A wealthy sadist traps a complete group of strangers on his secluded island compound where they are force to compete in a horrifying gauntlet against a relentless onslaught of man-eating sharks, each species more deadly than the last.
Saw meets Jaws or that’s what The Asylum would lead you to believe with in Shark Week, their latest CGI killer monster flick and next one off its production line of straight-to-DVD offerings. With its assault of colourful cover posters, catchy tag lines, sound byte-heavy trailers and generally over -indulgent self-promotion, Shark Week was never going to live up to anywhere near expectation. But having watched my fair share of Asylum flicks over recent years, those expectations were rock bottom to begin with and, as the case was with the utterly bonkers Nazis at the Centre of the Earth, Shark Week manages to mildly impress – though only because I’m setting it against the Asylum’s own benchmarks of bad film making rather than any feasible rating scale!
At first glance, Shark Week looks the part. In fact it may well be The Asylum’s best looking feature to date. The cinematography is crisp. The location work is top drawer with a variety of desert island settings and dank underground caverns really coming to life. The CGI-rendered landscapes of some of their previous outings have been mainly dropped in favour of actual location shooting which makes all the difference. The production values have definitely been stepped up a notch. Finally, The Asylum make a film which….well actually looks like a film.
Shark Week plays itself seriously, which has been met with some criticism by other reviewers, but I find that the material wouldn’t have worked with a straight-laced approach (not that it works that much better as it stands). There’s a decent idea waiting to come out of this but the muddled manner in which the characters have to go from watery location to watery location is a bit flimsy at best, all the while the motivation for their entrapment is a feeble revenge plot. The constant need to get the characters into the water just reeks of a one-note idea being stretched for all its worth over eighty-six minutes. In the end, you really get the sense that this idea, as absurd as it may seem in this one, would have worked with a bigger budget, better writers – well generally away from The Asylum’s grasp! Or it could have worked with other ‘creature feature’ whipping boys like crocodiles or tigers which would have made the situations seem less forced with the characters being based on land and thus the script needing less reasons to throw them into danger.
Once again The Asylum don’t quite ‘get’ what effectively works in killer shark film – namely the sharks. I was expecting lousy CGI effects and even lousier integration with the natural environment and human actors and that’s what I got. No surprises because my expectations were that low to begin with. Aside from the hammerhead attack, the rest of the attack scenes consist of the same thing: badly illuminated shots, dreadful CGI sharks, characters struggling and thrashing around in the water before they start stabbing at the shark with whatever sharp objects they have and all in the midst of some rapid-fire editing so that you haven’t got the foggiest clue what is going on. It might work once but the repetitive nature of the attacks soon get boring. They’re meant to be the selling point of the film but each encounter with a shark is virtually the same thing despite the novelty of different sharks being used.
I will give Shark Week some credit in that it’s got a decent pace. It seems like The Asylum are learning their lessons and not constantly bombarding the viewer with scenes that last a maximum of a minute before rapidly moving on to the next one. The film tries to draw itself out a little bit, introducing the overall problem quickly but then settling down a little to try and flesh out the characters and develop some sort of story. Whilst the attempts at characterisation and the story being a little ‘deeper’ than normal miss most of the time, it’s nice to see the studio actually trying for a change and they’ll only learn from this in future.
The token ‘names’ amongst the cast come from Patrick Bergin and Yancy Butler as the two antagonists of the piece. Bergin (Patriot Games) does his most-blatant Jigsaw-like impression as wealthy Tiburon – well I’m guessing that’s who he’s supposed to be modelled on, preaching to his victims before their next shark encounter and letting them know of ways out. Bergin chews the scenery well so it’s a shame he has little screen time with anyone else apart from his assistant. Yancy Butler co-stars as said assistant and seems to have the exact same expression on her face throughout the entire film, looking bored and in desperate need of some sleep.
Having read the above review, you’d assume that I hated Shark Week and you’d be more or less right. The idea itself isn’t awful, just the execution. But there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on which makes it stand out more than the other Asylum films. It’s not the cast. It’s not the effects, that’s for sure! It’s not even the script. There’s just something here which promises a brighter future for the company. I’ll give the folks over at The Asylum a little bit of credit. Their films are getting better, little-by-little, but getting better nonetheless.