Tag Sharks

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 (2002)

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.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)

2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)

1 Body, 2 Heads and 6,000 Teeth.

A group of students are aboard a Semester at Sea vessel ship which becomes damaged when it hits a dead shark floating in the water and starts to sink. As the crew attempt to repair the damage, Professor Babish decides to take the students to a nearby atoll. What they haven’t realised is that there is a deadly two-headed shark lurking in the region which begins to pick off the students as they enter the water, cutting off their escape route back to the ship. Though the atoll provides temporary refuge, it is soon apparent that it is slowly sinking into the sea. Soon there will be no hiding place from the monstrous two-headed shark.

 

A shark with two heads? Let’s face it fans of monster movies, the idea itself is inspired and definitely catches the attention for a few minutes if only for perverse curiosity of what the end product could be. Not content with increasing the size of their killer monsters to ‘mega’ size with the likes of Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus and Mega Piranha, The Asylum have now decided to add extra heads to their monsters to give them that bonus bite. I’m still not entirely sold on the entire that two heads are better than one is this case especially since they both share the same body but it’s still a great selling point and makes for a kick ass DVD cover. It’s a shame that the film itself predictably fails to deliver anything nearly as inspired.

2-Headed Shark Attack completely wastes the idea of a shark with two heads, simply having the creature do exactly the same thing a normal shark would do, except that it has twice the biting power. Any uniqueness to the creature is seemingly lost apart from the title and the poster. So the film just trots off the usual shark flick clichés. I find it hard to enjoy films when they are this silly. The script is all over the place and everything happens simply to push on to the next set piece, no matter how daft or overblown it may be. I’m still not quite sure why they all had to leave the boat and head to the atoll as the crew were still aboard and it didn’t look like it was sinking. Oh yeah, there wouldn’t be a film if they hadn’t gone to the atoll.

From then on, it’s just finding enough excuses to get the teenagers into the water for them to be fed to the shark. It seems that some characters even throw themselves into the water because they believe that swimming with a two-headed shark is a lot safer than being a boat or dry land. The attack scenes are repetitive and, since the shark gets fed pretty well, you’ll be seeing the same scenarios over and over again. Predictably, the shark itself looks awful. There’s a fake head used in brief flashes during attack scenes but for 98% of the film, it’s all CGI. The shark has the ability to change size at any given situation, being as big as a boat in some shots but then being unable to fully squeeze into a partially-submerged church later on. Taking a cue from Jaws: The Revenge, this shark roars a lot and has the uncanny ability to still exist when it loses a head – did it mutate into the Hydra at some point? The scenes of it chomping through its human prey look exactly what they are – computer scenes. No explanation is given as to why it has two heads: there is some musing amongst the cast but it’s not high on the agenda.

Unfortunately even these moments provide little entertainment as the editing is so frenetic. It’s a trademark of The Asylum’s films to feature ridiculously rapid editing to keep things moving at light speed but it gets too fast and there’s rarely a moment to just sit back and take things in. Sometimes you need that it films. I’m not saying that the material on display here needs you to sit and think but in order to process images and sounds, the human brain needs a rest. Having non-stop rapid-fire editing throughout a film might make it look high-octane entertainment but it’s taxing on the brain.

Directed by Christopher Olen Ray, son of notorious low budget schlock director Fred Olen Ray (with such politically-correct films like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and Scream Queen Hot Tub Party on his CV), it’s clear that Olen Ray Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps with his taste for the female form. Carmen Electra gets top billing, and although she provides a requisite bikini scene and spends the entire film parading around in tight cut-off jeans and a low top, she has a total of about ten lines. I’m sure her fee would have been better spent elsewhere. That said, her body still looks great so no complaints here!

It’s sad to say that the best thing on display here was Brooke Hogan. Despite writing off her performance before I had even watched (having already seen the disastrous Sand Sharks), Hogan does alright in her character of Kate. It’s pretty obvious she’s only getting cast because she’s the daughter of legendary wrestler Hulk Hogan and though she’s decent-ish in this, she shouldn’t give up her day job which is…..erm, being the daughter of Hulk Hogan I guess. She also spends the entire time parading around in a bikini and the script has her doing a lot of running. Go figure. At least the script isn’t making her out to be some sort of scientist. It only has her being a multi-talented handywoman who can fix boats, repair generators and rig crude explosives from oil barrels.

 

2-Headed Shark Attack is a predictably terrible film which relies on its gimmicky notion to sell itself – and then proceeds to do nothing different with it than hasn’t been done in x number of killer shark flicks. Two heads are better than one? Not a chance. Where is Roy Scheider and a couple of pressurised tanks when you need him?

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sand Sharks (2011)

Sand Sharks (2011)

Just when you thought you were safe out of the water

The island of White Sands is struggling to survive economically with tourists opting to swim elsewhere. The son of the mayor, sleazy Jimmy Green, heads back to town with the intention of saving the resort by turning it into some spring break haven, holding the Sandman Festival on the beach. Unfortunately, the decision to hold the festival coincides with a series of unexplained deaths on the beaches and the local sheriff is forced to close them with the fear that there is a dangerous animal on the loose. They soon learn that the cause of these deaths is a bunch of prehistoric sharks which are able to move through sand as easily as water. Not one to be deterred, Jimmy opts to press ahead with the festival with disastrous consequences.

 

Sand Sharks is every bit as goofy as it sounds and then some. The latest in a long, long line of low budget creature features from either The Asylum or The Sci-Fi Channel, if you’ve seen any of them then you’ll be in very familiar territory with this one. Truth to be told, they’re almost identikit films with only the title creatures being the variable between them. Having plundered the market for normal variations of sharks and crocodiles and totally worn out their welcomes with over-saturation, the studios mentioned now turn to prehistoric variations on the mentioned creatures. What it all boils down to is virtually the same type of killer shark film we’ve seen before, only with more of a Tremors feel to it than outright Jaws.

Spielberg’s classic is riffed on quite a lot throughout the film. Whether it just shows that the script writers are signalling where their influences lie or whether they’re just being lazy and rehashing scenes to fill out the time is another matter. The town hall scene, complete with a local ‘Quint’ who offers to kill the sharks, perhaps sums up the nature of the film best with its shameless lampooning. Jaws isn’t alone in having scenes poorly plagiarised, with the likes of Piranha and, bizarrely enough, Blood Beach also victimised. Not only is the entire film filled with scenes lifted from other films, there’s a pathetically goofy comic undercurrent running alongside. There are all sorts of one-liners, puns and sight gags strewn around and the script is full of general silliness – whether this helps the material or hinders it will entirely depend on your mindset before viewing. The feeble efforts at comedy fall flat and become somewhat embarrassing as the film progresses. Piranha 3-D this is not!

The preposterous abilities of these sharks are all rendered with the usual cheap CGI. At no point do you ever get the sense that they are swimming around in the sand – heck it’s even hard to believe that they exist in the same universe as the rest of the film. With no physical presence at all, the CGI looks tacky and what’s worse, it makes the actors look just as bad as they try to convey the sense of physicality. One of the scenes in the finale involving two characters, a confined space and the mother shark had me in stitches for all of the wrong reasons. The sharks change size from scene to the next, depending on what the story requires them to do. It’s just basic school boy error making but something which no one seems bothered with anymore. Sand Sharks is not the first, and it surely won’t be the last, of these films to vary the size of their creatures to accommodate things in the script – either change the script or cut the scene.

What’s worse is that the script has characters continually walk onto the sand when they have been standing on concrete paths. As these sharks are only too keen on leaping out of the sand like salmon, this is a bad decision on behalf of anyone who decides to venture out there. Trying to overcompensate for the lack of genuine shocks or moments of excitement, there’s a CGI gore overdose with all manner of entrails and severed heads being brought to life in not-so-believable computer-generated fashion.

It would be a poor review to not give brief mention to the cast, in particular Corin Nemec who plays the slimy Jimmy and chews every scene that he’s in. There’s a genuine spark in the scenes that he’s in but unfortunately it fails to ignite anyone else into life. It seems like a bit of effort went into developing his character though the same can’t be said for any of the other routinely-bland stereotypes and quite how anyone would believe Brooke Hogan to be some sort of scientist is beyond me.

 

Sand Sharks attempts to mix Jaws and Tremors with disastrously cheesy consequences. If you’re going to watch this, then chances are that you know what you’re about to get yourself for and are bracing for impact. Nothing anyone is going to say will make you change your mind.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Super Shark (2011)

Super Shark (2011)

That’s one big ass shark!

An offshore drilling accident triggers the release of a giant prehistoric shark which can crawl on land or fly and proceeds to start terrorising the nearby community. Marine biologist Kat Carmichael is called in to investigate but runs into problems in the shape of oil executive Mr Wade.

 

I guess it’s the trend nowadays for monster movies to try and go more over-the-top than the last one. Since The Asylum’s terribly over-hyped snooze-fest Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus set the bar for outlandish physics-defying claptrap, it seems that every film made since featuring aquatic terrors has to try and outdo it in terms of ludicrousness and unbelievability. From Sharktopus featuring a shark-octopus hybrid which can walk on land to Mega Piranha with flying piranha fish taking out helicopters, sharks with two heads in 2-Headed Shark Attack and finally Sand Sharks with sharks than can ‘swim’ in sand, there seems to be no stopping this new wave of eye-rolling monotony. Super Shark isn’t going to buck that trend any time soon, rummaging through the bin and taking a page out of the nonsense book by having a mutant shark that can both fly and walk on land!

It’s quite hard to go into a film called Super Shark and not be surprised that it isn’t anything more than a complete turd. Story and common sense matters little to a film like this. It’s a film designed to showcase some bonkers set pieces featuring a shark that can walk on land and that’s primarily it. Human characters are there just to move along the plot until the next shark moment. Whatever cool ideas the writers thought they could get away, they throw in here without concern for how bizarre they are. Ever wanted to see a giant CGI walking shark battle a walking CGI tank on a sunny beach? Well here you are in all of its cartoon CGI glory. Seriously, the effects in this film are ridiculous. The shark has the usual CGI shark perma-grin slapped on its face and seems to be impervious to bullets (either that or the marksman in the tank was a lousy shot). Someone give me an animatronic or even rubber shark like the good old days – but I guess that would be considered boring now.

Part of the problem in this cycle of films, embodied by Super Shark, is that they have to outdo each other for fear that they’ll come off dull and “not as good as Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus.” So with the barrage of moronic set pieces comes a whole host of silly sub-plots and a sardonic script to keep the audience bombarded with as much inane nonsense as possible. There are a couple of sub-plots here which are all just treading water until the characters are fed to the shark at various points. Take for example the three lifeguards introduced at the beginning of the film. Possibly coming off as main characters, they are given a fair share of the screen time and a silly love-triangle plot before the shark has its way with them pretty soon after. It was a dead end sub-plot but given way too much time before proving itself to be a total waste. The script also litters the film with ridiculous dialogue that people can use as soundbytes because the writers know that it’s the only hope they have of getting people to remember it. You can bet your life that someone will call it “super shark” at some point.

Low budget exploitation horror veteran Fred Olen Ray is at the helm for this one and despite mocking some of his previous efforts, how I yearn for the cheap splatter effects and gratuitous nudity of some of his 90s outings. This is Olen Ray at his most neutered and puerile, barely raising a titter with plenty of bikini bimbos and having to endure the awfulness of the CGI shark during the set pieces. Where are the centrefolds he used to cast and then get them naked? Where are the cheap homemade blood patches and bargain basement limbs?

As is the case with these Sy-Fy/Asylum-esque flicks, there are one or two low rent actors taking the main parts for some form of name recognition. Sy-Fy stalwart John Schneider just can’t play a decent bad guy to save his life and his slimy oil executive character doesn’t even manage to raise a few pantomime boos. At least Sarah Lieving still looks as good as she did in Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus, filling out one of the aforementioned bikinis with aplomb. Couldn’t tell you anything about her character but she looked good doing whatever she was supposed to be doing.

 

Super Shark is yet another lame, one-trick watered down monster movie where the novelty value of the creature-of-the-moment soon outstays its welcome after the first sighting and then proceeds to go from idiotic set piece to the next. This genre has quite literally ‘jumped the shark’ now. Until next month at least and the next one of these films off the conveyor belt….

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆