rose from an entry-level role to parts considered worthy of Oscar nominations, a quick look at the rest of the cast reveals non-starter acting careers. Candida Tolentino, who plays Lt. Able, has just one other minor credit on her Internet Movie Database filmography, although she is currently a contestant on the reality TV series THE REBEL BILLIONAIRE: BRANSON'S QUEST FOR THE BEST.
Koch Vision Entertainment presents KRAA! THE SEA MONSTER on DVD in the 1.33:1 ratio. I doubt this was shot in a ratio wider than this--it appears to have been composed for 4x3 TVs--but technical information is hard to come by on this title. It's a low budget film released as a budget DVD, so don't expect reference material. The video looks soft and has a grainy texture. All things considered, it looks okay. The 2.0 English language track cleanly presents the dialogue and sound effects. No subtitles are available. The DVD does have chapter stops. Ordinarily I wouldn't consider chapter stops a feature, but with a cheap title like this--I bought it for about $5--you never know.
Six Full Moon Pictures trailers are included. I wouldn't tell any parents that KRAA! THE SEA MONSTER makes good viewing on a family movie night, but content-wise it doesn't have anything unobjectionable for the kids. (The DVD box shows a PG rating.) The same can't be said for the trailers, which promote such titles as THE EROTIC HOUSE OF WAX and THE EXOTIC TIME MACHINE. Almost all of these trailers contain nudity. You have been warned.
I'm giving two grades for KRAA! THE SEA MONSTER. Obviously a film this bad merits Grade: F. Working from that assumption, it's more like Grade: C. Not a prime "good" bad movie, but one that has its moments.