Planet of the Sharks (2016)

Planet of the Sharks (2016)

When the world sinks underwater, one predator rises to the top.

In the near future, glacial melting has covered ninety-eight percent of Earth’s landmass in water and the human survivors are forced to live in floating shanty towns on the surface. Sharks have flourished, and now dominate the planet, operating as one massive school led by a mutated alpha shark.

 

I knew this one would be trouble when I read the synopsis and boy, was I right. Even worse, this was another of the unholy unions between The Asylum and Sy Fy, the two biggest sinners when it comes to the sheer number of ridiculous killer shark flicks that have been rolled out over the past ten years. It’s probably their most high-concept film to date but the underlying problems of their previous films are still evident here – the shark stuff is just woeful. They’re all trying to be as stupid and silly as they can to try and capture the lightning-in-a-bottle frenzy that Sharknado created – and they even did that to death. I’m still waiting for the day that The Asylum or Sy Fy make the inevitable ‘Sharks with Frickin’ Laser Beams Attached to their Heads’ schlock fest.

Planet of the Sharks is basically Waterworld with sharks. No Kevin Costner or Dennis Hopper. And about 0.001% of the budget (remember Waterworld was the most expensive film ever made at the time). It plays heavily on this fact and offers little else in the way of a plot. There’s a distinct lack of a story and I’m sat watching and trying to piece together the little bones the characters throw the way of the audience every once and a while. I’m guessing the script thought the audience would just sit and assume this is the end of the world as humans are all living on floating cities and wearing bedraggled clothes, and so avoid the necessary plot exposition usually delivered by a character. There’s some half-baked story about trying to refreeze the polar caps to reverse what has happened but this is really second nature to the novelty factor of sharks looking like becoming the dominant species on the planet – though Planet of the Apes (with sharks) this definitely is not!

Despite doing it’s best to try and immerse the audience in its post-apocalyptic future, during one scene, it appeared that two holidaymakers wearing Bermuda shorts were standing by idly in the background watching the costumed-up actors spear fish imaginary sharks (which would have been added in post-production). Talk about completely taking you out of the film. There’s little attempt to sell this post-apocalyptic world and establish any sort of rules or logic that we can recognise. For all we care, we’re watching some marooned tourists on a makeshift island who are trying to survive, rather than the remnants of the human race slowly dying off.

Shock of horrors, none of the sharks actually look or feel real in any scene they’re in. There’s no sense of realism or of actual physical presence, just bland computer sprites floating across the screen. I know there’s only so much you can do with killer sharks but considering the number of shark films over the past twenty years, there’s literally nothing new you can do with them. Even the recent big budget The Meg had the same problems with how they can feature this giant shark without regurgitating the same old tropes. And because there’s only so much you can realistically do with killer sharks, filmmakers are now getting them doing highly unrealistic stuff to keep the material fresh. Remember the shark jumping into the air and snatching a plane in Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus? Well there’s a lesser version here, with one of the sharks jumping up to attack a microlite.

There’s stuff about an alpha shark controlling the rest but it’s rather vague and how the sharks came to be like this is never fully developed – again it’s expected that the audience will just sit and buy it without questioning it. Planet of the Sharks also features the obligatory shot of a CGI shark cleanly biting the head off someone with hardly a flinch by the victim – this now-common death scene annoys me more than anything in the world. Sharks can’t just slice off body parts like they’re a Samurai sword, they have serrated teeth which saw bits of flesh off as the shark violently shakes its prey in its mouth. But hey, people think this looks cooler, so filmmakers are just throwing this into every killer shark film out there (and it’s even crept into killer snake and crocodile films too).

 

I’ve spent way too much time writing this review than the film deserved. The worst film I’ve seen this year by a long way, Planet of the Sharks is truly atrocious filmmaking. Sharksploitation has reached the ultimate low. I fear there is no return from this.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Dead Meat (2004)

Dead Meat (2004)

It’s not what you eat, it’s who you eat!

Helena and her boyfriend Martin are driving through rural Ireland when they hit and kill a man on the road, only for the body to come back to life and bite Martin in the neck. Running to a farmhouse for help, Helena is attacked by zombies and is only saved with the assistance of local gravedigger Desmond. It appears that an outbreak has been caused by humans eating meat infected with Mad Cow Disease, which causes the dead to rise and feed on the living.

 

Zombie films have always been the go-to for budding filmmakers to break into the big time. Easy to make, cheap to produce, relatively simple to create a story and with enough familiarity for audiences to know exactly what they’re getting. Sadly, because every person with a camera, a few friends and bucket of tomato ketchup can make one, zombie films tend to vary in quality like no other sub-genre of horror and so finding a decent one is like playing Russian roulette. With the lure of the ‘Mad Cow Disease’ element and potential that the film would feature killer cows (much like Isolation), I was tempted to go for this one over a rather pitiful selection of films, many of which have ‘….of the Dead’ in the title.

Thankfully, Dead Meat avoids a lot of the pitfalls that many a low budget film would do, but it doesn’t do enough to fully shake off the shackles of its humble beginnings. It’s clear that writer-director Conor McMahon likes his horror films, particularly zombie films, and peppers the screen with plenty of nods to his inspirations. The film is pacey and features plenty of set pieces, although perhaps too many similar zombie attacks for its own good. Within the space of the first twenty minutes, I counted no fewer than three attack scenes which could have been spaced out a bit more to build up the atmosphere and characters a bit. Sometimes less is more and that definitely should have been the case for Dead Meat. At a slender seventy minutes, there’s no need for the film to continually bombard the audience with zombies – we all know what they are and what they can do, but it takes a little bit of the steam away from some of the more original action moments. Too often, the narrative is episodic, as if McMahon had an idea for a set piece, and just sticks it in there with little cohesion supporting it. The flimsy plot is simply a Macguffin to get the zombies moving – once the exposition has taken place, you’ll pretty much forget that this outbreak was caused by cows.

The major weakness that Dead Meat has is that it looks like a low budget production with how it’s been shot on video. The hand-held night time photography is extremely difficult to fathom out and aside from a few voices, sometimes it’s indistinguishable as to what is going on in the film. There’s plenty of grain during the day time scenes a lot of changes with the colour balance – coupled with some miserable days when filming took place, the film is not a pretty one to look at. Can I reiterate how annoying the night time scenes are? It’s so frustrating especially given there are some potentially effective scenes involving the zombies ‘sleeping’ as the survivors slowly walk through the field, ruined by the fact you hardly get to see anything. And yes, I did adjust my brightness to see if that helped!

Dead Meat threatens to get funny at times, particularly with the introduction of Eoin Whelan’s foul-mouthed, hurling stick-wielding coach, but it never fully embraces some of the lighter elements. I think it missed a trick here. Scenes involving eye balls and vacuum cleaners shouldn’t really be played straight, nor should images of a children’s party gone wrong, but Dead Meat does play them straight. Whilst extremely gory for such a little production, a lot of it is highly unrealistic which kind of kills the ambiance. Silly gore like this needs a tongue-in-cheek approach to work, in much the fashion as The Evil Dead or Bad Taste, but due to the seriousness of the film, the gore here is very jarring, with dismemberments and decapitations all being brought to life with practical FX rather than CGI. It’s also nice to see a zombie film where there is a distinct lack of guns to pop off a few headshots. The characters here are forced to use anything they get their hands on to fight off the zombies and it makes for a more realistic survival situation.

 

Every time Dead Meat does something right, it also does something silly to counteract it, which is a big shame as there’s potential here. But given how many zombie films are doing the market right now, it takes something special to stand out. With a bit more focus on making the absurd moments deliberately more comical, Dead Meat could have raised it’s a game. There’s a lesson there for McMahon if he makes something similar in future.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆