Novelist, comic book writer, and also comic book reviewer for www.BrokenFrontier.com, also website marketing coach for the Online Marketing Solutions company Push Traffic dot com. Incidentally, I am also the worst writer in the world.
Now, one thing to get out of the way up front: ORCA, as a horror movie, is admittedly not very scary. However...it isn't a horror movie. That's like calling THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON a runner-up for the top ten not-so-scary movies of all time. That wouldn't be an...er...incorrect thing to say, but rather a pointless list if you're going to compose it of movies not meant to be "scary" flicks in the first place. Alas, ORCA suffers the stigma of JAWS, and so any ocean-swelling thing larger than a man with a fin and which isn't starring in a kid's flick, must by default be trying for "terrifying".
But ORCA isn't scary. It's phenomenal. This is hands down one of the all-time best drama/thriller blends ever put to celluloid. This thing out Moby Dicks MOBY DICK with superstar Richard Harris in the leading role of tough-as-nails but exhaustively emotive fisherman Capt. Nolan, who at first struts through the opening scenes as an old-timer with little open compartments left in his mind, especially when he meets his foil in animal-rights-loving Rachel Bedford (played by ZARDOZ'sCharlotte Rampling). Yet every minute that ticks by brings Nolan into greater, deeper turmoil. And that isn't to say this is histrionic (though at times, yes, it is). Rather, Nolan's struggle is a nuanced one. A quiet one. One of watching slight hesitations in a man usually unswerving in his violence and remorselessness.
Harris as Nolan:
The incredible Charlotte Rampling:
ORCA is Nolan vs. the whale, but instead of in a ship, this is the captain on land, retired, no longer what he once was, emotionally squaring off with a whale that won't leave the shore line for want of revenge. In a bizarre sort of inverse of the classic Ahab scenario, the WHALE wants vengeance, and the captain wants...resolution. But does this come from a victorious battle? Or absolution? Between sporadic bouts of serious bloodshed, this movie is pure brooding intellectualism.
Sure, there's scenes like this one:
And they're fantastically suspense-filled. Is the whale violent? Will be maul them? Take revenge? It actually isn't at all apparent through a good chunk of the film, and when the violence does hit it's bloody, sudden, and very impacting. But again, this is not the meat of this 2 1/2 hour epic. The true soul of this movie is in the moralizing of Nolan. The unmistakable humanity of the character given Orca herself, and the sheer power the battle between these two unleashes, which overshadows the small dramas afflicting the human characters of the piece.
ORCA may only be vaguely "scary". But this is a masterpiece in monster film making. I cannot recommend any film more than this one. Except perhaps RAVENOUS. --Dave B.