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Invasion of the fish monsters Add to ...

So, 28 Days Later.

Well, all I can say is, it's surprising there's another horror movie about viruses.

As a rule, things you can see are better for making movies about. There's only so much drama in men running around in tent suits and people spewing blood.

Even the Ebola virus looked a little silly when it came to the United States in Outbreak (1995) and Dustin Hoffman chased after it. Now we've got a movie about a bug that infects the whole human race with rage. As if programming the VCR hadn't already done that.

But why make people work so hard to imagine an invisible monster, when we have a ready supply of filmable horrors on hand?

I'm thinking big head carp. I'm thinking snakehead fish, also known in recent reportage as Godzilla with Gills. I'm talking about foreign fish that get into North American waters and jump up and knock people off their water skis.

I'm talking Alien Species.

Of course we're using the expression in the very hip and current sense of creatures removed from their native ecosystem and dumped into another ecosystem -- ours -- where they have no predators.

Even as the Hollywood's most fertile minds sit around thinking of ways to dramatize SARS ("Blame Canada: Part 2"), the big head carp is hurling itself against an electric fence in the Chicago Ship Canal. "These carp are sitting there like racehorses, lined up ready to go," a biologist recently warned.

If they get into the Great Lakes, they will practise ethnic cleansing on the native trout and perch, transforming the world's largest body of fresh water into a gated community for four-foot-long Chinese carp with oversized heads. A Captain Skelton in Duluth, Minn., says they "will make zebra mussels and the lamprey look like fruitcakes."

A crisis that inspires camera-ready dialogue such as Captain Skelton's is a gift to filmmakers. But there's an even better new arrival, also from China.

The northern snakehead fish, currently confined to three ponds in Maryland where a careless restaurateur dumped a mating couple he didn't need for the soup pot, can walk. That's right. When it eats everything in a given body of water, using its mouthful of needle teeth, it hikes to the next body of water and starts over again.

U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton has described the snakehead fish as "something from a bad horror movie," which is a cry for help if ever I've heard one.

Why hasn't Hollywood dispatched Hercules aircraft full of camera crews to rural Maryland, prepared to ensure the nation's continued supply of bad horror movies as the snakehead fish gets loose and makes the big head carp look like a fruitcake?

A posse of guards has been patrolling the ponds to make sure the snakehead fish don't get into the nearby Little Patuxent River, whence they could make their way into Chesapeake Bay and bankrupt crab restaurants up and down the Atlantic coast. The guards are probably equipped with nets and silly sticks for impaling the fish, which to be truthful aren't all that dangerous while tottering across the road on the tips of their fins.

But with a little script doctoring, the guards could be armed with assault rifles and the snakehead fish endowed with fins that must be registered as deadly weapons. The fish would leap from rock to rock like piscine Bruce Lees, decapitating underpaid Parks Department sentries with their razor-like teeth. Then a team of uber-Park Rangers with specialized commando training would parachute in, and . . . well, it writes itself, doesn't it?

Great horror flicks, of course, have a profound allegorical story behind them. Human greed displaced King Kong from his happy island. Russian biological experiments created the Triffids of John Wyndham's classic novel. Godzilla and Mothra were awakened by nuclear testing, and industrial pollution gave Godzilla his most memorable enemy, the Smog Monster.

Now admittedly, ship captains carelessly flushing bilge water doesn't have quite the hubristic zing of say, a country that feels it needs 75,000 nuclear weapons to ensure world peace.

Arkansas fish-farm operators with a snail problem aren't much more promising, horror flick-wise, though the accent is always helpful ("Ah heah there's a voracious carp in China whut will eat ennything out'n a pond till nuthin' is left alive. Thet oughta take care of our snail difficulty.")

But we can work on it. Maybe the first mate notices that something in the bilge water is making Buick-sized dents in the side of the ship, but the captain is too preoccupied with PlayStation 2 to pay attention.

Perhaps some immigrant Asian restaurateurs, deranged from growing up in the ecosystem where the snakehead fish actually evolved, decide that tree-hugging Americans need to know how much nature really hates us.

As I say, we'll work on it. Right now, I'm seeing an update of Jaws. Instead of a resort town where the people in charge hide the fact that sharks are eating the tourists, we could have Bombardier trying to save the Sea-Doo franchise from kamikaze carp who behead teenagers on jet skis. It turns out everybody over the age of 30 is in cahoots with the carp.

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