top of page
Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Shark Swarm (2008)

"Fear travels in packs..."


A greedy real estate developer has been dumping illegal toxins into the sea around Full Moon Bay in an attempt to kill off the fishing trade and force people to sell up to him. However the toxins do have another effect on the marine life as they make the sharks more aggressive and hungrier. With the sea almost devoid of fish, the sharks turn their attention to human prey.


Originally made as a Hallmark TV mini-series, this has since been banded together under the guise of a feature length film. When I'm talking feature length here, I'm not just talking about your bog standard breezy ninety-minute throwaway TV movie, I'm talking about The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King length! It's a mammoth offering of killer sharks but one which no doubt worked better in smaller bite size chunks on TV over a few nights instead of one sitting. It's long, repetitive and extremely dull in many places and I came away feeling just a little cheated. All killer shark films clearly try to emulate the success of Jaws. I guess there's not a lot much you can do differently in regards to the setting as you need to get people into the water and there's only so many reasons to do so. But because Spielberg's classic is so good, none of these efforts like Shark Attack and Shark Zone are ever going to be in the same league. And Shark Swarm joins the list.

I do beg the question as to why the film needs killer sharks when they're not really the main antagonists of the film. We're served up a list of supporting villains who take up the majority of the screen time. I'm plain sick of this type of genre film throwing in human villains for our good guys to deal with because the monsters always get relegated into supporting roles. You could quite easily have had the evil real estate developer as a supporting bad guy in relation to the sharks but not as the main villain who, with his henchman, manage to turn the film into some cheapo action film towards the end when they hold the good guys at gunpoint and lower them into the shark-infested water ala James Bond.

Armand Assante is the real estate developer and he's actually OK in the role. I'm not having a go at his performance which is pretty good but it's just the point of his character in the overall story which is frustrating. Daryl Hannah looks rough in this one and doesn't do much except draw star billing. And Oscar-winning actor F. Murray Abraham pops up in the role of the university professor on hand to give us a blow-by-blow account of what happened to the sharks. He also gets to utter the phrase ‘shark swarm’ which made me cringe a little to know that they threw the title into the script just because they could. John Schneider is also solid in his role as the hero of the piece and at least he makes an effort to lend some credibility to the proceedings - he's usually a good hand as a budget leading man. The characters are all given way too much screen time but what do you expect with such a long running time? The plot is stretched out so far it almost snaps and characters take their time to investigate and follow up on matters simply to drag out a bit more of the running time.

The sharks here are well fed. I'm talking about upwards of around thirty people. Fishermen, divers, swimmers - the usual suspects. The problem is that the people being eaten are just nameless and faceless statistics for the most. Of course there are a few obligatory main characters with dialogue to get eaten but most of the people killed are non-characters; extras who are just shown setting off about their business from the beach and a few moments later they are dragged to their deaths. I lost count of the amount of ‘filler scenes’ involving characters swimming, diving, etc. before they are attacked. Every few minutes, the film switched back to the water to show someone new and irrelevant fall victim to the fish. Whilst I'm all for feeding the sharks, at least do it in a scarier, more meaningful fashion. There weren't many deaths in Jaws but you got the feeling the shark was chomping everyone because the attack scenes were done with a bit of suspense and skill. This is the point I was making earlier. The sharks become second-fiddle to the human bad guys and I think the film just shows random sharks attacks every few minutes in order to remind you that you are watching Shark Swarm and not some pathetic TV-movie thriller.

Aside from the long running time which means the writers have to pad things out way more than they'd usually have to, the script also makes it easy for the sharks. Thanks to the writers, the sharks even have the common sense to continually knock people off boats into the water by ramming the sides. And to add to the mess, about ten people go missing before anyone even bats an eye lid. In a town with a small population like this, I'm sure you'd miss the only life guard on the beach or the cranky old fisherman who goes out fishing every day. The sharks are all CGI as well which gives them way too much manoeuvrability underwater. Real sharks may be fast and agile when they strike but never this sleek underwater and the super-fast movements completely take you out of the film. I mean, it's not like it would take much!


Final Verdict

Shark Swarm is on way too long for its own good. It starts off promisingly enough but the repetitive cycle of shark attacks, bickering between human characters and bad guys twirling their moustaches is just too much, even for me to take. The plot, which is rather stretched out as it stands, could easily have been cut down to ninety minutes for a DVD release.


Shark Swarm

Director(s): James A. Conter

Writer(s): Matthew Chernov, Stephen Niver (rewrite), David Rosiak

Actor(s): Daryl Hannah, John Schneider, Armand Assante, F. Murray Abraham, Roark Critchlow, Heather McComb, John Enos III, Alan Fudge

Duration: 158 mins


bottom of page