For the uninitiated (consider yourselves lucky), The Asylum is a movie production company that deals primarily in “mockbusters”. When a big franchise movie comes out, they’re nearly certain to have some a similar movie out, designed to confuse you in the Netflix menu. Looking for Transformers? How about Transmorphers? Can’t find Pacific Rim? You may enjoy Atlantic Rim. When they’re not making mockbusters, The Asylum spends it time churning out giant monster movies.
I never come out of watching one of these ridiculous Asylum movies with a clear understanding about how I feel about them. Since Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus showed up on Netflix a few years back, I have watched nearly every giant monster that becomes available to watch for free on the service. In adding it all up, I have invested almost 10.5 hours of my life into watching what is, at best, intentional garbage, spanning 7 full movies and the first 20 minutes or so of the unfinishable 2-Headed Shark Attack. I genuinely dont’ understand why I get excited every time a new one comes out. I have never come away from one of these movies dying to recommend it to everyone I know. I’m much more likely to forget the movie entirely by the next day until another sequel comes out.
There is novelty and boldness in this kind of C-level movie making. It’s not like you can drop into any old theatre and see a robotic shark enable its “amphibious mode” in order to roll through the streets of Australia. These movies present images that you have literally never seen before. Our social contract with The Asylum demands that we see something batshit crazy. That’s it.
What’s especially bizarre about this agreement is that anything else the movie does is prejudicially forgiven. When the movie accomplishes something positive, like a truly novel image, it’s a fun experience. When the other aspects of the movie fall short, like story, coherency, dialogue, or even a basic understanding of gravity, the kneejerk reaction is to rebuke any objections because “oh no, don’t worry, it’s supposed to be bad.” Watching these movies is an exercise in lowering expectations as low as possible in order to enjoy a few exceptional moments.
It’s also important, when approaching a movie like this, to distance yourself from the notion that your time is a valuable, limited commodity. Even if you do find yourself in a situation where you have 90 minutes to kill, you’re already in your pajamas, you’re broke, and there is nothing else in the world for you to do but watch a movie on Netflix, I can’t imagine many scenarios where choosing a movie like this is the best course of action. There are probably hundreds of movies that you have been told are amazing that you’ve just never made the time for. This is coming from a guy who has never seen The Shawshank Redemption but amazingly, I have still cut out a chunk of time to watch Mega Shark Versus Mecha Shark (plus the extra time to write about it).
I once had a co-worker who liked to flip coins in order to decide who would get to go home early. He would set up these elaborate, enticing variations on the coin flip and, invariably, if he lost, he would throw an even better sounding offer on the table. “Double or nothing,” he would say. “If I win, I leave right now. If you win, you leave and I buy you lunch tomorrow.” Damned if you wouldn’t know it, I never did end up going home early. I would always get sucked back in with his fancy concepts and that’s exactly what these Asylum monster movies do. I know, in my heart of hearts, that they’re no-good, terrible, cinematic lobotomies pandering to a stupid internal desire to see something absurd. But, I also know that I will find 90 minutes somewhere in my life if I ever see that Netflix adds a movie called Mega Shark Versus Bionic Millipede.
Dylan Clark-Moore is a podcast creator and blogger at NetFlakes. You can find him on Letterboxd and Twitter.
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Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark is also available from Amazon.