Tag Sharks

Mega Shark Vs Kolossus (2015)

Mega Shark Vs Kolossus (2015)

Nature’s deadliest creature against mankind’s deadliest weapon!

In search of a new energy source, Russia accidentally reawakens the Kolossus – a giant robot doomsday device from the Cold War – which goes on a destructive rampage. At the same time, a new Mega Shark appears, threatening global security.

 

The fourth instalment in the Mega Shark series (and that’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say) sees The Asylum return to their crazy nonsensical shenanigans, devising the most ludicrous films out of the most preposterous ideas and throwing them out there, knowing that their outlandish titles will always generate some buzz. Granted, the first Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus did garner a lot of undeserved media attention when the trailer was released, only for people to realise how truly awful it actually was when the full film hit. It wasn’t just the silly concept, it was everything about the production. Despite critical scorn, The Asylum have gone on to make an ever-increasing number of these type of films ranging from Mega Python vs. Gatoroid to the Sharknado films.

With Mega Shark Vs Kolossus, it doesn’t look like The Asylum are going to change their ways any time soon. Cue the usual cardinal sins: ridiculously fast editing where scenes literally last no more than ten seconds before another cut hits; incidental music which attempts to make the film more exciting than it is; a couple of ‘famous faces’ who have been lured in to starring in such low budget nonsense (Illeana Douglas and Patrick Bachau this time around) where you see them and say “I remember their face but not their name” before going onto IMDB to find out; lots of scenes of military types standing around talking about the shark; lots of scenes of people looking into computer screens in small rooms (presumably the only set); lots of scenes of science-type character talking a lot of science fiction gobbledegook; ropey CGI graphics which don’t even appear to be at PlayStation One level yet; and plenty of camera shaking. I could go on but if you’ve seen one Asylum film, you’ve seen them all.

The major issue, and an obvious one, with Mega Shark Vs Kolossus is that it is clearly the unification of two separate films or ideas. Kolossus was obviously designed for its own film but Mega Shark got slapped in to add some name recognition to proceedings in the faint hope of selling more copies. It’s clear to see because the two monsters exist almost in their own little films for the majority of the running time, with Kolossus being reawakened with all manner of Soviet spies and mercenaries chasing it around and Mega Shark reacquainting itself with the American navy. It’s only in the final third where the two plots begin to crossover and even then the linking material is sketchy at best.

Mega Shark doesn’t actually get to tussle with Kolossus until the end of the film, though this is nothing new as the majority of these big ‘VS’ films rarely deliver until the finale (this goes all the way back to the early Godzilla films where the Big G would spend most of the film travelling to fight the monster-of-the-moment before engaging with it at the end). The fight is as pitiful as you’d expect given that one monster is organic, the other one is a robot with a big-ass laser beam weapon.

It’s a scant consolation prize for someone who has had to sit through the mind-numbingly painful scenes of the human cast emitting what seems to be dialogue from their mouths. But I thought dialogue was meant to develop characters and add something to the story, rather than just seemingly pass the time between these inane sequences of characters talking about the shark or Kolossus. They’re not engaging characters who you want to see prevail. You’ll not remember any of their names at the end. You’ll not see any of them develop as a character from the opening to the ending. They’re literally talking clichés, designed to act as a transition between the frames of footage. It’s awful filmmaking and that’s not a criticism of just Mega Shark Vs Kolossus but of The Asylum films as a whole. I know that few people go into these films hoping for an Oscar-winning performance but isn’t it funny how the most memorable monster movies are those with decent casts, decent scripts and identifiable characters who make the monstrous threat appear more realistic and more threatening (Tremors, Jaws, The Fly, King Kong, The Thing, Aliens, An American Werewolf in London, Predator, etc. – I could go on).

 

Like sitting and watching your best mate play a rubbish computer game for hours upon end, Mega Shark Vs Kolossus is a terrible way to pass the time. Best to hop onto Youtube, search for the best bit and watch it without having to endure the torment of the journey there. Please stop this franchise. Stop it right now!

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda (2014)

Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda (2014)

A love story

Scientist Rico Symes has crafted the latest predatory super-weapon for the military by splicing together DNA strands from a pterodactyl and a barracuda, creating a creature known as Pteracuda. During a routine test mission, the creature goes rogue after a terrorist hijacks the computer controls. Capable of flight or swimming, Symes knows that Pteracuda poses a massive problem and so tracks down the surviving offspring of the original Sharktopus, now in a sanctuary in a local aquarium. Fitting it with a transmitter, Symes gives Sharktopus a simple command: to find and destroy Pteracuda.

 

I was a little generous in my review for Sharktopus, stating it was ‘everything a cheap, goofy and enjoyable monster movie should be about’ but I could clearly see where the enjoyment was coming from and with such a ridiculous premise, it ran with it as best as it had any right to do. A few years later and Roger Corman is back with even more bizarreness but far less originality. A sequel to both Sharktopus and Piranhaconda (though I don’t get the connection with the latter film), Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda continues the trend of combing the names of two random creatures to make a new monster. Pteracuda was the dumbest name I’d ever heard – well until the sequel Sharktopus Vs Whalewolf went into production! Apparently, a bunch of combi-names was tossed around on Twitter with fans voting for the one they wanted. At least Corman is giving in to people power.

Do you expect anything remotely resembling a plot? No? Good, didn’t think so. You won’t find that here. Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda gives us the bare minimum story of military experiments, terrorists, innocent civilians who get wound up in the mayhem and plenty of unnecessary characters to throw into the way of the monsters every few minutes. Honestly, Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda doesn’t even run like clockwork – the clock has well and truly stopped here and the nonsensical plot developments would only be surprising to an unborn baby and that’s about it. Top secret government weapon that goes haywire and the people responsible attempt to bring it back and cover it up. That’s it. Let’s see what else the film has to offer.

Unlike many other giant monster showdowns of late, particularly the awful Mega Shark Vs … films, Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda does feature a lot of lengthy tussles between the titular creatures, so much so that it actually gets boring watching them. I know, I know, it appears I’m far too hard to please when I complain that there wasn’t enough in Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus and now there is too much in this one. Usually the creatures fight off in a titanic battle at the end of the film akin to the old Godzilla films but Sharktopus and Pteracuda cross paths a lot throughout the film, which was pleasantly surprising as it meant a lot more CGI effects which would have driven up the cost of this film significantly.

Like pretty much all of these CGI slugfests from Sy Fy or The Asylum, the eventual fight scenes fail to connect with the audience. You know that what you’re watching is just two computer-generated monsters fighting off because there’s literally no sense of gravity or weight to them. Don’t get me wrong, the fights do go on for a few minutes a piece but whilst they’re scrapping, the motions and movement are just too fast: tentacles flying across the screen, wings flapping all over the place, teeth gnashing and so on. Real creatures wouldn’t be able to react like that and so in trying to crank up the excitement of the film, the fights just become frenzied free-for-alls in which your eyes and ears are bombarded with as much as possible within the time frame.

Continuing on another irritating trend, both Sharktopus and Pteracuda have a tendency to kill humans by biting their heads off. Most likely because it’s a cheap and easy special effect to pull off in post-production, literally every giant monster of the past few years has killed its human prey like that. Since when did carnivores become so picky and just go for the human head? It’s so annoying, especially when I think of some classic monsters movies and the memorable ways in which people were killed and eaten alive (Quint’s graphic swallowing in Jaws always springs to mind). Having said that, the bulk of the kills are for non-characters who may say a handful of words at best before they’re fed to the fish. People die all too often in this and it becomes a chore. So when someone with a meatier role falls victim to the monsters, there’s no shock value.

That would assume you’d give a toss about any of the characters in this film. Robert Carradine has a bit of a blast as the sort-of-slimy scientist, only he doesn’t really do anything truly evil. Rib Hillis is the stock mercenary tasked with leading the mission to stop the weapon. Hillis doesn’t really get much chance to shine in the role until the end but comes off little better than your generic hero. If there is one saving grace from Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda, it’s in the form of the lovely Katie Savoy. Though her weakly-written marine biologist role is an awful character who serves little to no purpose, she’s one of the most naturally attractive women I’ve ever seen in a film like this. I’m smitten! There’s also a really random cameo from TV talk show host Conan O’Brian, who I’m sure owed Corman a favour to appear in this. Maybe he was a big fan of the original Sharktopus?

 

Sharktopus Vs Pteracuda is a cheap sequel to a cheap film, where special effects seem to revert back in time and all sense of what a film should be has been thrown out of the window. Though I guess when you see two giant hybrid monsters pummeling each other in the air and underwater every ten minutes or so, it’s kind of irrelevant how bad everything else is.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

3-Headed Shark Attack (2015)

3-Headed Shark Attack (2015)

More heads, more deads

A group of scientists are attacked in their underwater lab by a killer 3-headed shark. Then the shark moves on to attack a cruise ship full of partying teenagers. The survivors must band together to try and stop it.

 

I really can’t be bothered wasting my time trying to make the plot sound more exciting than it was because it’s just a mess of appalling writing. OK, so 2-Headed Shark Attack was hardly a high art concept and sold itself on the ludicrous premise alone with predictably dire results. How do you top something so silly? Just add an extra head of course! 3-Headed Shark Attack is somehow even worse than its predecessor. It’s a film which exists solely based upon its premise and where the makers of the film clearly thought “we don’t need to bother with making a coherent narrative which logically moves from A to B because there’s a 3-headed shark in it.” Whilst 2-Headed Shark Attack revelled in its absurdity, treating proceedings with tongue firmly in cheek, this one tries to be too serious.

3-Headed Shark Attack falls straight into The Asylum’s typical formulaic approach – no real plot exposition, gets right into the thick of the action from the opening scene, throws a load of characters with no development into the mix and then just attempts to butcher it together with some awfully choppy editing. There’s literally something going on in every frame of film and it’s a constant assault on the eyes, with some frames lasting seconds before the next edit kicks in. In Asylum films, there’s little room to take time out, get to know characters or build plot – it’s just full steam ahead and it’s so annoying. All you see are people on the screen running away or swimming away from something that’s so badly rendered in CGI that it isn’t even funny. Names? Backgrounds? Relationships to other characters? Nope. Forget that. They’re just faces on film. All they have to do is look into the camera, pretend to stare at something off-screen and then attempt to emote when the time dictates…and they even fail at that.

There are almost three separate films crammed in here and all could have been expanded further. There’s the opening twenty or so minutes with the shark destroying the underwater lab (again, there’s no real point in introducing a load of these one-note victims to kill them off a few minutes later) and forcing the characters to leave the safety of dry land and into a boat (I know, it makes no sense). It’s almost like watching Deep Blue Sea but rushed through in a quarter of the time. Then the few survivors from this end up on a boat full of partying teenagers and the next ‘mini-film’ commences. Finally the survivors from this part then meet up with Danny Trejo’s fisherman character for the last ‘mini-film.’ But that’s what you get with the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach from The Asylum. Just take a chill pill and stretch things out a little more to generate some suspense or tension. At no point during this film did I feel remotely scared, tense or even worried because there’s so much going on, and so much that doesn’t make sense, that it’s hard for your brain to compute. Films need to retain some element of realism in them to allow the audience to comprehend even the silliest of storylines, characters or special effects yet 3-Headed Shark Attack is devoid of realism.

The shark just turns up in the opening scene with no explanation or build-up and then just wreaks havoc, smashing up the lab and eating as many people as possible over the course of the film. It gets to the point of overkill because the shark is always killing people. Remember when only four people (on-screen that is) were killed in Jaws? You don’t need to keep feeding the shark to make it a threat. In fact the opposite happens and it becomes almost a drinking game to see how many people the shark will eat within the next ten minutes of film. The shark looks reasonably good when it’s swimming around doing nothing – the heads are pretty scary and it does look freakish. However as soon as it’s required to do something like breach the water, bite someone or flip into the air, the ropey CGI kicks in. Coupled to this is a soundtrack which doesn’t fit the action and is just there to artificially generate tension and excitement.

Danny Trejo and professional wrestler Rob Van Dam are the two ‘names’ in the film. Trejo is seemingly on a quest to star in every single low budget straight-to-DVD film made in the last two years and has clearly been cast in this for one particular sight gag involving the shark and a machete. RVD proves he should stick to wrestling.

 

It’s like pulling teeth trying to enjoy 3-Headed Shark Attack and considering that there are a lot of teeth on display, that’s a lot of pain to suffer. Those who like The Asylum’s specific ‘brand’ of filmmaking will find more of the same here but for those who want something a little more down-to-Earth, realistic and generally better made, the hunt for a decent killer shark flick continues.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Jaws 2 (1978)

Jaws 2 (1978)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water

Four years after having to battle the monstrous Great White shark, a few unexplained events including the explosion of a skiing boat and the disappearance of a pair of divers prompt Chief Brody to suspect that another Great White shark has staked claim to the waters. But no one else on Amity Island believes him and Brody begins to wonder whether he is just being paranoid. However his theory ends up coming true and he must go out to sea once again to face the terror from the deep.

 

It was always going to be impossible to top one of the greatest films ever made so Jaws 2 was up against it from the moment it was given the green light. Jaws was a brilliant film, a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, where a coming together of quality and talent coupled with problems, mistakes and enforced changes, ended up in the film’s favour to create the masterpiece that we have come to know and love today. The problem with any sequel was going to be simply: how do you even get close to matching the greatness of Jaws?

Jaws 2 gets an unfair rap as a sequel, mainly because the following sequels were atrocious. Jaws 2 seemingly gets lumbered in with them when people talk about the follow-ups but it’s actually a rather decent sequel which is far better than it has any right to be. Though still a troubled production like its predecessor, Jaws 2 manages to deliver decent suspense, another solid performance (if better) by Roy Scheider and, of course, some plentiful shark action. The main problem is that it tries to replicate the original but without the best parts.

Case in point #1: Roy Scheider makes this film. He’s excellent as Chief Brody once again, bringing a little more to the role than he did in the original. Here, the character has been visibly affected by the events that transpired and he’s not as laid back and prepared to sit back and take orders like he once was. The film is quite interesting as it explores Brody’s paranoia about the shark threat and the scenes both on the beach where he’s in the shark tower and later in the town hall where he confronts the council are highlights.

However what is sorely lacking, and what Scheider clearly misses, is having another great character to spark off. The camaraderie that the second half of the original shared between Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw aboard the boat was one of the main reasons why it worked so well. Seemingly surrounded by a cast of teenagers, Scheider even gets short-shifted for a lot of this half as the main focus is on the youngsters and their ever-sinking flotilla of wrecked sail boats. They’re not the worst teenage bunch ever to grace film but they’re so weakly written that it’s hard to distinguish between most of them and even hard to show any interest in their survival.

Case in point #2: The shark itself. Director Jeannot Szwarc realised that the audience knew what the shark was going to look like so it was pointless in having a slow reveal as in the first one. Here, the shark is pretty much seen from the first major attack on the skiing boat and you get to see a lot of it during the course of the film. The threat just isn’t there though and Szwarc just fails to get any major sequences of tension going. Apart from a nervy moment where Chief Brody wades out to check some driftwood and another in which the shark closes in a teenager who has fallen overboard, there’s little to match the original in terms of dramatic tension. Instead of going for the subtle build-ups, Szwarc is more than happily going straight in for the kill.

Kept in the shadows again, the shark may have posed more of a threat but now we really get the feeling this is a mechanical monster, such so that the shark’s head actually bends during one collision with the side of a boat. In a nice touch, the shark is scarred by an early encounter with fire and as a result, sports this cool signature burn mark across its snout for the duration. It gives the shark a menacing look.

Case in point #3: I am sure if you saw a shark attack in real life, it would be a bloody affair. Though the body count is upped significantly in Jaws 2, the gore quota has been toned down a lot. You won’t get to see any floating heads, severed legs or people bitten in two. That is disappointing because there are some great kills in here which screamed for a little something extra. The attack on the skiers is suspenseful, the shark looks like it swallows another victim hole and the helicopter attack was aching for a limb or fountain of blood. Part of the fear of being attacked by a shark is the unrelenting damage that it could do whilst it rips you apart with its teeth. We never get any of the sense of the ferocity or the damage that the shark can do. Everything has been toned down.

John Williams returns to score the film. The signature Jaws motif is still lurking around here but the score is a broader selection of more upbeat tunes. Since much of the tension and suspense had been lost from keeping the shark hidden, it was easy to make the film’s soundtrack a lot more vibrant, adventurous and exciting.

On a last note, the tag line for Jaws 2 is one of the most famous I’ve ever heard of. ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water’ sends an ominous message out to those people who were petrified to go swimming after the original’s release. The shark is back and it’s hungrier than ever so make sure you don’t go out too far!

 

 

Jaws 2 is a hugely underrated sequel which suffered from the fact that there was no way any film would match that of the original. That is the main thing which holds it back. It’s got some fantastic moments, does a great job of keeping the story as fresh as possible and is entertaining from start to finish. Arguably the second greatest shark film ever made.

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

 

 

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (2002)

The terror has surfaced.

When two researchers discover a colossal shark’s tooth off the coast of a Mexican holiday resort, their worst fears surface: the most menacing beast to ever rule the waters – The Megalodon shark – is still alive and mercilessly feeding on anything that crosses its path.

 

After trying to play everything so serious in the first two Shark Attack films, I guess a light was switched on inside someone’s head. Why not go out and have some fun with the notion of killer sharks? After all, no matter how many low budget killer shark films have been made since Jaws, not one has come anywhere close to matching Spielberg’s classic let alone beating it. They’ve all gone down the serious route and trying to beat Bruce at his own game is impossible. Shark Attack 3: Megalodon isn’t meant to be a total comedy spoof, nor do I really think it is meant to be viewed as such. But one can’t help but smile and laugh at some of the things that happen throughout the course of the film. Purposeful or not, this is a terrible film which doesn’t even try to be funny yet it is for all of the wrong reasons. It’s the film that the later Sharknado desperately wanted to be and tried too hard to top.

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon takes the idea of a killer shark and runs with it for a change, first increasing the size of its shark problem to gigantic proportions. This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill Great White terror – this is a bad ass prehistoric shark which can swallow dinghies whole. Well at least for the final third of the film. The first two thirds feature just your average-sized killer sharks swimming around. It’s kind of a misleading title at this point. You’ll get your run-of-the-mill shark story in the lead up to the gigantic shark being unveiled. Nu Image have clearly seen Jaws, with the generic ‘authority figure who won’t close the beaches’ spiel thrown in there for good measure. Once all of the standard Jaws tropes have been wheeled out, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon then starts to come into its own.

Just when I thought the series was heading in the right direction with some half-decent CGI sharks in the finale of Shark Attack II (ok, so it’s not Jurassic Park quality stuff here folks), the rug was pulled from under me. The novelty of the thought of this huge shark causing havoc is quick to wear away when the film starts up and you realise that they’ve ditched the CGI and rely purely on stock footage. The sharks are simply culled from footage of normal great white sharks which have then been blown up to enormous proportions where the victims appear to ‘fall’ into the open mouth. It would be a clever piece of trickery – if it didn’t look so awful. The sharks are well fed so at least there’s that.

It doesn’t help that the footage is really grainy and faded so it sticks out like a sore thumb. The shark changes from shot to shot because they obviously couldn’t find two shots of the same shark doing what they wanted it to do. In most cases, the exact same shot of the shark breaking the surface and opening its mouth is used. The ‘fin cam’ is back and looks more ridiculous than ever, looking like it’s going to topple over from the weight of the camera on a number of shots.

Physics laws are also broken as, in one scene, the shark breaks through the bottom of a boat and starts attacking people in the cabin but the boat doesn’t sink for absolutely ages. Come on guys, the Orca in Jaws sank in about four minutes after Bruce had rammed himself across the sternum and then through the window. I suppose in a film dealing with an extinct 60ft prehistoric shark, I shouldn’t be looking to pick faults with the science.

John Barrowman stars before he became more famous with Doctor Who and Torchwood and I’m guessing he left this off his CV when applying for the role. Here, he just looks like a Baywatch reject who wandered on to the wrong set at the wrong time but at least he utters one of trashy cinema’s most infamous chat-up lines. Barrowman has said that the line was an ad-lib meant to get a rise out of Jenny McShane and wasn’t the scripted dialogue but it was kept in for how absurd it is. His co-star, Jenny McShane, is back with a totally unrelated character to the one she played in the original Shark Attack. She also has a new agent who is obviously less demanding of contracts because she gets naked in this one. However she still looks as bored and wishing she had a better career.

 

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon has become one of the most notorious of the killer shark films due to how awful it really is. But through being awful it comes full circle, adding extra layers of cheese and humour to proceedings to create the most camp killer shark flick of all time. It’s a terrible film but essential viewing. You won’t believe that anyone could make something like this.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Ghost Shark (2013)

Ghost Shark (2013)

When angry fishermen kill a great white shark for wrecking their catch, its spirit comes back for revenge and turns its sights on the nearby town of Smallport. However this ghost shark can now materialise and hunt wherever there is any form of water and begins a reign of inland terror.

 

I’m fed up of these daft creature feature films which can be summed up in their titles. 2-Headed Shark Attack, Sharknado, Sharktopus, Sand Sharks and Snow Shark (notice a pattern there?) are just a few of the increasingly inane killer monster movies which have somehow found their way from being strictly late night TV movie fillers to become social media phenomena. Sharknado in particular received a lot of social media coverage upon its premiere (and ultimate disappointment – but what were people really expecting?). Ghost Shark came along too soon after the pop culture frenzy of Sharknado for anyone to pay much attention to it. Whilst that is fair enough considering how terrible the end product is, it stands to reason that the idea of a vengeful ghost shark is equally as leftfield as that of a tornado filled with killer sharks and should have received a bit more coverage. But hey, the less people that are subjected to Ghost Shark, the better.

It’s too easy to tear Ghost Shark a new one because of how woeful it really is. It does have a novel idea at its core: that the ghost shark can appear in any body of water no matter how big or small. So swimming pools, baths and even buckets of water are no-go areas for anyone hoping to avoid being next on the menu. The film milks the idea for every penny and I have to give them credit for imaginatively thinking of new water sources for the shark to pop from. I guess once the concept has been established by the film then anything that happens, no matter how silly or contrived, can be justified by the ludicrous plot. It’s still hard to digest that a dying shark swims into a cursed cave and is somehow given life-after-death to then continue its killing frenzy from beyond the grave. Freddy Krueger I can believe, a great white shark I can’t.

The supernatural elements do add an element of fun and unpredictability to Ghost Shark. You’re never quite sure where the shark is going to appear next and in what small amount of water the shark will appear in, with some implausible but memorable moments involving water coolers, a bikini car wash and a slip ‘n’ slide. The shark is entirely CGI and comes off looking as unbelievable as it sounds in its see-through visage with an unholy blue glow and eerie noise whenever it appears. There are plenty of victims though and the shark isn’t too fussy about who or when it eats meaning that every few minutes another random pointless character will be killed off. The shark rarely finishes an entire person, often leaving behind severed limbs or, in many cases, the entire lower portion of the torso.

Apart from this variation on the usual killer shark origins, the film still runs like pretty much every other low budget CGI killer shark flick out there and this is the problem with not only Ghost Shark but the rest of the aforementioned shark movies. Once you strip aside the novel central idea, the rest of the film is business as usual. Writing is almost at an all-time low in Ghost Shark. Characters have no depth whatsoever. Exposition is kept to a minimum so we rarely get chance to connect with anyone or anything. Dialogue hurts the ears to listen to. You find yourself switching off from the film’s narrative and just blankly staring at the screen waiting for the next shark attack. There’s no connection with the images that you’re viewing. Just a few seconds of perverse satisfaction whenever the ghost shark appears.

Killer shark flicks are so over and done with now that it’s hard to see where anyone else can go with the idea – I said that after watching some of the earlier films but with shark-spewing tornados and now resurrected spirits, there’s literally no way for them to go. Progressively getting more outlandish, I can only predict that outer space is the final venue for such low grade twaddle.

 

Ghost Shark is a film which is sold entirely on its premise and for that, the genius behind the title should be commended. Some will view it as a hilarious guilty pleasure but bereft of logic, constant entertainment and genuine quality, it’s not something that I would ever consider giving a moment of time my time. Ghost Shark? Someone call the Ghostbusters for a bit of professional paranormal elimination, pronto!

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Shark Attack II (2000)

Shark Attack II (2000)

The killer is back

Dr Nick Harris works for a new aquatic park in South Africa but the owner is desperate for a big-named tourist attraction. So when a great white shark is spotted near the shore, Harris is tasked with capturing it so that it can be put on display. Harris is surprised at how easily he is able to capture the shark but there is a fatal accident on opening day and the shark is free once again. Teaming up with a shark hunter and local diver Samantha Peterson, whose sister was killed by the shark, Harris sets out to track it down. But to their horror, they realise that the shark is the offspring of one of the genetically mutated great white sharks which managed to escape from captivity…and it is not alone.

 

It’s hard to see how a TV movie, which was widely-panned, manages to get a sequel but here we are with Shark Attack II. Remember that low budget thriller with Casper Van Dien and Ernie Hudson about genetically engineered sharks? No? I don’t blame you. However a couple of men did – Avi Lerner and Danny Lerner – and decided that a sequel would be in everyone’s best interests. They are some of the big wigs behind-the-scenes at Nu Image Films, who have graced the creature feature genre with such series as Octopus, Spiders and Crocodile, as well as a ridiculous number of killer shark films in the years following this one. Yeah, I could have guessed where this one was going to go.

Well I can at least say one thing – this is a sequel which surpasses the original (and not in the derogatory sense). Shark Attack II is infinitely better than the first one and whilst that’s like saying you’d rather take a cyanide pill instead of drinking sulphuric acid, it’s at least a step in the right direction. Ditching the more thriller-orientated approach of the original for something that resembles more of a gratuitous creature feature flick, Shark Attack II makes no bones about where it draws influence from: Jaws. Shark Attack II not only lampoons the first film but is happy to borrow copiously from Jaws 2 and Jaws 3Jaws 3 for crying out loud! No one in their right mind would ever try and copy something from that abomination. But with the capture of the first great white shark to it escaping in the aquatic theme park and even to the accented shark wrangler who turns up, Shark Attack II tries to get as much mileage out of Jaws 3 as it possibly can before the lawyers got involved.

Shark Attack II works slightly better when it’s doing the standard “sharks on the loose – close the beaches!” formula. The standout sequence, in fact the only highlight of the film, sees the pack (or should that be swarm?) or sharks head towards a surfing contest where a handful of people are attacked and killer within the space of a few minutes, some attacked by multiple sharks. It’s mildly diverting and is the sort of scene that Shark Attack II really needed to produce more of. Whilst the kills aren’t exactly gore-filled feeding frenzies, there’s enough violence and cheese to make them entertaining.

The original Shark Attack suffered from a distinct lack of shark action, and even then when it did come along it was little more than stock footage and a cardboard fin. Thankfully Shark Attack II rectifies that problem. Whilst the stock footage is back (and hopefully The Discovery Channel getting paid for it), this time it is joined by some CGI sharks and even a basic animatronic model which does little more than breach the surface every now and then to claim a victim. Some scenes attempt to build up suspense with the use of ‘Fin Cam’ where a camera has been attached to the side of the cardboard fin as the shark sails towards it’s intended target. It looks ridiculous as the shark swims in a completely straight line, juddering and spluttering as if the fin is about to grind to a halt.

The CGI sharks look terribly cartoony as well and they have an annoying habit of growling, which is impossible as sharks have no vocal organs to produce sound. This is a trick that is repeated constantly throughout these Nu Image films – as if growling sharks make them even more menacing. The silent predator approach works wonders for their real life counterparts so I don’t see why they’re given comical voices. I don’t need to hear a shark roaring towards its victim – the sight of a great white in feeding mode is enough to make even the hardest man wet their pants at the thought of being in the water with them.

The cast is filled with a bunch of low rent actors who are given the task of trying to make this script sound remotely interesting. But even De Niro or Pacino in their prime couldn’t bring these one-dimensional characters to life. German actor Thorsten Kaye stars as Dr Harris and he’s like a really low rent Harrison Ford. Nikita Ager fulfils the dumb blond heroine role which doesn’t involve a great deal except standing around looking good (which thankfully she does). It’s blatantly obvious the direction that these two single characters are going to take and it’s no surprise to see that arc pan out exactly the way we expect it to. Dan Metcalfe is the shark hunter, sort of a cross between Steven Irwin and Quint – according to his IMDB lists he’s starred in such awesome roles as ‘Guitar Dude’ and ‘Secret Service Bobby #2.’ Hands up if you think this guy is going to be any good in a speaking role….

 

You’d assume that I hated Shark Attack II from the overall negative review I’ve given it here. It’s not as bad as I’m making it sound, though that is coming from someone who watches so many low quality films that it’s hard to make a valid case for any sane person to watch it. Better than the first one by a fair distance but still coming a long way off being classed as watchable.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Shark Night 3D (2011)

Shark Night 3-D (2011)

Terror runs deep.

Sara invites a group of her college friends to spend the weekend at her lake house on a small island in the Louisiana bayou. Whilst they’re out skiing, one of the group has his arm ripped off by a shark but attempts to get him some medical assistance are thwarted by the presence of even more species of shark in the lake. Someone has been introducing them into the lake for their own nefarious purposes and Sara and her friends are about to find out.

 

Shark Night 3-D came along during the height of the 3-D obsession in the years between 2010 and 2011, where just about everything from Yogi Bear to the Smurfs was receiving a glossy 3-D treatment. Whilst Shark Night 3-D doesn’t take its cue from either of them (thankfully), it does owe a great deal of debt to Alexandra Aje’s Piranha 3-D which showed filmmakers that the technology didn’t just have to be restricted to big budget effects-driven blockbusters and could be embraced by gloriously over-the-top exploitation films. And that’s the sort of impression I was expecting Shark Night 3-D to make on me just like it’s fishy friend had done a few years prior. Alas whilst Shark Night 3-D may deliver some decent 3-D, it forgot to accept it’s trashy, B-movie premise and instead plays it all straight, predictable and too derivative for its own good.

Shark Night 3-D wasn’t screened in advance for critics and that’s always a sign that the studio knew that it was distributing a turkey, or in this case a minnow. What should have been a winning premise – loads of hot chicks getting devoured by a variety of species of sharks – winds up coming off like a more high brow TV movie which has been neutered for the big screen and stripped of any of the potential that it had. Director David R Ellis (Snakes on a Plane) and his writers clearly understand the type of film they’re trying to make yet somehow managed to avoid making it. There’s no self-aware camp. The film isn’t deliberately trashy enough. There aren’t enough throwaway scenes or gags. And the gore is severely lacking. Shark Night 3-D plays out like any other run-of-the-mill teen horror, only with a bunch of sharks instead of psychotic redneck or guy in a mask.

The explanation given for why the sharks are in a remote lake in the middle of nowhere is completely out of leftfield and is the sort of barmy ingredient that the script should have run with. But the novelty doesn’t count for anything when it struggles to find any sort of life amidst a generic teen horror flick. Between the annoyingly-perfect teenage characters and their Deliverance-style yokel tormentors, there’s no one to get behind. You can’t root for the teenagers because, aside from being nearly flawless in looks as if they’d been pulled from a catalogue, they’re so self-obsessed and up their own asses with how good they think (and know) they are compared to everyone else. But you can’t cheer the rednecks on as you know they’re the bad guys and we’re programmed to boo and hiss at them whenever they appear on-screen. Guess the sharks take my vote for this one then.

Shark Night 3-D isn’t exactly boring. Though it takes the film a while to get going with the necessary character exposition at the start, once the sharks make their presence known to the teenagers then it’s full steam ahead. There’s a decent sized group of shark fodder to be systematically thrown to the sharks every so often. The sharks get little screen time as it stands, though when they do appear the film significantly picks up (no coincidence!). The CGI is about as good or bad as you’d expect, though considering this received a cinematic release I’d have expected more than the usual Asylum or Sy Fy standard FX that we see here. At least with there being a variety of species of sharks, the animators get to try their hand at different models so some sharks look better than others.

One of my biggest pet peeves with this is how the gore has clearly been cut back so that the film could scrape a lower certificate and therefore more potential cinema goers (ie. the teenagers not old enough to see a full blown 18 rated film). We are dealing with sharks which are not known for their dining etiquette so why isn’t more made of the kill scenes? I’m sick of seeing films where actors splash around a bit before being dragged underwater with a bit of red thrown around in the water. I expect that from low budget TV movies which need to conserve cash but this was a cinematic release. The film has the budget to do more so where has all of the money gone?

 

Shark Night 3-D really is a glorified Sy Fy Original with a full blown budget. Clearly trying to ape Piranha 3-D‘s success, it forgot what made that film such a genre fan’s treat to watch. This film is too serious for its own good, when a lighter touch was required.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Bait (2012)

Bait (2012)

A tsunami just flipped the food chain.

A group of people get trapped inside a supermarket when a devastating tsunami hits the coast of Australia. But soon they realise that being trapped on top of shelves inside a flooded supermarket is the least of their worries as the storm surge brought with it a pair of massive great white sharks which are now swimming around the store.

 

There’s not a great deal more story to add to this Aussie impersonation of Deep Blue Sea. Simply swap an underwater research facility for a flooded underground supermarket and you’ve pretty much got the gist of this, with a little bit of Tremors thrown in for good measure. And after a flood of increasingly-ludicrous, reality-ignorant killer shark films like Sharktopus, 2-Headed Shark Attack and Super Shark, it’s nice to get back to something a little bit more grounded in the basics and take sharks seriously. Who needs a shark that can fly or has two heads when it just needs to do what nature intended it to do best – kill? That’s what audiences are scared of. Nature’s most fearsome predator needs no gimmick to sell itself as a killing machine!

Does anyone really care about a story for a film with a set-up like this? I mean it’s not like we care whether two characters had a relationship in the past which isn’t quite over. Or that there’s a bank robber who wants to get out of the business and go straight. Or a guy who has just been fired from his job thanks to his shoplifting girlfriend. Bait spends a little bit of time (not too much however!) at the beginning to try and develop something of a story and characters but all you’ll be doing is counting down the moments until the tsunami hits. It’s sad to say it but it’s true.

When the tsunami does strike, Bait quickly picks itself up and starts to deliver some decent thrills and tense moments in between brief moments of visceral shark violence. It helps that both the flooded supermarket and garage sets look the part – both twist day-to-day environments that we’re all familiar with into something unnerving and claustrophobic. The garage is particularly effective in providing constant background tension – we know that there’s a shark in the calm, semi-lit water but we can never see it. Shots of the shark circling around a submerged car with two people trapped inside really hammer home the fact that Bait wants you to feel scared and apprehensive…and you will.

Bait plays itself seriously and it’s for the better. Though the idea could have easily been lampooned into some spoof (I’ve seen the phrase Sharks in a Supermarket banded around as if this was the illegitimate follow-up to Snakes on a Plane), the film does its best to treat the central premise as real and as deadly as possible. Even the film’s most outlandish moment involving one character’s plan to turn off the electricity ends on a sombre, heart-rendering note of tragedy which really deserved to be in a better film.

Julian McMahon (from Nip/Tuck or, if you’re talking films, then Dr Doom from Fantastic Four) is the only real star on show but he’s desperately trying to hide his accent underneath some Americanised persona. This goes for a few of the lesser known cast members too. They’re all Aussies trying to sound American – even though the film is set in Australia. The film provides plenty of shark fodder though unfortunately it’s a tad too easy to spot who’s going to live and who’s going to end up in the shark’s belly. Not one of the characters is memorable to say the least and the majority seem to stand around doing nothing until it’s their turn to be fed to the shark.

The major surprise in Bait is that the sharks look great. Well, most of the time. Spoon fed a mushy diet of low grade CGI shark effects by Sy Fy over the last few years, it’s a godsend to see someone actually producing something worthwhile. The sharks are mainly CGI and the quality varies from the awesome (one particular underwater sequence involving a guy in a makeshift cage looked frighteningly realistic) to the absurd (sharks leaping out of the water to chomp on people suspended from the ceiling). But there are also some animatronic sharks amongst the effects shots and they look top notch too. With the sharks being well-fed, there’s a decent supply of severed body parts and showers of blood which again vary in quality based on whether it’s CGI or practical effects. Sadly, the worst CGI on show is that of the tsunami and its after-effects on the town at the end.

 

Does Bait live up to its ingeniously-simple premise? Not quite. But is it a lot of fun? Yes. One of the best killer shark films of recent years and whilst the rest of the field doesn’t exactly provide much competition, Bait can at least hold its head high and say it tried. It’s not exactly a wash-out of Waitrose, more like a flooding of Asda (but there’s always a bargain to be had in the reduced section).

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Shark Week (2012)

Shark Week (2012)

7 days, 7 sharks… 1 survivor!

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.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆