What is it about setting a volcano in the middle of a bustling downtown metropolis that’s so attractive and alluring to filmmakers? The potential for a lot of casualties? The mass destruction of popular landmarks? We’ve already gotten a volcano erupting in downtown Los Angeles (1997’s VOLCANO starring Tommy Lee Jones) and a volcano in New York City (cleverly titled, VOLCANO IN NEW YORK, starring Michael Ironside). And now we can add Miami to the list. That’s right; this Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 9pm (ET/PT) the SyFy Channel wanted to ‘imagine better’ and placed a volcano right smack under downtown Miami in SWAMP VOLCANO. Okay; first let’s talk about the title. The screener copy that SyFy sent me is titled SWAMP VOLCANO, but in it’s listing on IMDb.com the title is MIAMI MAGMA (a waaaaayyyyy better title). But I’m gonna keep calling it SWAMP VOLCANO since I’m positive that SyFy knows what its doing. Right? Right??
SWAMP VOLCANO stars Rachel Hunter (remember her?) as Antoinette Vitrini (I shit you not about her name), a rogue vulcanologist who has some pretty wild and crazy theories involving … you guessed it; volcanoes!! She thinks, for example, that the entire Gulf was created by a big ass volcano. Shunned by her peers and forced to research and prove her theories while working at a nice university with brilliant research partner, Brandon (Griff Furst), Antoinette seems to be getting closer to proving her theory. But then some freaky things start happening around Miami that makes Antoinette realize that not only is her theory correct, but that the super volcano she’s been hypothesizing about is still active. Throw in Brad Dourif as a money-hungry, evil, stereo-typical CEO of an oil company with a right-hand-man, Ray (Cleavant Derricks), who’s just as morally bankrupt, who are conducting an illegal drilling operation underneath downtown Miami, and you’ve got yourself a plot!!
All the typical SyFy characters are here. The brilliant yet misunderstood scientist (Rachel Hunter); the evil big business guy (Brad Dourif); the lead character’s estranged ex-hubby who also happens to be a globe-trotting adventurer; the dumb and innocent little sister of the main character (Melissa Ordway) who gets into harms way; and the nerdy-hunky lab assistant who steps up to the plate when needed. The plot is also one we’ve seen in many various forms. And why wouldn’t we? Our old friend Declan O’Brien wrote the script (you know him best from writing such epics as ROCK MONSTER and MONSTER ARK), and Todor Chapkanov (who directed HAMMER OF THE GODS, MONSTERWOLF, and WEATHER WARS for SyFy) directed. And here’s the main problem with SWAMP VOLCANO/MIAMI MAGMA … it feels like something we’ve seen a million times before … because we have seen this a million times before. The acting is decent enough and we only get some overacting and pandering from Melissa Ordway. The problems lie not in the acting. It’s mainly the script. It’s so “been there; seen that” that you know exactly what’s gonna happen before the actors do!!
But all this is forgivable as long and the destructive scenes are kick ass, right? Well yeah; I could forgive some of the above sins but the problem is the destructive scenes are pretty friggin’ lame. The destructive scenes here include an oil rig being blown up with CGI flames; a warehouse in downtown Miami being blown up with CGI flames, and a bunch of bimbo, bikini-clad babes running away from a “steam tsunami” … I’m not kidding here, folks. Downtown Miami remains untouched and fares way better than New York City and Los Angeles in their respective films. What’s one of my golden rules? If you’re making a creature flick, you better have a bad ass creature. This applies here as well: If you’re making a destruction movie, you better fill it with scenes of shit getting destroyed (this is the formula that made Michael Bay a bazillionaire). If the best you have is a bunch of sluts running away from a CGI wall of steam, then you better think about hiring a new writer!!
SWAMP VOLCANO isn’t the worst SyFy film I’ve seen, but it is pretty damn forgettable. After you size up Rachel Hunter and determine whether she’s aged well (I think she has), there’s little else here to keep your attention. You’ve seen SWAMP VOLCANO before and it was better done. If you’re a SyFy Original Movie completist like me (hey, we all need out hobbies), then you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re looking for a kick ass destruction/disaster flick with a high body count and a higher ‘dead city’ count then you’re gonna be disappointed. But to end this review on a good note, Rachel Hunter also stars in the upcoming PIRANHACONDA. Sweet.
SWAMP VOLCANO premiers this Saturday night, January 28, 2012 at 9pm (ET/PT) on SyFy (who else would air this??).
Director: Todor Chapkanov
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 1 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer