Aquarium of the Dead (2021) Flushes Away Excitement in Bland Creature Feature
Title: Aquarium of the Dead
First Wide Release: May 21, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Glenn Miller
Writer: Marc Goattlie, Michael Varrati
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Starring: Vivica A. Fox, D.C. Douglas, Eva Ceja
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Aquarium of the Dead kicks off with the accidental resurrection of an octopus with an experimental medicine that has been unintentionally administered to prevent its death. Unfortunately, not even a minute after its injection, the sea creature reanimates and instantly kills two veterinary technicians. Meanwhile, Miranda (Eva Ceja) leads a tour to Senator Blackburn (Anthony Jensen) and his assistant, Beth (Erica Duke) while her coworker Daniel (D.C. Douglas) leads another customer on a VIP experience of the facility. As the aquarium begins to succumb to the deadly infection that threatens to kill them and the rest of the workers at the facility. It’s up to this ragtag group of survivors, veterinarian Dr. James (Madeleine Falk), and the manager of the facility Clu (Vivica A. Fox) to find a way to escape lest they fall victim to the inverted food chain.
Aquarium of the Dead is a flaccid creature feature mockubuster that fails to live up to the gleeful stupidity of its premise.
So much went wrong with this film, I don’t even know where to begin. From its opening, the script is disorganized and incoherent. Carnage is already happening at the Shining Sea Aquarium but everyone no more than twenty feet away is blissfully unaware of it. The structure of the facility raises more questions than answers. Why does it make sense for the survivors to wander in endless circles underneath the facility only to retreat to the same room time and again? How are there no windows anywhere in this building? Surely, that can’t be up to code. The film never justifies how this could happen.
There’s always an explanation for why they can’t do something that seems like common sense. It makes the film feel longer than it really should be. Only some of the animals get infected and it kills the believability. If it spreads through the tanks why aren’t there shots of every creature trying to attack the crew. Do the writers even try and justify this? No, even the characters couldn’t be more in the dark on how animals that share the same water filtration system are infected at different rates and are only dangerous sometimes.
Surely no one is watching Aquarium of the Dead for its story or technical merits, right? Of course! It’s meant to be entertaining. The problem is, however, that it is not. It is littered with repeated movements and exposition dumps from flat characters with little to no investment in them. There isn’t enough tension or building of suspense. The action comes in steady waves throughout the film so there’s no reason to care about what happens next. The lack of movement just kills it.
These same characters run away from a threat that they can clearly see but the audience rarely gets to experience. The film must have been so cheap that they only could pay for five whole minutes of infected animal screen time. I’d say that the restraint helps make the creatures look convincing or menacing, but I’d be lying.
Overall, it’s a crime that Aquarium of the Dead isn’t fun because it absolutely should be a blast. Its sister film Zoombies, while still a mediocre film, at least makes an effort to create lively and captivating sequences with its shoestring production values. Over-the-top acting and silly death sequences dealt by enraged starfish or walruses can’t even evoke more than a chuckle.
There’s plenty wrong with Aquarium of the Dead but ultimately it commits the biggest of cinema sins by being a complete bore to watch. Between sluggish pacing, tepid action sequences, and cringeworthy acting, the film limps through its fun premise with all the intensity of a charging starfish. Bereft of laughs and thrills, its blandness overwhelms the product in a way that makes it the most generic of creature features. Do yourself a favor and go to a real aquarium instead of this toothless creature feature.
Overall Score? 3/10