Barracuda (1978)

You can almost hear the screams! As the water below becomes a churning deathbed of flashing tearing teeth!

Year of Release: 1978
Also Known As: The Lucifer Project, Barracuda: The Sea Horror
Genre: Horror
Rated: PG
Running Time: 95 minutes (1:35)
Director: Harry Kerwin, Wayne Crawford


Wayne Crawford ... Mike Canfield
William Kerwin ... Sheriff Ben Williams
Roberta Leighton ... Liza Williams
Cliff Emmich ... Deputy Lester
Jason Evers ... Dr. Elliot Snow
Bert Freed ... Papa Jack
Harry Kerwin ... Goverment Agent #1
Rick Rhodes ... Goverment Agent #2


The quaint seaside town of Palm Cove is home to upstanding citizens, gold ol' fashioned southern hospitality... and a deadly rash of barracuda attacks. The town sheriff and a young marine biologist join forces to discover that the culprits are none other than the local chemical plant and its odious managers... but little do they know that the scheme runs much, much deeper.


Barracuda, remindin' us that, while there may be plenty of fish in the sea, not all of 'em are gonna make good fellatio partners. Guy can end up with an unsolicited Prince Albert piercin' real easy these days if he ain't careful. Course, women never have to worry about this kinda thing happenin', an there's a coupla reasons for that. One, there's really no incentive for a guy to try to dentally castrate a woman cause no woman considers 'er clitoris to be a point of pride that's used to measure 'er self worth, an second, most guys couldn't find the thing even if she had a map shaved into 'er pubic hair anyway. Matter of fact, there was a time where this was such an epidemic that they offered classes over at the Naughty Pine Community College on how to find it, til somebody recognized one of the nuns from the convent as the instructor an we had to throw 'er in the back of Mark Skidman's '68 International an dump 'er at the county line so God wouldn't smite us for harborin' a prayerorist.

An speakin' of people that start gettin' the shakes after goin' too long without a foot-long Dodger dog, diabetics absolutely love this movie, an you can't hardly blame 'em. I mean, havin' watched this one, I'm thinkin' about goin' over to the Dairy Queen an eatin' Dilly bars all day til I get diagnosed myself. An I'd also like to add how impressed I am with Wilford Brimley, a proud Wyomingite, for havin' the wherewithal and initiative to get into bed with Liberty Medical so he can hock as much insulin as possible an get everybody's blood sugar saggin' like a set of 30 year old breast implants. After all, once Barracuda definitively proved that low blood pressure causes more irritation than a Brillo pad in a jock strap, this revelation essentially gives every diabetic carte blanche to go completely gonzo on somebody an get off the hook just by tellin' the judge their blood sugar was low when they took that semi-automatic nail gun to the family that stole their fishin' hole. The irrefutable scientific evidence from the movie linkin' low blood pressure to aggression is essentially a permanent, all purpose insanity plea anytime you have to get outta the car at a stop light an take a blow torch to the guy that cut you off back at the Stuckey's. An since Reagan essentially dissolved the mental health system, there's really nothin' they can do with you after the "not guilty" verdict, so *every* crime becomes the perfect crime. I'm not sure everyone quite understands just what this means. Do you realize that if enough people went an deliberately contracted Diabetes that we could wipe out obnoxiousness in our lifetime? Cause once everyone understands that anybody over 300lbs is essentially carryin' a license to kill, there's no way they're gonna risk leavin' the grocery line to go scoop up an extra 37 items from the canned food section while the heavyset guy behind 'im's got so many veins poppin' out of his forehead that he's startin' to look like Scott Steiner's bicep. I can't believe nobody told me about this before. First thing I'ma do once I'ma wobbly wreck is drive over to the post office an go apeshit on those people that hold up the goddamned line tellin' the clerk about their grandkid winnin' the art contest over at head start for havin' the least slobber on their finger paintin' of Jesus.

But first things first, cause I don't want anything gettin' in the way of tellin' everybody about what's easily the third greatest killer fish movie of 1978, and an under appreciated gem in the "slaughtah undah de watah" sub-genre. An to show that these guys' foray into the fishes of fury arena will not go unappreciated on my watch, here're a few things I learned from this one that I've elected to impart unto you. First, even in these hard economic times, there're still jobs available for the dedicated self starter. I have to admit that I'd never considered how lucrative it'd be to dive for sunken beer bottles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. But when you figure how much beer it takes to get those college chicks in the Girls Gone Wild videos drunk enough to do the kinda stuff that ensures they'll never get to use their degrees, it's pretty clear that this job is a gold mine. Just remember to bring one of them Japanese dolphin nets with you so you don't get worn out runnin' up an down the beach all day like Rocky trainin' for the Mr. T rematch. Second, dogs're a lot like toddlers. You can buy 'em the world's greatest toy, an the toddler'll spend hours with the box it came in. Conversely, the dog couldn't give a damn about how much your frisbee cost when there's a diver's severed head available to gnaw on. An third, people're entirely too quick to jump to conclusions sometimes. I mean, didn't anybody stop to think that maybe all the fish that washed up dead on the beach in the movie just died because they were in Florida? Why's it gotta be chemical pollution? Isn't Florida just naturally where everybody goes to die? I tell ya, some people're so cynical these days.

But the thing that really cracks my block about this one is the way people're always talkin' trash about Southern hospitality, like there's somethin' wrong with bein' friendly towards folks. I'm sure you know the type; Seattle's Best swillin', Barnes and Noble patronizin', Yankee Doodle Pansies who think they're better'n anybody that has to find the Sears Roebuck catalog anytime nature calls. But I'll tell ya somethin', anyplace that serves me up some country fried steak with a side of hot blonde anytime I'm incarcerated is alright in my book. I mean, around here, after the waitress walks by three times without refillin' your coffee over at Denny's an leaves you no choice but to get in 'er face an demand to know how she ever intends to land a husband when she's providin' this level of service an sportin' a 4x4 foot backside, you're eventually gonna end up in the crossbar hotel after the cops club you seven or eight times til you finally release your grip on the bathroom stall. I say seven or eight, though I was able to hold on for eleven shots this one time when I mistook the maple syrup bottle for some kinda generic Canadian whiskey, but that was prolly a one time deal. But down south? Heck, they'll let you ride shotgun an pick the radio station en route to the cop shop. So if you ask me, it's the north that ain't got its head screwed on straight. I'm thinkin' maybe we aughta sort out our own house before we start tellin' everybody what kinda shag carpet goes with their wood panelin', ya know?

The movie begins with these bottlenosed dipshits swimmin' around off the coast of America's wang til they find an old Rolling Rock bottle an start tryin' to scrape the barnacles off of it so they can take it on Antiques Road Show an look real sad while they're talkin' about how much fun it was to be on the show even though it's only worth eight cents. Only pretty quick these cruise missiles with teeth start strippin' off their meat suits til they look like Calista Flockhart an their bones end up sinkin' quicker'n congress's approval ratin'. The next day, these hippies head out to the beach to distract any club-happy security forces while the head hippy (Mike) swims around lookin' for a drainage pipe that's supposed to be pumpin' some chemical flowmance into the ocean an killin' off the endangered dildo snail or somethin'. But pretty quick this mouth breather (Bubba) that looks like a long lost member of the Sawyer clan runs inside this McMansion an tells Dusty Rhodes (Papa Jack) about the Occupy Woodstock gang down on the beach an Dusty tells 'im to go round 'em up an make sure they don't use his hose to refill their water bongs. So Bubba calls the cops an heads down to the beach where he has to put on this real serious face he uses anytime he needs to ask an uncle for permission to date their daughter an tells all the enviros that there're some palm trees bein' oppressed up at the chemical plant so they'll come with 'im. Meanwhile, Mike's down below scoopin' up water samples from the world's ickiest hot tub jet til he cuts his leg on a saw fish an has to swim up to the surface where Bubba's waitin' in the SS Slackjaw. Then Bubba confiscates his water samples an starts shotgunnin' 'em like Dick Cheney in a huntin' lodge til Mike gets this look on his face like his older brother just came home drunk an ran over his big wheel. But when Bubba takes 'im up to Chateau Bionic Elbow, Dusty starts gettin' in his face an demandin' to know why he's sneakin' around an tries convincin' 'im that he's just a common man, workin' hard with his hands. So Mike has to explain to 'im that if he wasn't tryin' to do to the ecosystem what he does the bathroom over at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks after dominatin' their "Agony of Beefeat" burger that weighs approximately eight pounds an comes with chili, peppers, onions, Tabasco, Horseradish, garlic, an habanero cheese, that he wouldn't have to be inspectin' his polka dot shorts for toxic waste. Unfortunately, this results in Mike gettin' tossed in the crossbar hotel where his only companion is this snorin' deputy (Lester) who must've answered truthfully when his wife asked if she looked fat in 'er muumuu. The next mornin', the sheriff (Ben) finally shows up at the crack of 11:30 an tells Mike that the judge won't be in until around 3pm for his arraignment cause he stayed out too late at the crawdad boil last night, but that he'll have some grub for 'im once his airhead of a daughter figures out how to work the can opener an gets the corned beef hash microwaved.

Then Ben sends Lester out for a some desperately needed exercise an a bottle of water so they'll have somethin' to drink while they're standin' around the cooler discussin' what the mayor was doin' in that motel room with his secretary an those two goats. It's really for his own good, cause Lester's got more rolls than Thanksgivin' dinner at the homeless shelter an looks a lot like the Michelin Man wearin' a spandex body suit. But about that time Ben's daughter (Liza) shows up with Mike's KKK rations at starts talkin' to 'im to see if he seems dangerous enough to wanna get involved with, an then Mike asks Ben if he can go down to the doctor's office an get some leeches to slap on his leg an some rubbers so he don't catch nothin' from Elly May Trampett. So Mike an Liza head over to doc Severin's office where the receptionist has 'em take a seat while Bob Denver whines to the doctor about how much better things used to be on the island til the doc tells 'im to quit bein' such a screw up cause he's tired of treatin' his Alan Hale induced blunt force hat trauma. Then Mike goes in to get his leg stitched up an decides it'd be a great idea to start spillin' his guts about what he's been doin' to one of the town's most prominent citizens on account of no medical professional ever havin' done anything unscrupulous for money. Meanwhile, this teenage punk heads into the water an starts goin' all robber crab on somebody's lobster traps til the barracudas show up an tear 'im apart while his cries for Flipper go completely unheard. Flipper's been a little P.O.'d an more than a little bitter ever since he got cancelled. I'd say somethin', but he's a pretty mean drunk these days. Anyway, just a few feet away on the beach, this slice of cheesecake's playin' fetch with 'er dog, only the dog won't go into the water ever since she took 'im to see Jaws 2, so he brings 'er a divin' mask with the kid's head still inside it instead. So it's kinda like Benji the Head Hunted. Then Ben an Lester come by so they can look at the head an start makin' these expressions like they just found the night crawlers from last month's company fishin' trip in the trunk of the police cruiser til the press shows up in this tin can that looks like Linda Blair painted it with 'er dinner an Ben tells 'em to go back to stakin' out Liz Taylor's house hopin' she'll come out for the paper without makeup on. Elsewhere, Zachary Quinto's in Dusty's office givin' 'im a lecture about how his goons completely bungled the whole Mike situation an that things're gonna start gettin' uglier'n his bladed up forehead if he doesn't get it together, til the phone rings an one of Zach's men in gray tells 'im that Mike's been sprung from the pokey. But now Dusty's got bigger fish to fry, an he's gonna need a skillet the size of Kathy Bates' backside to get it done too cause there's over a thousand individually scrapped fish fillets layin' dead on the beach. Man, that's terrible. Beach hasn't smelled this bad since Herschell Gordon Lewis brought in those fat, sweaty nudist colony folks to shoot "documentaries."

So while Dusty tries to get the press to understand that the situation's basically like the way the tide comes in an goes out an that nobody really knows how or why, Ben an Lester go grab some dinner an start noticin' how the townsfolk around 'em are all gettin' along about like a halfway house fulla pregnant women with only one bathroom. Then Ben goes to try resuscitatin' the dead fish til he finally gives up once he starts smellin' like a gynecologist's exam room an after he's outta sight one of Zach's men in gray pokes his head out from behind a sand dune an scoops up a few red snappers to take home to his cat. This beach really is a mess, an every dog in town's prolly rolled in it by now. Doesn't help that alla the seagulls're off shootin' a Hitchcock movie somewhere, either. Then some more Gator fans head into the surf an get chowed on til they end up turnin' traitor an rollin' with the Crimson Tide cause apparently this is the only small town in America that doesn't have elderly women gossipin' about local events at the hair salon who spread these kinda rumors around like herpes in prison. The next day, Mike calls Liza so she can pretend like 'er whole existence wasn't on hold waitin' for 'im to call an promises to take 'er down to the beach sometime to catch crabs before askin' to speak to Ben about what the chemical plant makes an why blue hedgehogs keep turnin' up in their dumpster. But about that time Lester calls an tells Ben to get back on the clock cause they've got some more boneless white meat washin' up on shore an so Ben calls Mike over to show 'im the crime scene photos an ask 'im what in the name of Skunky the skunk ape's sweaty sasquatchian scrotum sac is happenin' to these people. Then Liza starts proposin' theories an Mike has to mansplain to 'er that she wasn't put on this planet to think til Ben tells Mike to go get some sleep an to have the decency to dig his own grave if he plans to leave sucking breast wounds all over his daughter's jigglers. So the next mornin' Goldilocks an the two squares head out to grab some more water samples, only before Mike can even open up his bottle, the 'cudas show up an start tryin' to open up his face til he has to haul butt outta there like the old incontinent guy from the gym just sat down in the hot tub. But, after havin' nearly had his weddin' tackle chewed off, Mike tells Ben he's pretty sure somethin's up an that if he wants somethin' tangible he can throw a pole in the water cause there's no way he's takin' his down there again. Then, once they've got a coupla specimens, Mike takes their heads back to the doc's office an starts cuttin' 'em into little sushi chunks so he can stick 'em under a microscope while the doc asks 'im why he thinks there's a connection between the chemical plant an all the fish that ain't dead yet comin' down with a sudden case of bloodlust an Mike gets this look on his face like he's thinkin' the doc musta got his doctorate from a community college in Venezuela.

While that's goin' on, Zach calls up Dusty again an says that the press's gotten wind of the situation an that if he don't get with the program like yesterday he's gonna pay off Ric Flair to blade his jugular at the next Clash of the Champions. Meanwhile, Mike heads back over to the crossbar hotel to catch a nap an return his bedbugs to their native soil, only the reporters show up an start askin' 'im things like; is it safe to go in the water?, is the chemical plant gettin' shut down?, an are you an the sheriff really just "friends?", til he has to threaten to call Divine an tell 'er they're lookin' for a news flash so they'll get lost. Then Mike heads back over to the doc's office where he realizes that somebody's been eatin' his grits, sittin' in his chair, an screwin' with his specimens, an begins makin' the connection between the fish's behavior an the doc's tendency towards practicin' sociopathic medicine. But he don't want the doc to know he knows, so he sneaks out an hides in his study where he finds a whole slug of books that the doc wrote about increased stress levels in Hypoglycemic people an he gets this look on his face like somebody just sunk his battleship. Elsewhere, the journalists're over in their office arguin' about whether the mutant killer fish story aughta go before or after the article about the change of venue on the local bridge semi-finals when Zach's goon steps in an aerates the hairy sod grass growin' on their chests. Then the doc's daughter shows up an starts blubberin' like John Boehner when he was named Speaker of the House til she spots the assassin an leaves 'im no choice but to invert 'er nipples with his revolver. Back over in the doc's study, Mike comes across a book titled "The Lucifer Project", which he figures is prolly just some scheme to scare the bejezus into the local Christian population an increase collection plate revenue. But after thumbin' through the book an the doc's liquor/file cabinet, it'd seem that all his Hypoglycemic patients start actin' like Lon Cheney durin' the full moon anytime they have a Big Mac attack. So Mike heads back to the lab where he finds the doc an tells 'im he knows all about what's goin' on an that he's gonna report 'im to the AMA an tell Fangoria that all this barracuda subplot was just a ploy to lure in the horror crowd. But the doc's not licked yet, an once Mike's gone he grabs the phone an calls up Killholics Anonymous an tells 'em Mike knows about the project an where the Keebler sushis come from. Only by now, Mike's over at Ben's place tellin' 'im that the doc's been dunkin' some Starvin' Marvin brand toilet tabs into the water supply that're keepin' everybody from soakin' up the nutrients in their food an that the byproduct's gettin' burped out into the ocean, resultin' in all the fish either dyin' of malnutrition or eatin' each other like some aquatic North Korean labor camp. Gonna cut it off here so as to preserve the twist ending.

Alright, well, this one's pretty decent for how obscure it is. It's not completely unknown or anything, but it isn't a title that generally comes up when the subject is the killer fish sub-genre. And that isn't exactly a group that had a whole lot of discussion potential to begin with. What makes it a bit different from some of the similar titles is the fact that it takes itself as seriously as Jaws, while having a budget on par with Piranha. That doesn't in and of itself doom the movie, but it essentially makes it clear right outta the chute that it won't be able to compete with Jaws due to the monetary restrictions, and that it will almost certainly lack the B-movie charm of Piranha. I don't mean to cast it in a negative light, because for what it is, and the experience level of the crew that made it, it really is pretty fair, but I feel that if they'd gone down the path that Piranha took, it would have been better. Additionally, because it came out within a year of both Jaws 2 and Piranha, it was probably compared to the two pretty regularly and perhaps even ignored entirely because people had already gotten their fill of the sub-genre. Of course, that would require that anyone got the chance to see it to begin with, as it doesn't look as though it ever received a theatrical release. Same kinda thing happened to DeepStar Six back in 1989 when it, Leviathan, and The Abyss all came out around the same time, resulting in DeepStar Six really takin' it in the ass, even though it's not a bad movie either. People just get tired of the same thing after awhile, particularly in a genre where not that many people give a damn to begin with. Course, even DeepStar Six made over 8 million, but that's what a theatrical release and some publicity'll do for you. Barracuda never had a chance. But I think what probably repulses people who've actually seen it, is what a downer ending it has. I won't spoil it, but, even though you realize it's coming, that doesn't make it any less depressing. It doesn't really bother *me* all that much, but anybody that needs a happy ending is going to hate this one with the passion of a thousand white hot suns. And yet, if not for the general public's intolerance of less than stellar *conventional* special effects, it'd actually be fairly accessible as these kinds of movies go, for a couple reasons. First, it's only rated PG (it's another that predated the PG-13 rating, otherwise that's what it would be), and second, the barracuda attacks are really just there to lure in horror fans. At its core, it's really more of a conspiracy thriller that happens to have some scenes with barracuda chewage. So, something to keep in mind for both normal people and horror fans who don't like being jacked around.

Okay then, lets remove this thing's meat suit an see if it's skeleton has Plotsteoperosis. The story's pretty decent, and although the irritability displayed by all the townsfolk with Hypoglycemia is exaggerated, low blood sugar certainly does lead to anger in some cases. And of course, because the barracuda aren't getting the nutrients they need from what they're eating due to the chemical contamination of the food chain, it makes sense that they'd be goin' apeshit on anything within reach in an attempt to satisfy their hunger. So realistically, for a low budget movie that's trying to ground its plot at least marginally in reality, I think it did a pretty good job. The acting is surprisingly decent as well, and even the supporting cast manages not to stink up the joint. But I wouldn't say that anybody was particularly good or memorable, though the guy that comes the closest would probably be Cliff Emmich as the chronically winded, overweight deputy, Lester. He definitely has his amusing moments. Everyone else though, is passable, but not likely to stand out and be remembered by the audience. Here's who matters and why: Wayne Crawford (Snake Island, The Evil Below, Headhunter, God's Bloody Acre, Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things), Jason Evers (Basket Case 2, Claws, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Illustrated Man, The Brain that Wouldn't Die), Cliff Emmich (Bug Buster, Digital Man, Return to Horror High, Halloween II, Invasion of the Bee Girls), William Kerwin (The Aliens are Coming, The Shadow of Chikara, God's Bloody Acre, House of Terror, Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things, Playgirl Killer, A Taste of Blood, Two Thousand Maniacs!, Scum of the Earth, Blood Feast), Bert Freed (Till Death, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Invaders from Mars 1953), Harry Kerwin (Blood Feast), Matt King (I Eat Your Skin), Burt Richards (Sisters 1973), Dick Sterling (Mako: The Jaws of Death), Ruth Miller (Thinner), Will Knickerbocker (Popcorn, Jaws 3, Island Claws), Frank Logan (Nightmare Beach, Beyond the Bermuda Triangle, Scream Bloody Murder). Roberta Leighton, for all you female, elderly couch surfers out there, would probably be best known as Dr. Cassandra Reed on The Young and the Restless. And, though he hardly has the notoriety necessary to warrant leaving him out of the credits, it should be noted that William Kerwin was one of Herschell Gordon Lewis' favorite actors, and was generally cast in Herschell's movies, so he's a guy that was on the front lines during the creation of the splatter movie, which Herschell more or less invented.

The special effects are alright, but spotty. There're certainly some shots that feature rubber barracudas, but they're not terribly obvious, nor are you bludgeoned with them via lengthy sequences showcasing their ineptitude. Even the less convincing props are at least pliable, allowing the tails to wave back and forth as though they were swimming. Honestly, the effects are probably better than the ones used in Piranha, for that reason. It also features quite a few shots with genuine barracudas, which are generally distance shots, but it helps to increase the believability a bit. The stranded fish on the beach are at least partially rubber effects, but some seem like they may be real too, as do the fish being kept in Jason Evers' freezer in his lab. Tough to tell really. If you've never handled a frozen fish or even one that just has rigor mortis, they might seem fake to you, but if you have, they're fairly convincing. I think the best effect in the movie would probably have to be the opening attack sequence that ends with what looks to be cow bones sinking down to the bottom. Sure, it's easy to look authentic when it is authentic, but a lot of people wouldn't have bothered to track down some discarded bones from a butcher shop, so bonus points for the initiative on that one. The shooting locations are alright, but not particularly memorable. The underwater cinematography is nicely done, though if you've ever seen any movie with any sequences that happen underwater, you realize that this will result in some slowly paced scenes. Otherwise, you've got some serious 70s interior decoratin' inside a doctor's office (with green shag carpet no less), a diner, a residence, and something that was made to resemble a police station. Adequate, but that's all. The soundtrack is pretty good, and seems to be pretty proud of itself, as the opening credits declare that the soundtrack is available via Island Records, and that at least portions of it were performed by an orchestra. Plus, Island is the same record company that all of the Insane Clown Posse's albums are released under, so you can be sure they're real sticklers for quality beats. But really, the soundtrack provides a reasonable amount of suspense and amounts to a net positive when calculating the movie's rating. Overall, not too shabby for something you've probably never heard of, though it's difficult to think of a specific group of fans that'd be particularly interested to see it, because as I mentioned earlier, the barracudas aren't the focus of the movie and basically exist to lure in the horror crowd. It's still reasonably bloody, but in reality, you could almost brand it a Mystery/Thriller title. Regardless, you may give it a shot if you're looking for something a little different.

Rating: 63%