Shark Attack (1999)

Shark Attack (1999)

There’s Blood In The Water

A marine biologist heads to an African fishing village which is suddenly having a large spate of shark attacks, one of which claimed the life of his good friend. But as he investigates further, he realises that there may be more than just a shark problem in the village.


Clearly going for the shock tactics of having a rather aggressive-looking shark on the poster, Shark Attack comes hot on the heels of disposable big budget shark-fest Deep Blue Sea, no doubt catching a ride in the wake of the ‘genetically engineered sharks go bad’ theme whilst the current was still strong. But don’t expect anything even a quarter as entertaining as Renny Harlin’s unfairly maligned shocker – these sharks here have little bite.

Shark Attack isn’t really a horror film. Yes, the elements of sharks attacking people can be considered part of the horror genre but there were killer sharks in Live and Let Die but no one considers that a horror flick. No, Shark Attack plays out like the low budget TV movie that it is – more content to play up the mystery-thriller aspects and throwing in some token attack scenes so that they could sell the story as something different. This is a dull human drama first and foremost. The genetic engineering storyline is wheeled out here as the sharks are having the size of their brain cells increased in size so that more vital proteins can be extracted (hmmm, where have I heard that before?). The side effect here is not that they get smarter but more aggressive, though I’m sure you wouldn’t be best pleased at having metal rods shoved into your head every other day.

At least the sharks look real. They should do I might add considering they’re nearly all made up of stock footage. Apart from a couple of quick shots where a rubber fin is used to home in on the actors in the water, the rest of the shark footage has been ‘borrowed’ from the Discovery Channel or one of those channels. Sharks vary in size between shots, depending on whatever footage they were using. Attack scenes consist of little more than shoddily-edited footage being spliced together with a bit of fake blood in the water. At no point do shark and human ever co-exist on the same shot. But there are so few of them throughout the film that these points become somewhat trivial. You might as well make the most of the brief attacks whilst you can – you know, small mercies and all of that – because there’s little else to get excited about.

Shark Attack at least tries to wheel out some ‘big guns’ to beef up its cast. Say what you like about his acting ability (and don’t worry, I will) but Casper Van Dien was reasonably hot property back in the late 90s thanks to Starship Troopers and tipped for big things. But his big things ended up being Python, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and Dracula 3000. Van Dien at least manages to act in his native accent though the film curiously just refers to the country as ‘Africa’ all of the time. Please tell me that was a mistake and not showing the intelligence level of the writers here.

And when you say to someone “One of the Ghostbusters is in this” then no doubt they’d get their hopes up for a Bill Murray or Dan Aykroyd appearance, less so Harold Ramis but he’d still be the best thing in it. But unfortunately it’s the other Ghostbuster – the black guy who started tagging along in the final third of Ghostbusters – Ernie Hudson. He’s a decent actor as proven in his turns in the likes of The Crow and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle but his role as the token bad guy gets a bit embarrassing towards the end of the film as Hudson is forced to go into villain overdrive, explaining his schemes like some Bond villain and telling Van Dien that he is going to die.


Shark Attack is like watching an overlong version of Baywatch when the sharks popped up as the threat-of-the-week to The Hoff and Pamela Anderson. It’s got all of the production values of a TV show and is about as exciting as watching a sea snail. Somehow it spawned a couple of sequels (which got worse in quality but better in pure entertainment).





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