Say what you will about The Asylum — the poor quality of their films, their willingness to coast off the notoriety of bigger, better movies with “mockbusters” like Snakes on a Train and Independents’ Day, the fact that their Sharknado films opened the floodgates for every Tom, Dick and Harry’s “wacky” cinematic shark variant, from Sand Sharks to Sky Sharks to Sharks of the Corn — but there’s something admirable about the fact that they’ve managed extend what should’ve been a three- or four-year faddish existence into nearly two decades of B-movie mayhem. They’re like the Dax Shepard of home video companies.
The Asylum mined the not-so-fertile ground of Titanic “sequels” previously in 2010 with the disaster movie Titanic II, but this time they decided to go even more ridiculous by putting a horror spin on thing, abandoning the title Titanic III in favor of Titanic 666. The resulting story — about ghosts of the original ship’s dead haunting a replica ship traveling the same route as the Titanic — could’ve been a mockbuster stab at Ghost Ship if it had been released 20 years earlier…and if Ghost Ship had been a big enough hit worthy of ripping off. On its own, Titanic 666 feels less desperate and forced than many clout-chasing Asylum releases, and the overall quality, while still modest, is a step above the company’s established standard. Indeed, it seems like The Asylum tried in earnest to make its own Titanic: bigger and better, although, like the ship itself, still a bit misguided.
In the film, the captain of the Titanic III — and the default heroine — is Celeste Rhoades (Keesha Sharp, who I would say has come a long way since Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood, but let’s face it: this is not a long way from that movie). Despite strides made in recent years, having a black female lead in a horror movie is still rare enough to be a pleasant surprise, especially when the story isn’t set in the ‘hood and doesn’t involve the black woman going on a Fatal Attraction-styled killing spree. It’s even rarer to find a middle-aged black female lead in a horror movie, so Captain Rhoades’ presence here is a welcome change of pace. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t provide much for her to do besides directing people to lifeboats once the inevitable sinking commences.
The sinking is the result of ghosts taking control of the ship (as ghosts are wont to do), and the ghosts are the result of conjuring by the great-granddaughter of one of the victims of the original disaster (as great-granddaughters of Titanic victims are wont to do). It seems she’s upset that the Titanic III has on display of a number of relics pillaged from the shipwreck, so she snitches to the spirits, riling them up for vengeance. Unlike most ghost stories that have some mystery for the protagonist to solve or some key action for them to take to put the spirits to rest — righting of wrongs or burying bones in consecrated ground — Titanic 666‘s very basic plot plays out in linear fashion, with Rhoades just running around reacting to things and pleading for the ghosts to stop.
Those of you hoping for a big disaster spectacle clearly haven’t grasped The Asylum’s capabilities. Most of the action consists of the ghosts popping up and sucking passengers’ souls like cats huffing babies’ breath. The actual sinking takes up only about the final 10 minutes of the movie, but while it’s limited in scope, by The Asylum standards, the CGI ship effects are impressive, and even the ghosts themselves are effective–not scary, but solid SyFy cheese. Really, that’s the best you can hope for from Asylum films: campy fun. I’d hesitate to call Titanic 666 outright “fun” without some level of inebriation–it could benefit from more campy, over-the-top moments–but it’s fast-moving, breezy, shallow popcorn fare that you can watch with a minimum of brain commitment. Turn it on while doing your taxes or conjuring the bloodthirsty spirits of your ancestors.