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Protected: The Legend of Frankenfish Part 1

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Protected: The Legend of Frankenfish Part 1

Vernon T. Hightower

 

We all have our own personal legends. Stories that, in our own lives, stand out above the rest. They may even be a life-changing experience for you, but not even a blip on anyone else’s radar.

For me, and a few others (like our own Sean Herman, and maybe even internet celebrity Adam the Woo), the time that Friday the 13th Part 7 was filmed near my parents’ house is one of them.

From what I can recall, everyone knew they were filming a Friday the 13th film up on the delta. My sister, who was older than me, even knew some people that were involved. One of the local fish camps was helping the film crew out with boats and with getting around the little bayous and marshes of the delta, without getting stuck in the mud, or eaten by alligators.

I was around 10 years old when the News announced that the filmmakers would like to invite the locals up to where they were filming, to watch them BLOW UP A HOUSE.

My dad was all over that. Me? I hated loud noises, so the prospect of being anywhere near an explosion terrified me. Not to mention that Jason might be up there.

We loaded up the family truckster and rode the 2 miles up to Byrnes Lake. Byrnes Lake is a boat launch on the eastern side of the delta.

In my memories, it was cold that night. A lot of people were milling around. Mostly locals, but a few crew members from the film as well, wearing Friday the 13th varsity-style jackets (a friend of my sister still has hers).

Jason was nowhere in sight, and everyone else was leaving the next day. This was the last shot of the movie that still needed to be done.

A countdown began. The crowd and crew both counted down…

I couldn’t believe they were gonna blow up a house. I mean, a REAL HOUSE. It was huge. It wasn’t just a theater prop.

I held my ears when the crowd got to around 4.

When the house went up, my 10 year old heart soared. It was loud. It was terrifying. But it was also one of the coolest things I’d ever seen.

When Friday the 13th Part 7 came out, of course my parents rented it. Thankfully, they let me watch all kinds of stuff when I was a kid and I turned out, more or less, ok.

When the house blows up at the end, we knew we were there. And Part 7, aka “Carrie vs. Jason”, has been my favorite Friday the 13th movie ever since. Even as a kid, I recognized it as an action movie, and not a horror movie.

Anyway, about 10 years later another movie crew discovered Byrnes Lake and the delta as a great filming location. It’s a film that I didn’t even know was made near my parents’ house until about 2 weeks ago and it’s one that, I’m sure, plenty of locals have added to their own legends…

And that movie is, of course…

Our story opens with a quick prologue involving this guy here. I don’t know why every person who lives on the delta, or in the swamps, in movies must wear a straw hat like this.

I mean, I guess I get it. The filmmakers need for this character, and his location, to be established immediately because he’s not gonna get much screen time.

In other words, you know as soon as you see this poor chap, that he’s doomed.

Can I call’ em, or what?

Coming in with one of the best deaths in the movie, this guy tries to swim back to his boat with only one arm.

Whoever made this movie knows what people like: dismemberment.

And speaking of that, this is a fairly gory flick for a “Syfy Original”. It also has some nudity. This is only the second Syfy Original movie that I’ve seen (the other being “3 Headed Shark Attack“), but they both have tons of swearing, gore, and boobies. Are they counting on the after-market sales? Netflix?

There’s no way I can watch an underwater monster movie and not think of Jaws. I assume the filmmakers are the same. This shot is particularly reminiscent of it. Just when you thought it was safe to pull up your crab traps, right?

There’s a lot of “po’ man’s version of” actors in this movie. This poor man’s Martin Sheen (maybe mixed with a little T-1000) shows up and we meet the main character, Sam.

Sam is investigating a murder here, but Martin 1000 thinks he should drop whatever he is doing because someone got eaten up down in the bayou and the Cajuns down there won’t talk to outsiders.

The opening credits roll as Sam drives down to Byrnes Lake, past the USS Alabama.

…past the city of Mobile, Alabama…

…through the Bankhead Tunnel (which, headed this way and given the last couple shots, he must’ve had to turn around at some point)…

…which you can see here. A lot has changed since 2004.

Sam pulls up at Argiro’s late that night, which is only about a mile from the Bankhead Tunnel. Or was, before Katrina blew it away. I wish I could write a whole ode to Argiro’s, but that would delay the plot to Frankenfish.

In the movie, Argiro’s is where the local Sheriff’s deputies are stowing the body of our man from the prologue.

Yeah, they’ve got this guy on ice IN A DELI. Kids, now you know where corned beef comes from.

Sam wonders, “Who could have done this?” Judging from his facial wounds, the prime suspect could be the Joker. There’s no way a giant fish would take weird little linear bites out of the guy’s face. I guess some crabs may have gotten to him.

The next day, Sam meets up with a gal who works for Marine Resources, played by an actress named, no shit, “China Chow”.

The biologist tells Sam that they must go look for what is, probably, a bull shark.

Our heroes head out to find the culprit behind this heinous man-chewing.

This is on the north side of the Causeway that crosses Mobile Bay.

This is even further north than that. This is in the Tensaw river, I’m pretty sure. Very much a part of the Delta.

I really appreciate the shots like this in the movie. Not only are they beautiful shots, but they can really capture the isolation you can feel when out on the delta. You can’t hear any cars, there aren’t any planes flying overhead, and it’s even rare to pass another boat. You truly are deep in America’s Amazon.

And fortunately for Frankenfish, or other ne’er-do-wells, in the delta, no one will hear you scream… because there’s no one else around.

This is just another shot of the lovely rivers and swamps, as our heroes are still traveling up to the little bayou where most of the action takes place. There’s really only two filming locations. Neither of which we’ve seen at this point, so I felt like these establishing shots of the bayou were important to include because, unless you’ve been there, there’s no way you would know how far from civilization they are getting.

“Hey! What’s that?!?!”

“Just an alli-WHOA! His head is gone!”

“No problem, it’s just a rubber alligator head.”

They find an alligator that has had its head bitten off. In this shot, they are prodding it with a paddle, which serves only to prove to the audience that this particular gator head is made of foam rubber, not mud and gristle and a bad attitude.

The next person we meet is this Cajun, who is busy noodling for catfish. They ask him about the death of Winston and he clams up, but agrees to take them to someone who can help.

Noodling is something that seemed to catch on for awhile, right around the time this movie was made, but I guess people figured out that you can catch the same fish on a cane pole. And who the hell goes noodling fully clothed? Suspenders and all? I guess this guy. Boudreaux or Thibodeaux or whatever the hell his name is.

We’re finally led to the little bayou where the vast majority of the action takes place. Here amongst the Cajun castles. I know I’ve been where this is, and I assume it is near Byrnes Lake, but I can’t place it right offhand.I guess that’s another part of the danger of the delta. It’s easy to get turned around and lost if you aren’t paying close attention.

Disposable Victims #1 and #2.

This is definitely one of those movies where you get quickly introduced to a litany of future victims. It’s like an episode of Scooby-Doo, except instead of potential suspects, you just know they’re doomed to be gobbled up. And if it’s a lady, she’s there for some boob action AND to get killed.

Not to mention, what are these damn hippies doing up there on the delta anyway? The girl looks like she has a healthy meth habit to maintain, and the guy looks like he should be somewhere spending his trust fund on exotic drums. Neither of these things are stuff you can do on a houseboat in the swamp.

Next we get introduced to some other archetypes:

Hot Young Love Interest, Irritating Jerky White Dude, and the Wise Old Swamp Witch Black Lady.

Out of these, Irritating White Guy is definitely gonna get it, while the other two will probably survive.

They all roll off to search for a bull shark (which could actually be possible, at this point).

They stumble across what could be a small shrimp boat, but what is probably some sort of abandoned dredge boat. Either way, it is not what they say it is in this movie.

Meanwhile in New Orleans, an Asian guy gets a mysterious phone call and leaves wherever he is…

This shot is definitely in the French Quarter somewhere, but I can’t quite pinpoint exactly where. The horsehead hitching posts give it away. At least they filmed one place where it was actually supposed to be in the movie.

Aboard the dredge boat, our heroes find a plethora of latex cadavers to choose from.

“What happened here?”

“Looks like some people died.”

Instead of immediately reporting it, our hero (who works in law enforcement) takes a few pics and leaves the bodies there to rot even more. He doesn’t have time to waste on such paltry matters as a boat hull full of corpses! He has a bull shark to find! Or if these bodies are any evidence, or connected to the same case AT ALL, perhaps a peckish zombie?

Boudreaux Thibodeaux gets eaten Jaws-style. Pulled through the water. He has noodled his last noodle.

I bet this was pretty fun for the actor though.

“Oh no! Bummer! Let’s get outta here!”

VROOOOOOMMM….

The Yakuza gets a phone call. At this point, these guys’ involvement is still a mystery. However, given the title of the film, I suspect they may be dabbling in a little genetic engineering in order to create a superior race of atomic superfish!

Another Poor Man’s cast member here. Poor Man’s Freddie Prinze Junior learns of Boudreaux’s death. Although perhaps this is Rich Man’s Freddie Prinze? I’d probably rather be in Frankenfish than “She’s All That”.

You can kinda see them here, but this is the Voodoo Queen’s houseboat… complete with wicker Voodoo masks.

As you can see here, our hippy friends are upset about the death of their friend.

And they’re also naked. I told you there would be boobs! Hemp the world!

The Yakuza enlists the help of classic tough guy character actor Tomas Arana, and Poor Man’s Dr. John Popper. Apparently these guys make a living hunting badass critters in the delta. Granted, they’re in an airboat, with a gun, so I don’t really know how tough they could be considered, necessarily. Dr. John Popper probably hasn’t ever killed anything but a terrible blues record collection and a few poboys.

“Dude, I am so high. Hit this.”

I know it looks like they’re getting stoned, but they’re actually just passing a giant fish scale back and forth between them. China Chow is like, “Mercy me, that is a big fish scale!”

We finally get introduced to Ricardo, occupant of the third houseboat. His face is all scarred up and he’s clearly the loose cannon hardass of the community. Plus, he’s IN THE WATER. That’s where Frankenfish is! Is he crazy? Yes. And also brave, I guess. There’s a fine line there somewhere.

Gloria (the Swamp Queen) makes a gumbo. Of course. Freddie Prinze can’t stand the heat.

At this dinner, which sucks up a good 15 minutes of the movie, we learn that Sam and Eliza went to high school together, and that Eliza always had a crush on him. Our suspicions are confirmed and it is now destiny that they get together by the end of the movie. This also leaves China Chow open to being Frankenfish bait.

Just wanna point out here that they’re guzzling Coronas. Part of me actually likes this because, unlike in Treme where they would have you think everyone in New Orleans is hanging out drinking Abitas and eating Hubig’s (RIP) pies and Zapp’s, these folks are going the other way. South of the Border.

I have never seen anyone near the delta drinking Coronas, which makes this a fairly obvious case of product placement. They would probably be drinking something cheap, like High Life or Natural Light.

“Man, Boudreaux Thibodeaux died today. Guess I’ll get high.”

Right here I was almost expecting a sort of misguided drug trip kill sequence. Like he was gonna hallucinate a naked lady out on the water and walks towards it, but falls in and gets eaten. You know what I mean. You know you can picture the type of scene I’m talking about. The kind of scene where it’s painfully obvious that whoever wrote the scene has never done any drugs stronger than aspirin.

Instead, he sees a big fish in the water. I would probably do the same thing he’s doing here, minus the wig.How could one resist looking when you see a big fishswimming just underneath the surface? That thing could feed him and Misty for a month! Or they probably would rather have some quinoa, or gas station gumbo, depending on which drugs they are on at any specific time.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw an alligator gar. I was a kid down at our neighborhood boathouse on Bay Minette Basin, and one breached. Being as I was obsessed with Loch Ness, I thought for sure it was a monster.

Too bad for Trust Phund here, it’s not a gator gar under those waters…

Nothing like a solid decapitation, is there? Really. What else could you want from a monster movie? I know I’ve already said it, but the monster biting off limbs is the pinnacle of monster movie filmmaking, and it doesn’t get any better than the head. Especially when the body gyrates for a minute, spraying red corn syrup everywhere.

Misty Meth gets in the boat and takes the scenic route over to the next houseboat. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is that not an outboard motor? Who is manning the tiller? The ghost of Phunky Blues Tribe String Band Experience? Already? Probably not, as I picture his ghost still hanging around his own headless body and being really confused.

This is our first real glimpse of Frankenfish, who is the size of a Blue Bird bus, yet somehow surviving in the shallows of the delta.

He’s big enough, and strong enough, to flip a boat over, dumping Misty into the drink for easy pickin’s.

I can’t really tell what’s going on here, and that’s probably not a coincidence.

Suffice it to say, Frankenfish ate her, then immediately had to lie down.

The upside down boat of failed dreams of a hippie utopia up on the delta.

I took this screenshot to illustrate just how calm the cast remains, when a giant fish just flipped a boat over and ate the person inside of it.

That is one consistent characteristic of these Syfy Original movies: the remaining victims stay surprisingly calm, despite the extraordinary events unfolding around them.

I guess it would be hard to act really distressed by a director saying, “Now look in this direction and act really surprised.” Maybe that’s why they’re in these movies, and not in the blockbuster cgi festivals that dominate today’s cinema.

Here’s an underwater action shot of Frankenfish. I think.

Meanwhile, Eliza tries to get over to the hippies’ houseboat for some reason. I don’t even know what she could want from over there. Maybe they owe her some money. Seems likely. Or maybe she just wants to get her blaze on.

Instead of taking a boat over there, which has been proven not to work, or just jumping over there because the two boats are probably close enough to do that, she takes a bucket on a string. A bucket that goes between the houseboats that we haven’t seen until this moment.

Frankenfish leaps out of the water, and Sam shoots at him, or her.

Continued in Next Blog, Stay Tuned!