October Horrorshow: Razorteeth

Regular readers of the Horrorshow and Shitty Movie Sundays will know that I have an appreciation for John and Mark Polonia, the twin brothers behind shot-on-video gems Splatter Farm and Hallucinations. Those flicks were a combination of amateurish and sublime that is hard to fathom without actually seeing it. Their relentless love of filmmaking, horror movies, and their ability to work on the cheap kept them employed in the movie business. But, actual growth as filmmakers, and in particular, storytellers, is something that is sorely missing from their oeuvre. As time marched on, the efficiency of their movies seems to have superseded all else. Almost twenty years on from Splatter Farm, 2005’s Razorteeth lacks all of the charm and intensity of the early movies, and continues a pattern of absolute bottom-feeding filmmaking.

Written by John Oak Dalton and John Polonia, and directed by John and Mark, Razorteeth is a ripoff of Piranha, only without the humor, gore, suspense, decent acting, or, in the case of the remake, gratuitous nudity. What it does have are some people speaking lines, and some freeze-dried piranha that cast members pretend are biting them.

Filmed in and around Cheat Lake, West Virginia, the piranha in Razorteeth are a government experiment gone awry. They were being transported by plane, when the plane crashed in the lake, freeing the captive piranha to prey on locals and guests at a nearby resort. The government, in a fit of damage control, sends an agent to the area to investigate, destroy the fish, and, if necessary, liquidate any witnesses.

That short description implies that there is a coherent story to this movie. There is not. There are characters that have roles they play in the drama, but the Polonias’ storytelling and pace is such that the most any character does in this movie is wander in and out of Razorteeth DVD boxthe story in set pieces so somnambulistic it’s hard to pin down where they begin and where they end, except in those instances when a piranha shows up.

Most of this is down to a bizarre feature of this movie’s construction. Most of the dialogue scenes, by a wide margin, consist of two characters who never appear on screen together at the same time. By that, I mean most of this flick’s 75-minute running time is medium close ups of single characters. Character A will be speaking to character B, with only character A in the shot. Then the shot shifts to character B speaking, with character A nowhere in sight. Rinse, and repeat. This even happens in death scenes, where character C is getting chomped in the legs by a piranha, and then a different shot shows character D watching the struggle, and then the shot cuts back and forth until character D is dead. It’s unbelievable. I can’t think of another movie that depended so completely on such a basic and unimaginative filmmaking style.

Like some of their other movies post-1980s, there were opportunities to hit audiences with gore, and they chose not to. In a film about ravenous, carnivorous fish engineered by science to be deadly, it’s an inexplicable omission. The gore junkies of Splatter Farm are nowhere to be seen. All we viewers get is a little fake blood and some thrashing around from victims. It’s sad. I know for a fact that the Polonias from the 1980s would have filmed a piranha swimming up a toilet pipe much differently.

I hate seeing filmmakers who had shown so much life in their younger days turn in such an uninspired movie. I know they are capable of much more.

In explaining this category’s name to people, I often say that a ‘shitty’ movie is a style as much as it is a criticism. Not all shitty movies are bad, but all bad movies are shitty. Razorteeth is so bad that it’s hard to take joy out of the funny stuff, and it’s there. The Polonias used the waiting room of a doctor’s office as a location for a hotel lobby. Then the clerk hands a guest a set of car keys from a Toyota as a room key. This isn’t hard to make out, either. They gave us a closeup of the key. My personal favorite moment of mirth was the plane crash. The Polonias used a miniature, of course. What I didn’t expect them to use for the miniature was a toddler’s toy airplane. I blew a snot bubble when I saw that.

Still, it’s not enough to make up for the deep disappointment that is Razorteeth. It falls way down into the nether reaches of the Watchability Index, where eyeless salamanders and other nocturnal creatures scurry about in the dark. Razorteeth takes over the #449 spot from Paranormal Investigation. Stay away from this one, folks.

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