Synapse // 1978 // 118 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 9th, 2005
If the storm doesn't kill you...the sharks will!
Here's a natural disaster flick from the old school, ready to show modern Hollywood how it's done in Mexico. Director Rene Cardona Jr., an exploitation auteur who's directed like 50,000 movies (including a personal favorite Blood Feast a.k.a Night of a Thousand Cats), has crafted his own tragedrama, with the perpetrator being a big-ass cyclone. There's lots of rain and wind and a few sharks, but Cardona goes into territory where most gutless directors stop short: cannibalism and puppy slaying.
It began as a normal day. The sun was out, people were going about their daily business, and a group of vacationers were preparing to embark on a boat tour (a...three hour tour perhaps?).
Little did they know that the storm of the century was about to bear down on them. As the authorities scrambled to defend against the incoming maelstrom, the tour boat, a fishing vessel, and a plane are about to collide with Mother Nature -- and it's her time of the month.
When the cyclone hits, it hits big, and the islands are throttled. Worse, the plane nosedives into the ocean, the fishing boat gets its ass handed to it, and the tour boat is rendered immobile.
But the most challenging circumstance await. Now that the gale-force winds are behind them, the survivors face their toughest challenge: endurance. With rescue ships nowhere to be found, merciless sharks roaming the water searching for a mid-day snack, and water and food in short supply, the survivors will be forced to make it by any means possible. And if that means a puppy has to die, so be it...
Cyclone is a well-made film that features some choice exploitation moments, but, in the end, falls short of a recommendation because of its bloated runtime. This sucker clocks in at nearly two hours, and most of that time is taken up with watching a bunch of jerks starve to death on a boat. But we'll get back to that.
The storm itself is pulled off okay, through an abundance of stock footage is used. There was a lot of wind and rain (a lot of rain), but I never felt that this cyclone was the be-all and end-all of travesties the film wanted it to be.
Worse were some of the original storm effects the crew put together. In one sequence, the tour boat is supposedly caught in the grips of powerful seas, with torrents of water jostling the tourists. Jets of water would fly from off-screen and nail the poor folks, but, strangely, the sea in the background appeared serene. It's a smart-ass nitpick to be sure, but if the aim of the film is to create suspension and duress, continuity would help.
Cyclone takes itself very seriously, not allowing an ounce of humor into the proceedings. For the stranded souls on the boat, wasting away, it's all about pissing and moaning, which is likely what would happen for real, but it doesn't make for compelling entertainment -- or at least 120 minutes worth.
The flick gets interesting when the sharks appear -- and they do get in on the action chomping down on a few of the survivors -- and when the survivors start talking up the notion of cannibalism. That's the edgy stuff.
Cardona is able to tease out some authentically chilling moments through the back-and-forth between the survivors about the moral and ethical complexities of chowing down on human flesh. The inclusion of a priest among the stranded was also a shrewd move, as it lends the theological element to the debate. In the end, our ragtag crew of emaciated boat-people opts to dig in, leading to a really gross shot of chunks of human flesh drying out on the boat's roof.
There's some decent stuff at play in Cyclone, but the march toward it is just too long and tedious and the occasional shark attack is not enough to dispel the boredom.
Synapse does another great job with its obscure reissues, mastering the picture in a solid 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Extras are a bit lacking, with trailers as the only on-disc bonus. Some in-depth liner notes do supply a good amount of supplemental information, however.
Cyclone certainly pushes the boundary of what the survival/disaster genre usually offers, but its interminable runtime dilutes the experience.
It's a close call, but I can't flat-out offer a recommendation. Check it out only if you're into round-table discussions on the ethical questions of cannibalism. (And if you are, please don't e-mail me or try to contact me in any way.)
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Liner Notes