Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (2017) Review

As I hope #SharkWeak has proved, I’m a  huge fan of Shark movies, be they the prime cuts like “Jaws”, the gourmet burgers such as “Deep Blue Sea” or the dirty kebab van sustenance of SyFy original movies. I can tolerate wooden acting and look past the occasionally shoddy special effects (I grew up watching classic “Doctor Who” and “Blake’s 7” so I know a thing or two about using my own imagination to close the SFX gap) as long as there’s a hint of imagination and wit in the writing. “Sharknado” and “Sharknado 2: The Second One” were passable and “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” actually managed to be halfquarter-way knowingly funny. By “Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens”, however, the one-joke franchise had worn out its tolerance. It bored me. “Sharknado 5: Global Swarming” didn’t bore me.

It infuriated me.

As America reels from the effects of the devastating effects of the polynados of the last movie, Finn Shepherd (Ian Ziering) brings his family to London to attend a United Nations conference on Sharknados. Meanwhile, Nova (Cassandra Scerbo) is back, spelunking in the vast caverns under Stonehenge (presumably left there after all the “Transformers: The Last Knight” argy bargy) where she finds an ancient artefact and some cave paintings. It’s been a big week for ancient cave painters what with “Game Of Thrones” and now this. Wouldn’t you know it, the removal of the artefact creates a giant sharknado above Stonehenge, sucking up all the shark life from the seas around Salisbury <sarcasm />.

Of course, this Wiltshire-based weather phenomenon immediately threatens London and eventually the world after it snatches away Finn’s son and arbitrarily develops teleportation abilities. Can Finn and April (Tara Reid) rescue Gil (Billy Barratt) and prevent the devastation of a global but tightly budgeted sharknado-geddon? You know what, who cares?

This franchise has disappeared so far up its own cloaca that it’s basically peering out at the world through pointy CGI teeth. After the lazy “Star Wars” gags of the previous instalment, here we have a title card and opening which riffs weakly off “Indiana Jones”. It’s nothing compared to a crass attempt at a 007 reference once they reach London that comes off more as Lames Bond than anything else. Literally no British institution is left unsoiled by this grotesquely ignorant movie and its attempts to appeal to the basest instincts of its base.

There’s an egregious, almost savant level to the lack of awareness of London’s geography but then in a film which merrily switches bridges during a sequence it’s hard to know where lack of local knowledge ends and filmmaking ineptitude begins. Of course, ineptitude implies that the makers actually cared about what they were doing but their reach exceeded their grasp. The truth of “Sharknado 5” is they’re all too aware that they can put any old shit on screen and it won’t matter.

The script is a barely coherent parade of weak, throwaway moments so desperate it even borrows a joke from “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace”, designed to facilitate a parade of awkward, often z-list cameos that it reads like it was written by the casting director. Oh wait, it was. In a crowded field, it’s probably GMB’s Laura Tobin who delivers the worst performance, besting no-talent favourites like Katie Price and Louis Spence to the worst of the worst title thanks to her achingly self-conscious yet lifeless delivery of her lines.

The weirdest thing is the sharks of the sharknado have almost become incidental by this point. There are no amusing or imaginative kills and they seem more of a threat by falling and crushing people than in the chomping (which is, admittedly, an unexpected element of realism). The CGI is par for the course but the practical effects look cheaper and tackier than ever. During a Buckingham Palace-based action sequence where Finn retrieves the Queen’s crown and hands it to what looks like Gary Oldman’s character from “Hannibal” (although a quick IMDB check reveals it’s actually Charo, presumably cast as the Queen because Helen Mirren was unavailable), the teeth of the shark bend as he reaches into its mouth. It’s kind of astonishing that a film this cheap went to the expense of actually filming on location in London but it also results in numerous scenes of relaxed tourists ambling around during what is meant to be the ruination of the capital.

It’s a film informed by a Trumpian level of international awareness, and Finn Sherpherd’s unironic invocation of making America great again strikes a bum note in a film which already can’t seem to tell its arse from its elbow. Switzerland gets off comparatively lightly compared the UK but Australia and Japan aren’t quite so lucky and if cultural sensitivity takes a beating, it’s nothing compared to the treatment meted out to Newtonian physics and pretty much every other branch of science.

Sprinkled in amongst the cavalcade of cameos by bad cosmetic surgery recipients and excruciatingly awful performances (Chris Kattan’s ‘British’ Prime Minister is punch-the-TV irritating) there are a few names (Nichelle Nicholls, Olivia Newton-John) which just make you sad that they’ve been reduced to this. Of the main cast, Ian Ziering plays this straighter than he’s ever done before, with a sincerity that implies he thinks he’s part of something groundbreaking and important while Tara Reid gamely tries to look like she knows what’s going on, especially after a character makeover which leaves her looking like ‘Bubblegum Hooker Barbie’.

A never ending procession of Dumbass Ex Machina ‘twists’ brings us to a Zemeckis-inspired ending which signposts where this now post-apocalyptic clusterfuck of a franchise intends to go next. At this point, I’d rather feed myself to the sharks than watch any more of this garbage.

0/10 

Advertisements

That Was The #SharkWeak That Was

Hello cupfishcakes! 😃🦈

It’s the UK premiere of “Sharknado 5: Global Swarming” tonight on SyFy UK (9:00pm if you’re wondering) and we’ve had a lot of fun over the past seven days here at What The Craggus Saw with Shark Weak but amidst all the man-eating monstrous nonsense, there’s a lot of things these presumably well-researched and meticulously fact-checked movies leave out. So, in the interests of balance (and, you know, the planet’s future), here’s the science bit:

It’s not news to you, I’m sure, that sharks in the real world are in big trouble. SyFy Cinema might show them as vicious, relentlessly voracious killing machines but in real life, they are very vulnerable creatures (okay, vulnerable creatures with a set of endless serrated knives for teeth but remember, for every human killed by a shark attack, humans have killed nine million sharks[1]).

Peter Benchley, the author of “Jaws”, has been particularly vocal about his guilt over the role he played in giving sharks their gruesome reputation and contributing to the global attitudes towards sharks and their utterly misrepresented threat to humans.  With Hollywood embracing this remorseless killer of the sea image and humans encroaching more and more into their habitat either for leisure or commerce it’s gotten us to the point where some species of sharks are at severe risk of extinction and many more are suffering serious population depletion. The reduction and potential loss of sharks could prove to be catastrophic to the marine environment and subsequently to humanity and our relationship with the oceans.

Sharks are fish, ranging in size from the 10m-15m Whale Shark – the largest non-cetacean creature alive on the Earth today – to the 20-50cm small varieties such as the Cookie Shark. In amongst the range, you have the renowned predators such as the Great White, the Bull Shark and the Tiger Shark, unusual species and variations such as the Hammerhead Sharks and Wobbegongs (Carpet Sharks). They range all over the planet’s oceans from the Oceanic White Tip who prefers deep, open water to the Bull Shark which can happily live in both fresh and salt water areas. We have sharks in UK waters too. For example, the huge but harmless filter feeding Basking Shark (notable for its tendency to swim with its fin above water, “Jaws”-like, as it scoops up the microscopic nourishment floating under the surface of the water often visits in summer. Blue Sharks, Thresher Sharks, even the occasional smooth Hammerhead Shark can pop in around the south coast of the UK and, of course, we have permanent residents like dog fish, cat sharks and smooth hounds in our waters all year round. And don’t forget the shark family also includes the Rays too, from the small skates found in UK waters to the enormous Manta rays found in warmer climes.

My point is that Sharks are spectacularly more varied and diverse than the Great White Shark that Hollywood has adopted as the poster child for fear of the ocean and even then, the Great White itself is not what it is portrayed as on screen.  As varied and diverse as they are, they all have one thing in common: they are all under threat from Humans.  We have the biggest impact on them in so many ways: overfishing, commercial fishing techniques and by-catch all have a direct and immediate impact by reducing numbers by taking them out of the water to start with, not to mention the abhorrent ‘finning’ of sharks for soup and health supplements which sees otherwise healthy animals caught, mutilated and then dumped back into the ocean to sink, drown or bleed to death.

Climate change is also taking its toll as CO2 changes the acidity of the oceans and temperatures start to rise. Similarly to CO2 changes, long term temperature changes in the ocean can be devastating, even a degree or two’s warming is damaging coral reefs and when the coral goes, so do the fish which live and feed off them and suddenly the sharks’ food sources have also vanished. Sharks may sit at the top of the food chain, performing a hugely undervalued function of keeping the oceanic populations healthy and in balance by removing the sick and weak through predation, but they are vulnerable to any large scale disruption to those populations. And, as if all that weren’t enough, we’re also filling the deep ocean with plastic garbage. It’s not just about target efforts to protect the sharks themselves, when we move to protect and restore the environment, we save the sharks and, ultimately, ourselves.

No, sharks do not have a murderous vendetta against humans but, when you think of everything we’re doing passively and actively to harm them, could you really blame them if they did? Sharks need our help, and we can do this is so many ways…

🦈 If you eat fish, make sure that it is caught in a sustainable manner – don’t just accept “sustainably caught” on the packaging, I would encourage everyone to only purchase fish that is certified by an appropriate board like the Marine Stewardship Council. Also know that some fish is shark meat marketed under a different name. That Rock or Rock Salmon in your fish ‘n’ chip shop is actually Dog Fish, and it’s not usually sustainably caught either.

🦈 There are many organisations and charities out there who study and advocate for Sharks, providing information and education who would welcome your support (click on the logos to find out more):

🦈 Why not adopt a shark?

🦈 Marvel at how far Sharks travel the world, pick a favourite and follow them!

🦈 Say no to single use plastic. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish (tonne for tonne).

🦈 Reduce, Reuse, Refill, Repurpose, Recycle

🦈 Pick up your litter. And organise or participate in your own local beach clean.

🦈 Don’t buy shark teeth necklaces or other shark items on holiday – by buying these items you provide a demand and this drives supply. Don’t buy it and they won’t be killed to provide it. You might want to think twice about cage diving with sharks or participating in organised shark feeding activities too. It encourages unnatural behaviours and puts people at risk, thereby putting sharks at risk if/when incidents happen.

🦈 Check out the late Rob Stewart’s world-changing documentary Sharkwater, which helped raise awareness of the plight of sharks worldwide and usher in a worldwide ban on shark-finning.

Sharks are great fun as movie monsters but I hope this has given you a bit of inspiration for what you can do to help protect and conserve them so that in years to come, future generations won’t be thinking of these magnificent animals the way we do the dinsosaurs when we’re watching “Jurassic World”.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share your ideas on how we can help protect the environment and sharks.

XXX

The Last Shark (1981) #SharkWeak Review

“Jaws” was a huge box office success, one of – if not the first – bona fide summer blockbusters and in its wake came many, many crappy cash-ins, like remoras swimming after a real shark. “The Last Shark” is one of the most blatant – and most entertainingly laughable – remoran rip-offs out there. Produced in Italy, this spaghetti shark movie opens with a windsurfing montage that will have you willing the title character to show up and devour, if not the windsurfer, then the person in charge of selecting the soundtrack. Much of the special effects budget must have been spent on simply keeping the windsurfing going on what seems to be an utterly calm day.

Director Enzo G Castellari, eschewing “Jaws”’ masterpiece of using music to build tension, prefers to pad out “The Last Shark” with stock underwater footage with no contextual clues whatsoever. For the first half hour or so, whenever anything remotely interesting or exciting does happen, the film cuts to a scene of a car driving sensibly in traffic. In fact, for a long time the sensibly driven car seems to be the real star of the movie and I briefly considered the film’s twist would be the car is the shark. That’s how good this movie is: you’ll start daydreaming more interesting things. Where it does succeed in building tension is in the anticipation of the shark. The rest of the film is so parsimoniously inept, you just can’t wait to see how much shark they could afford.

Character-wise, the film quickly ticks off the required boxes: a conveniently resident marine biologist, a crooked businessman running for Governor and, of course, low-rent Quint knock off (Vic Morrow playing grizzled sea captain Ron Hamer, a mix of drunk Robert Shaw, grumpy Ernest Borgnine and an accent which oscillates wildly between Scotland and Italy).

Things don’t start well, with the first stock footage of a sea creature looking like a porpoise rather than a shark – it’s a new low in lame stock footage use. The character’s first shark sighting is actually a pretty good visual gag using a chewed surfboard but still, no actual sign of the shark. Because of the impending regatta (of course), they decide to build an underwater wall (and presumably get the sharks to pay for it), which is a lot of effort given nobody has actually seen a shark yet.

After another tease where the camera’s zoomed in on a photo of a shark, about twenty-five minutes in, we finally get sight of the movie’s ‘star’ – sort of. Stock footage of the very tip of a very small dorsal fin or a very not Great White shark is spliced into a beach party montage just as a bikini clad girl announces she’s going for a swim. I think this is the film’s idea of foreshadowing. We’re treated to intercut footage of (clearly several different) sharks bumping against shark cages, suggesting it’s our shark trying to get through the shark wall. As cheap tricks go, it’s a decent one. Unfortunately Conveniently, the otherwise metal shark wall has a section made of flimsy netting for some reason and the shark swims easily through.

Oh buoy, credit where credit’s due – the film actually shows some creativity to avoid having to show a shark by having it get tangled in a marker buoy which it then tows through the regatta. The shark merrily uses its new found accessory to knock windsurfers off their boards, suggesting a level of tactical nous unusual in a [non-psychic] shark and, 37 minutes in, we finally get a good look at it. It’s a static plastic model but not too terrible I suppose. It loses much of its menace when it bubbles spectacularly as it fills with water as it re-submerges.

The regatta scene just kind of stops, although it does suggest the buoy has become detached from the sharks tail both visually and thematically, echoing the detachment of the last scene from this next one. We jump from the ‘spectacular action’ of the regatta where just one person died (the Last Shark is also, apparently, a picky eater) to the clichéd scene of an official mission to hunt the shark and a group of kids who think they can do it themselves.

Bafflingly, one of the missions decides the best way to track down the shark is to hunt for it in underwater caves, caves which are obviously too small for the shark to fit in no less. But the joke’s on me apparently, as the shark is also checking out the caves, perhaps hunting those pesky humans. Brilliantly, the shark gets his own back by building a wall of his own across the cave entrance using boulders. The shark model may be terrible but there’s no faulting his tactics and strategy. My admiration for the tactical genius of this shark is short-lived however as his next move is to disable a pleasure cruiser from escaping by jamming the propeller with his back. Perhaps the shark is part of that corporal mortification cult from “The DaVinci Code”?

One of the rookie kids who headed out to try and catch the shark ends up losing a leg in the most bloodless shark attack ever but surprisingly, the whole movie still looks better than the modern day low budget creature features because it’s shot on film rather than digital or videotape. Even film stock can’t help the model work though and an inspired idea to fish for the great white from a helicopter ends up making Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation look like Industrial Light & Magic. A curious thing about “The Last Shark” is that in “Jaws”, most of the people die because they’re unaware the shark is there but in this, nearly every kill is the result of people deliberately setting out to find the shark. The final finale (for there are several false ‘fin’s) is an inspired siege on a detached floating platform and sees the film beat “Jaws: The Revenge” to pioneer the shark roar by some six years although it’s frittered away in the most drama free shark killing in Shark Weak history.

“The Last Shark” is a vintage treat for devotees of bad shark movies because it really goes all in on the ‘bad’. But that’s about the only audience who could appreciate this. Well, them and film students who want a cautionary example of why editing and scene structure are important.

2/10 

Dinoshark (2010) #SharkWeak Review

The film opens with a baby Dinoshark swimming away from a broken chunk of Arctic glacier that calved due to global warming. Three apparently uneventful years later, the Dinoshark is a ferocious predatory adult and starts killing tourists and locals off the shores of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Our hero, Trace, is the first to notice the creature, witnessing his friend get eaten, but – as is always the way – he has trouble convincing anybody that a monster of such prehistory is still alive let alone snacking on the local populace.

Roger Corman’s (yes, him again) “Dinoshark” has a far better claim to the title “Jurassic Shark” than the ‘film’ which took the title and clearly a greater budget than whatever loose change was found down the back of a sofa plus a camcorder that was used for that travesty. I mean, this film has Eric “Skyline” Balfour in it!

Aside from the micro-budget nonsense like “Raiders Of The Lost Shark” and “Jurassic Shark”, there’s a something of a tradition for sharksploitation flicks to be thinly veiled excuses for the cast and crew to enjoy a few weeks on an exotic South American getaway. I bet the poor guys who slave away on the bargain basement CGI effects barely even get to go outside at all, let alone hit the beaches.

The film’s kind of lazily formulaic (or maybe I’ve just watched too many of these things in quick succession). In any event, it’s easy to see why director Kevin O’Neill got the nod to direct the two “Sharktopus” sequels. It was originally pitched as a sequel to “Dinocroc” but SyFy wanted a more sharky flavour so out with the crocs and in the with the sharkskin and away we go as Corman recycles much of the plot from his 1979 “Jaws” cash-in creature feature “Up from the Depths”.

It’s a little bit bloodier than usual with these films – we actually see the water turn red when people fall into the water at the slightest bump to a boat and there’s a hilariously staged half-eaten corpse which is clearly the actress half buried in sand and dressed with some offal. Digital effects wise, the film gets its money’s worth from two specific shots of the Dinoshark swimming through the water and it actually pulls off a pretty mean helicopter snatch ‘n’ munch, one of the best I’ve seen in these films.

Of course, there’s a regatta running and Trace’s warnings go unheeded until the very last second. People usually seem completely oblivious to the ineffectiveness of firing bullets into water in these movies, and here there’s the added problem that the creature is heavily armoured, foreshadowing the toothy tunnellers of “Sand Sharks”. We get a selection of the usual water sports fun kills as a paraglider and a jet skier get munched among others. The action-packed final kill is also up there – literally – as Eric Balfour attempts to takes out the Dinoshark with a mid-air grenade toss. Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough and, from the way it’s filmed, our hero ends up appearing to use a small child as a human shield against the advancing monster. Thankfully, our leading lady (Iva Hasperger) is on hand to take way more time than strictly necessary to set up a cheesy one-liner before skewering Dinoshark in the eye with a harpoon.

If you were rooting for the monster in this one – and who could blame you if you were – don’t worry too much because before the movie’s done, we revisit the still thawing glacier in time to see the release of another Dinoshark baby.

So cheesy you could top a pizza with it, “Dinoshark” really isn’t a shark movie at all, but it helped define the tropes and clichés of the bad shark movie genre so gleefully, earning it a place in Shark Weak’s line-up.

3/10 

Sharktopus vs Whalewolf (2015) #SharkWeak Review

Unreleased and, so far, unbroadcast in the UK, “Sharktopus vs Whalewolf” sees the return of the sharp toothed tentacled menace, this time getting tangled up in genetic experimentation and voodoo as he does battle with the fearsome Whalewolf. Oh yeah, SPOILER ALERT: Sharktopus survives the events of “Sharktopus vs Pteracuda”.

Shark Weak veteran Casper Van Dien is back, along with his then wife Catherin Oxenberg. Before you assume the couple simply fancied a tropical holiday in the Dominican Republic, think again. They filed for divorce the same year this movie was made and share no scenes together, so perhaps it wasn’t the happiest of shoots.

The film opens with Ray (Caspar Van Dien), a burned out alcoholic boat captain hosting a charter for a burial at sea. We know it’s a funeral straight away because the deceased is apparently being laid to rest by simply dropping a polished mahogany coffin with all the trimmings straight into the crystal clear Caribbean waters. Take that, tourists! Thankfully it only takes a minute of this movie for Sharktopus to show up, in all his cartoony glory, swiftly turning the funeral into a ‘die one, get to flee’ bloodbath. Ray and his sidekick Pablo (Jorge Eduardo De Los Santos) survive only to find that their debt to local voodoo priest Tiny (Tiny) has fallen due and the only thing he’ll accept to settle the debt is the heart of the Sharktopus.

Meanwhile, Oxenberg is having a ball as Teutonic-accented genetic scientist Dr Reinhart whose clinical menu of genetic therapies makes the ones in Die Another Day look like the pharmacy counter in Boots. To help a would-be athlete, she whips up a DNA Daiquiri, one part killer whale, one part wolf and accidentally garnished with moonlight, creating a lunar-driven man/ monster hybrid. We’re soaring into “Gremlins 2”-level high concept science madness here and it’s glorious.

Sharktopus actually looks pretty good in the underwater scenes, it’s in the daylight setting with real people the FX shortcomings are apparent. The first fight between Whalewolf and Sharktopus has all the dramatic heft of a cynical Discovery Channel cryptozoology ‘documentary’, while our game cast does their best to keep their sight-lines reasonably consistent.

Lest we forget, for the eponymous anti-hero of the franchise, Sharktopus is still a voracious and indiscriminate killer and his body count far exceeds the guest villain. At least the hokey voodoo subplot brings a fresh way to bring the creature under some form of control after the ubiquitous control implants of the previous two movies.

The film eventually boils down to an extended rumble between the two monsters, throughout the island including what you assume is two rival dance troupes engaging in an elegantly choreographed and surprisingly acrobatic ‘gang fight’ followed by a laughably executed parkour scene which is cut short as Sharktopus and Whalewolf turn up to execute them for real.

Caspar Van Dien turns in a pretty good comedic performance and a too-short sequence of Sharktopus rampaging through a shopping mall shows real glimpses of wit in the writing and direction but it’s soon back to business as usual. Unusually for a shark monster movie, much of the action takes place on land and the finale is set in a baseball stadium where, oddly, it’s our star, Sharktopus, who’s killed first, after being flung into an electrified net and fried up like a jumbo portion of sharkalamari before Whalewolf is finished off by a barrage of missiles from some conveniently passing fighter jets.

It’s more of a stop than an ending, and beyond ‘let them fight’ the film doesn’t have too much else to offer us. Given the landlocked and flash-fried nature of the title creature’s demise, it does appear to be the end of the franchise, but a pre-credits coda provides a voodoo-inspired resurrection, should the need arise for another teeth and tentacles team-up in the future.

Breezier and slightly more cohesive than the previous instalment, it’s still high concept low brow rubbish but it’s a little more knowingly tongue-in-cheek this time and the creature design and animation is actually quite impressive, albeit grossly cartoony. Where will the combine-a-creature wheel stop next? Only Roger Corman knows for sure!

4/10 

Sharktopus vs Pteracuda (2014) #SharkWeak Review

SyFy movie! Some fun, all gimmicks

Two creature ideas go round having fights
Round having fights, round having fights
Two creature ideas go round having fights
Round having fights, round having fights

Guess who’s back? Back again?
Sharktopus! Tell a friend
Guess who’s back? guess who’s back?
Guess who’s back? guess who’s back?

They created a monster, ‘cause nobody wants ta
See just sharks no more, they want monsters and chummed liver
Well, if you want monsters, this is what I’ll give ya
A little bit of fish mixed with a fossil flyer
Some blood squibs that’ll jump start your heart quicker
Than the sharktopus egg sac escaping from the first movie
And drifting out and hatching in the open sea
And ending up in a theme park – captivity (heyyy!)
You waited this long, now stop debating
‘Cause the Navy’s back, and they’ve been creating
I know that they used a barracuda
But the ‘dactyl DNA’s complicating
So the control implant won’t let him be
Or let him be free, so let me see
They try to shut it down but he breaks free
And flies off on a killing spree
So, eat peeps on the beach and some in the surf
Fuck that! Conan dies, causing much mirth
And get ready, ‘cause this shit’s about to get heavy
It’s Sharktopus v Pteracuda, for king of the sea!

Now this is a Shark Weak movie
And if you’ve been following me
You’ll know we need a little controversy
‘Cause it goes so well with gore and cheese
But this movie is a little bit twee
I said this is just a fair movie
Kind of sets up for movie three!
But it lacks a bit of creativity

Little hellions, monsters feeling rebellious
Embarrassing special effects undermine this
The cast feeling like prisoners helpless
‘Til someone comes along on a mission and yells, “Cut!!!”
Roger Corman, his vision is scary
Won’t start a revolution, or be ruling the airwaves
It’s silly, so just let me revel and bask
In the fact that I got to watch all these back to back
Movie disasters, such a catastrophe
For you to read so damn much of my thoughts on these?
We’re not done, no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no
Fix your wifi connection log it in, and then I’m gonna
Fill it in, and up your browser like a splinter
Making you afraid to get back in the water
It’s interesting, the best thing since wrestling
Infesting in your news feed and nesting
Testing, attention, pause
Feel the tension, soon as someone mentions “Jaws”
That’s my ten cents, Shark Weak is free
Sharktopus vs Pteracuda look cartoony.

Now this is a Shark Weak movie
And if you’ve been following me
You’ll know how many I’ve had to see
‘Cause I will suffer to keep you free
But this movie isn’t all it could be
Production values are a little shoddy
Casting lacks a starring name or three
And, at least for now, that’s all from me.

3/10 

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (2002) #SharkWeak Review

Make no mistake, this is the movie Jason Statham’s forthcoming “Meg” needs to beat. “Shark Attack 3” completely ignores the previous two films (returning cast member Jenny McShane plays a completely different character) and moves the action from South Africa to Mexico. Ariba! This time out our biggest ‘name’ is John Barrowman. Ay ay ay, dios mio!

When a colossal shark’s tooth is discovered off the Mexican coast by lifeguard Ben (Barrowman) during the maintenance on an important new pipeline, it confirms the worst fears of marine biologist and shark expert Cat Stone (McShane) – the most menacing predator in the history of the oceans is still alive, and feeding on anything that crosses its path.

“Shark Attack 3” contains all the ingredients we’ve come to depend on: callous corporations focussed on profits, tourist chiefs reluctant to close the beaches and an old sea dog who’ll catch the shark for ye. That John Barrowman is the least hammy and wooden actor in the film tells you everything you need to know about the rest of the cast and the quality of performances on offer. Even Barrowman’s performance is so tongue-in-cheek, it’s as if he faced a constant struggle to keep a straight face during all this nonsense. Luckily, the same cannot be said for Jenny McShane, who manages to remain impassive even in the face of one of the all-time great lines of cinema dialogue: “You know I’m really wired. What do you say I take you home and eat your pussy?”

In case that doesn’t give you a clue, “Shark Attack 3” is much raunchier than its predecessor, favouring the viewer with actual tits and ass as the director wisely recognises that if he can minimise the amount of dialogue his cast have to deliver, so much the better.

What really sets it apart, though, is its special effects. The use of stock footage is ludicrously haphazard; sometimes brilliant but often profoundly stupid. Although never addressed in dialogue, the unexplained Megalodon is remarkably Protean, changing size, sex and occasionally species with alarming frequency and some decent model work early on is ruined by a spectacularly hilarious dice and splice digital editing in the finale.

I say ruined, but it’s not really true. This is bad shark movie elevated to a high art form, the Platonic ideal of Shark Weak. Thanks to Barrowman (at his most Barrowmany) and his fellow actors, this prehistoric predator pantomime is never boring and never makes a lick of sense either. It’s so bad, it smashes right through the bottom of the scoring, circumnavigates the globe and ends up back somewhere at the middle. The existence of “Shark Attack 3: Megalodon” is a blessing, a curse and a miracle. It needs to be seen to be disbelieved.

5/10 

Shark Attack 2 (2000) #SharkWeak Review

“Shark Attack 2”, the imaginatively named follow-up to 1999’s “Shark Attack” opens, as is traditional, with an unexpected shark attack. This time it’s a pair of scuba diving sisters and only one of them makes it back alive, albeit after managing to injure her attacker. For a brief moment, I wondered if we were in for a sharky spin on “The Fugitive” as Samantha is accused of her sister’s murder and she spends the film trying to convince people it was not her, it was the one-eyed shark! Sadly no, but it does at least keep a tenuous link to the first film as it turns out the sharks now terrorising the coastline of Cape Town are the same genetically modified ones from Port Amanzi.

Dr. Nick Harris (Thorsten Kaye), a marine biologist is brought in to deal with the mutated shark menace and succeeds in capturing the shark, housing it in local theme park Water World but due to the greed of the aquarium owner, the shark manages to escape. Nick is forced to team up with Samantha (Nikita Ager) to hunt it down.

This no-name sequel immediately lowers the acting bar and although it’s still primarily relying on model work for special effects, you can see that the money they saved on casting has been spent on some rudimentary CGI. There’s still some smart use of stock footage, though.

Plot-wise, we all know since “Jaws 3” that attempting to keep a Great White in captivity never ends well and it’s “Jaws 3” that this movie is riffing on so hard and so cheaply. The script is laughably workmanlike, staggering from plot point to plot point with little time for logic or consistency. Everyone seems super-chill about people getting eaten by the shark at Water World. When an employee falls into the shark’s tank while trying to feed it, the most anybody – even the park visitors – can muster is mild concern. After the employee has been devoured, our hero Nick then decides to radio the control room to advise there’s an emergency. Lightning reflexes, buddy but unless the shark requires a toothpick, I doubt there’s much urgency left. Of course, this is just a story development to allow Michael Francisco (Danny Keough), the shady owner of Water World to scapegoat Nick and fire him.

He may be fired from Water World, but he’s still employed by the film as its hero, so he decides to go after the shark, teaming up with the vengeful sister of the movie’s first victim on her saucily monikered charter boat, the Wet Dream. But Water World’s Francisco wants his star attraction back too so he hires Discovery Channel Crocodile Hunter knock-off Roy Bishop (Dan Metcalf) to pursue them.

Thanks to an electronic tag, our hero and heroine quickly track down the errant shark, which turns and attacks the boat. Of cours, the shark roars, so if you had that on your Shark Weak bingo card, cross it off now. After tangling with the shark again the Wet Dream finds itself adrift  – evidently, the shark wasn’t told that only the human cast members get to chew the scenery – and the crew has to be recused by the bigger, better Discovery Channel boat.

Unfortunately TV’s Roy Bishop is more of an IrLoser than an Irwin and manages to catch a shark but can’t confirm if it’s the same shark due it letting it get decapitated by the propeller. Our hero Nick is convinced the danger remains and goes diving at night to see if he can find the real shark (risk assessment isn’t his strong point). To his horror, he discovers an underwater cave full of mutant Great Whites – it’s a shark gang and they’re not practising jazz tap routines to take on the Jets this time.

Thanks to this gang of sharks, the local surf competition bites the big one as the mutant sharks cruise the shore like a surf ‘n’ turf buffet, causing the Mayor to lash out at Francisco who takes out his guilty rage on Roy Bishop while Dr Nick shares tales of a tiger shark attack he survived years before. No mention is made of whether he ever tangled with Mary Ellen Moffat, but he does get busy with Samantha in a brief, steamy super-softcore sexy scene.

If it sounds like the movie manages to pack a lot into its 90 minute run time, it does – even if it’s the kind of packing which means you arrive at your destination with your clothes all wrinkled and your sun tan lotion having leaked all over your books. A frenetic underwater showdown with the shark gang ends with IrLoser Roy staging the most improbable survival since Mario van Peebles bobbed to the surface in “Jaws: The Revenge”.

Despite the wooden cast and rip off plotting, “Shark Attack 2” actually ends up being kind of a better movie than its predecessor. It’s still hammy and incredibly dumb but it’s also pretty good fun.

4/10 

Shark Attack (1999) #SharkWeak Review

If you’re worried that we’ve moved beyond the era of movie star led shark shenanigans, never fear: “Shark Attack” (kudos on the effort in titling this one, guys) brings us none other than Casper Van Dien and Ernie Hudson. Yes, the stars of “Starship Troopers”, “Ghostbusters” and “Congo” are giving up bugs and spooks and apes to take on the ocean’s apex predator. Sort of.

In a quiet South African fishing village of Port Amanzi, something is lurking in the water. The local fishermen can find no fish to catch and the town’s economy is collapsing. When a marine biologist friend of his mysteriously vanishes, Steven McKray (van Dien) arrives to investigate. He quickly discovers that something fishy is going on at the local marine research institute.

The film opens with a surprise attack, only this time it’s by some crooked (or at least overly zealous) cops. Made in the days before cheap and cheerful CGI, this 1999 movie starts building the tension from the very first scene as we watch a 16kb modem upload a vital email to our soon-to-arrive hero. Alas, its transmission is interrupted by the corrupt cops and, after slashing him with a machete they throw him overboard to be devoured by some stock footage.

The film’s first shark attack itself is curiously bloodless; all Dutch angles and stock footage but where the shark effects are pretty lame, the physical props are actually pretty good. So good, in fact, that I’m not sure if they actually used a real dead shark in the autopsy scene.  The stock footage used isn’t too bad – if a little repetitive – and at least they’ve made a bit of an effort to grade the footage to the colour of the water of the filming locations so it’s not too intrusive.

Plot wise, it’s a bit of a mishmash between the character beats of “Jaws” (consider Van Dien’s McKray a hybrid of Chief Brody and Matt Hooper) and the plot of its big screen contemporary “Deep Blue Sea”, as the reason for the shark’s unusually aggressive behaviour is revealed to be due to genetic experimentation in the pursuit of a cure for cancer. However, if you were looking forward to seeing Johnny Rico and Winston Zedmore teaming up to take on the bad guys (and fish) you’re in for a disappointment, because Hudson is the shady businessman whose taking advantage of the shark attacks to drive the seafront businesses into the ground and buy up the beachfront property. Apart from some of the ‘South African’ accents being hilariously off, it’s decidedly average fare, never living up to its script’s crowning glory revealing that Hudson is intent on selling the village to ‘the oil company who have just struck gold’. While it’s disappointing that “Shark Attack” isn’t terrible – nor terribly good either – it’s really much more of a dull thriller with sharks than a monster shark movie. All is not lost, though: this is one franchise which would end up giving so much more to the bad shark genre…

4/10 

Planet Of The Sharks (2016) #SharkWeak Review

“Planet Of The Sharks” is the selachian sequel to “Waterworld” that nobody needed or even asked for. This is as high concept as SyFy movies come and, surprisingly, it’s actually pretty good fun.

In the future, climate change has completely melted the polar ice caps and the entire world is under water. Humanity survives in scatted floating cities, at the mercy of the sharks which now roam the earth. But there is hope, as the survivors have a plan to reactivate a satellite and scrub the CO2 from the atmosphere to bring about a global cooldown and reclaim the planet.

The poster for this Asylum movie promises a toothy spin on “Planet Of The Apes” but unfortunately, there’s no ‘damn dirty shark’ being told to keep their fins off here. We’re still some way away from getting talking sharks in these movies, roaring and texting being the closest we’ve got so far.

As the film opens, we’re treated to an attack by the sharks on a floating commune called Junk City. These CGI monsters of the deep aren’t averse to leaping out of the water for their supper so there’s plenty of kills in the early stages. The effects are actually pretty decent and the “Waterworld” aesthetic is successfully recreated on a micro budget which must have the still-smarting investors in Kevin Costner’s egocentric epic weeping bitter tears.

The main visual faux pas is an inability to match the colour of the water between the long shots and the close-up action and it’s clear some of the deepwater scenes have been filmed in a shallow coastal lagoon but it’s pretty much par for the course in these films. There are no star names whatsoever in this but we do get a cast who are willing to give it their best shot no matter how silly or nonsensical things get.

The film keeps things pacy, which is a good thing because if you stop to think – even for a second – the whole concept of the film starts to fall apart like the shark model in “Jaws: The Revenge”. If the survivors’ intent is to provoke a ‘big freeze’ to restore the Earth, how do they intend to survive it given their wardrobes are pretty much exclusively tropical rag chic? And speaking of survival, how are the humans surviving given the reason the sharks are now attacking surface dwelling humans is the complete collapse of the oceanic food chain.

But then we don’t watch these films for scientific realism, do we? And a good thing too because if global inundation and ravenous sharks aren’t enough, “Planet Of The Sharks” is happy to throw in laser beams and under water volcanos too. Awfully brilliant and brilliantly awful!

4/10 

Dark Tide (2012) #SharkWeak Review

With Michael Caine added to our rogue’s gallery, we’re on a roll now. Next up, we’ve got none other than the star of “Catwoman” herself, Halle Berry as Kate, a freediving shark expert whose business is struggling to stay afloat after a tragic accident in which one of her crew died. Once dubbed a ‘shark whisperer’, one year later Kate is haunted by the memory of the attack and unable to get back in the water. As the debts mount up and the bank prepares to foreclose on her boat, he ex-husband Jeff (Olivier Martinez) introduces her to a thrill-seeking millionaire who, along with his teenage son, is looking for the ultimate adrenaline high: diving with great white sharks. Against her better judgement, Kate agrees to take the job.

I will admit my first thought on seeing this was that Berry fancied a South African holiday with her new squeeze Martinez and it turns out I was half right: this was the film on which the pair met. Aside from the tabloid tittle-tattle, though, this has little to recommend it.

Throughout all the Shark Weak films so far, there’s been one constant: no matter how shoddy, amateurish or downright stupid the films have been, there’s always been a modicum of fun to be found but that’s exactly the element missing in this dull and dreary thrill-less thriller. It’s a slick and glossy production, probably the best so far in this slog through the cinematic shark-based slurry, but even the decent effects work (blended with some skill with the usual stock footage) can’t seem to inject any life into proceedings.

It may be a case of too many cooks spoiling the chum given this is a this a film where producers outnumber the speaking cast. It shouldn’t be possible to make a film about sharks this boring but “Dark Tide” somehow manages it.

2/10 

Jaws: The Revenge (1987) #SharkWeak Review

Among this movie’s few achievements is the coining of the instantly cliché tag line ‘This time it’s personal’. It also, like many “Jaws” fans, pretty much ignores “Jaws 3” completely, although not – it has to be said – to deliver a higher quality and more fitting end to the “Jaws” saga.

When Sean Brody is killed by an apparent shark attack, Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) is convinced a great white shark has launched a personal vendetta against her family. After she fails to convince him to stay out of the water, she travels back to the Bahamas with her remaining son Michael, now a marine biologist, in the hope of escaping the shark.

It can’t be a good sign when the opening title sequence begins to dissolve into the movie only to abruptly reverse to allow the ‘produced and directed by’ credit to appear on screen. The fourth instalment of the “Jaws” franchise completes the exponential deterioration in quality from the first film but somehow, it plunges so far into the depths of stupidity and ineptitude that it becomes almost endearing. I certainly enjoy it more than “Jaws 3” and have probably watched it more often too. The eventual end of the opening titles and the dissolve into the eye of the frying fish is one of my strongest memories of this film, which I saw in the cinema at least twice when it was released (there wasn’t much else out at the time, it was a slow summer and “The Lost Boys” – its fellow tricennial celebrant – had already left cinemas). It’s so laughably mundane and at the same time trying to be clever that it just comes across as adorably precocious. It’s an almost neat idea to bait and switch with the shot of a close-up eye but as will become almost routine with this film, it raises more questions than answers. It also implies, given everything else that happens, that Ellen Brody routinely fries whole fish as part of her balanced breakfast.

The director, Joseph Sargent, seems completely out of his depth (ahem) here which comes as a surprise given his long and distinguished television career (he’s the man who brought us “The Corbomite Manoeuvre” in “Star Trek” for example) but he’s utterly hamstrung by the preposterous and nonsensical script and no matter how lush the visuals, you’ll only really remember the stupidity of the plotting and the execrable special effects.

In a way, the most remarkable thing about this movie is that it managed to get any of the original “Jaws” cast back, even though they couldn’t lure the cast of the preceding one to return. Roy Scheider, who famously rejected this movie by saying, “Satan himself could not get me to do Jaws part 4” (thus ending Satan’s nascent career as a talent agent), is roped in for a cameo of sorts thanks to a portrait in Amity’s police station. If he had agreed to come back, as well as earning Satan his 10%, he would have been killed off in the opening scene, a fate which in the ‘finished’ article, falls instead to Sean Brody (Mitchell Anderson), which for a massive Great White Shark, takes forever to actually kill the Amity County deputy.

Michael Brody (Lance Guest) eventually convinces his mother to come back with him and his family to the Bahamas and spend Christmas with them. That’s right folks, “Jaws: The Revenge” is a Christmas movie, as per the legal precedent of Twitter vs Twitter (2013, ad infinitum). But when the shark follows them to the tropical paradise, the scene is set for a final, fishy showdown.

The cast is actually pretty good; far, far better than the film deserves. Lorraine Gary, in her final film (she retired after making this, who can blame her?) – and despite the sheer mind-numbing absurdity of the plot – gives it her all in portraying an Ellen Brody pushed beyond the limits of endurance or common sense. Lance Guest, the fourth actor to play the role of Michael Brody, does what he can with a script that partners him up with Mario Van Peebles and his multinational accent in some of the best worst shark scenes ever committed to film. It’s bittersweet to see young Judith Barsi as Ellen’s granddaughter in her final on screen movie performance before her tragic death only two years after the film was released. One of the movie’s few highlights is a genuinely sweet callback to the original film’s cute dinner table scene, this time featuring Guest and Barsi, watched fondly by Lorraine Gary’s Ellen. Of course, though, it’s Michael Caine who steals this movie. He’s tremendous fun and great value in one of his notorious paycheck roles of the eighties. Given the dearth of anything else compelling going on in the movie, it’s a real shame that the filmed subplot of Hoagie smuggling drugs was almost completely cut out of the finished film.

Ultimately, the film’s pseudo-supernatural hokum just doesn’t make sense, mainly because the film doesn’t really acknowledge just how far-out the premise is and so doesn;’t explore or justify it in any way. Why is this particular shark after the Brody family? All the other sharks in the previous films died without – at least on screen – having the chance to catch up with their friends and let them know what’s going on. Are we supposed to believe that all Great White sharks have a shared collective consciousness, a hive mind? Come to think of it, that would have made a better film than this! Added to this is Ellen Brody’s apparent sixth sense about when the shark is around/ approaching/ about to attack. It’s one of the film’s weirdest conceits, which is saying something about a film which first gave us sharks that can roar.

The shark itself is the worst the franchise has seen. Shoddily constructed, enough wiring and mechanisms can be seen to suggest that this psychic shark assassin might actually be a cyborg (again, a better movie than the one we’re presented with) and the ending (theatrical or re-edited version) is a horrific botch job of poor editing and worse science.

Michael Caine has said he enjoyed making the film, as he’d always wanted a holiday to film in Hawaii and, notoriously, has never seen the film although he has ‘seen the house that it built and it is terrific’. The cast does seem to be having fun at least although it’s hard not to imagine the scene where Michael Brody abruptly sprints off in the middle of a conversation was actually Lance Guest trying to escape the production only to be rounded up, returned to the set and forced to complete his scenes.

I still have an inexplicable soft spot for this movie but even nostalgia can’t polish a turd of this magnitude. There is, however, a path to redemption for this film: the last line of the movie has Michel Caine’s Hoagie saying, “When I get back, remind me to tell you what happened when I flew a hundred nuns to Nairobi…”. If Christopher Nolan is looking around for a follow-up to “Dunkirk”, might I suggest that getting his good friend Michael Caine to reprise the role of Hoagie Carmichael in “Holy Nairobi” is the way to go.

4/10 

Bait (2013) #SharkWeak Review

Well, this is unexpected. Often found lurking in bargain bins or the same ‘you may like’ suggestions as “Sharknado” and “Sharktopus”, “Bait” is actually a pretty decent film. The opening scenes feature a beach that actually looks like a beach (and not a scrubby waterfront). There’s actual cinematography and decent acting. I’m all in on this one.

A year after a shark attack brought his lifeguarding career to a tragic end, Josh (Xavier Samuel) finds himself working in a supermarket when a freak tsunami inundates the building and floods the aisles. But the water has brought with it a shark and Josh must help the survivors of the disaster evade the predator while trying to find a way out.

Probably costing the same as “Jurassic Shark” and “Raiders Of The Lost Shark” in the first ten minutes, “Bait” manages to use its disaster movie set-up quite effectively and makes the flooded supermarket under threat from a shark concept seem, at the very least, credible. In addition to the disaster and the threat of the shark, there’s also a subplot about a robbery gone wrong which adds some tension thanks to Julian McMahon’s menacing turn as the crook with nothing to lose. An impressively water tight BMW provides some additional drama in a completely flooded basement car park. Supermarket thrillers aren’t a popular genre but, like “The Mist”, after the story has placed everyone where they need to be and reminded you of everyone’s key attributes, the tension builds as you wait for the first shark attack to start thinning the herd.

Director Kimble Rendall makes impressive use of floating detritus to build tension and there are some effective shots and cleverness in the reveals as the death mounts up. The model work is better than the CGI and the film is wise enough to borrow from the “Jaws” playbook, only showing the shark fleetingly and when necessary.

Most of the acting is decent which unfortunately that makes Dan Wylie’s awkward turn as one of the thieves conspicuously awful but it’s not enough to spoil the party. The actions pretty good too and although one character’s sacrifice is the most unnecessary since papa Kent shook his head in “Man Of Steel”, there’s a sequence involving a makeshift shark cage suit that strikes a fine balance between brilliance and insanity.

“Bait” has been the surprise package of Shark Weak. Perhaps the previous films have beaten my expectations to such a low point that I couldn’t possibly be disappointed but this is a smart, solid disaster movie with a shark twist that’s far better than the company it’s forced to keep would suggest.

6/10 

Roboshark (2015) #SharkWeak Review

“Roboshark” is everything you expect it to be. Everything.

An alien vessel approaches Earth, launching probes to study the planet but when one of the probes lands in the ocean and is swallowed by a shark, it promptly becomes Roboshark! It’s basically “Bananaman” but with sharks and robots.

The special effects are very cartoony but the end result is kind of endearing and there’s at least an effort to try and make the shark have an interaction with its environment, effects wise. Roboshark isn’t one to be confined to water, he’s quite happy to swim through pipes or the ground or whatever. It’s not like a great deal of effort has gone into the continuity of how big Roboshark is. When the shark attacks a sewage treatment plant, the film almost becomes a meta-commentary on itself. Maybe it should have been called Roboshart? In any event, I could suddenly relate to the film: I, too, feel like I’m swimming through a river of shit watching all these shark movies…and there’s no Shawshank redemption waiting for me on the other side.

The acting is as wooden as you’d expect, including some truly dreadful earthquake acting where the cast and camera never manage to shake at the same time, never mind in synch with each other. Although making ‘self-aware’ references to bad shark movies has become the new bad shark movie trope, there’s a streak of sly satire running through “Roboshark” which sets it apart from its many, many brethren. It gleefully skewers the online world of social media (Roboshark actually texts one of the characters at one point) and its reactions to anything while also taking pot shots at Starbucks and Microsoft. Guess which city much of the action is based in?

There are references to “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, “THX1138” and, bizarrely, “Dr Strangelove” and a – hopefully deliberate – Pythonesque overdubbing of scenes of soldiers trooping through a shopping mall.

With Roboshark seemingly more intent on causing property damage than munching actual people, this is the first Shark Weak movie which would probably be suitable for family viewing. I mean, it’s still terrible and badly made, but if you know an eight- or nine-year-old they might think this is the best movie ever.

4/10 

Sharktopus (2010) #SharkWeak Review

Leaving behind the shark + topographical feature formula, “Sharktopus” takes the opposite tack and raises the concept to dizzying new heights by splicing our predatory protagonist with the DNA of another famous movie monster.

Commissioned by the US Navy, Dr Nathan Sands (Eric Roberts) creates a genetic hybrid between a great white shark and an octopus, controlled by a cybernetic implant. During a combat demonstration, the creature is attack by drug traffickers who destroy the control mechanism and unleashing the uncontrollable monster on an unsuspecting Mexican coastline.

We’re still firmly in TV B-movie territory here but in Eric Roberts we’ve got our biggest star name thus far and this one is produced by none other than Roger Corman, a man who knows a thing or two about wringing every last bit of entertainment out of a hokey premise and a meagre budget.

“Sharktopus” is certainly proud of its title character and doesn’t take long at all to show us what it’s got, a likeably cheap and cheerful CGI creation with just enough character and personality to make you overlook some of its dodgier moments. Character and personality amongst the human cast is in shorter supply and Eric Roberts demonstrates his skills as an actor by maintaining a decent performance up against such wooden cast mates, especially Commander Cox (Peter Nelson). The movie functions pretty well as a travelogue for Mexico’s Riviera Maya (albeit one which discourages you from going in the water) and you’ll be left with a lingering suspicion that Roberts only accepted the role for the holiday in Mexico. In fact, once his character is safely on the yacht, he’s literally able to phone his performance in.

It has a charming mix of old school practical effects and cheesy CGI and unlike, say, “Jurassic Shark” or “Raiders Of The Lost Shark”, there is some skill behind and in front of the camera. It helps that the whole thing doesn’t take itself too seriously, with just enough wit to carry it off. There’s a likeability to it that’s no doubt due to Corman’s lowest common denominator sensibilities.

After the sparse kills of “Avalanche Sharks”, refreshingly nobody is safe from the Sharktopus and it munches its way through the cast of colourful archetypes with gleeful abandon. It gets a little unnecessarily gory in the closing stages and the blood/ water splatters on the camera lens are an oddly distracting fourth-wall breaking touch.

Overall, a frivolous and fun ‘shark’ movie, worth at least a single watch. Definitely the best of the bunch so far.

4/10 

Avalanche Sharks (2014) #SharkWeak Review

“Avalanche Sharks” offers us a grab bag of plot elements as native American supernatural snow shark spirits come back to haunt the residents and visitors of a ski resort. The film does actually provide an avalanche but it’s not really that integral to the plot.

Originally planned as a sequel to “Sand Sharks”, it’s another link in the chain of taking the word shark and placing a random word in front of it (or, in the case of “Sharknado”, after it) but beyond a cast member or two it actually has zero links to that movie.

Ultimately it’s an excuse for people to get eaten by CGI sharks in a snowy setting which, against all logic, still includes a bikini modelling competition. It’s almost like an old fashioned ski school sex comedy, just without either of those important ingredients. Despite the unsuccessful effort put in to explain the McGuffin of the curse which has roused these phantasmagorical shark ghosts (repeatedly, to diminishing returns each time), less imagination has been put into making the kills interesting or fun. In fact, there’s a disappointing lack of exploiting the barmy premise’s potential at all.

The CGI is generally disappointing and inconsistent, there are a number of non-shark related subplots which add nothing and go nowhere and a disturbing amount of time is spent by characters talking at each other with little benefit to any of the storylines as if, were you at a ski resort where guests and locals alike were being devoured by phantom sharks, there’d be anything else you’d be talking about. There are some unintentional laughs provided by some of the ideas the characters come up with to avoid being eaten but in the end, things are resolved by in a really unsatisfying tourist ex machina way. “Avalanche Sharks” is a high concept but low achievement, making things worse by not having the wit or wisdom to follow through on its potential. Its only redeeming feature is that the cinematography is actually quite good for a film like this. It’s a pretty film to watch even though it’s a chore to sit through.

2/10 

Sand Sharks (2012) #SharkWeak Review

Well would you look at this, a faint vestige of production values and technical ability! We even have a star name attached (Corin Nemec, “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose”, “Stargate: SG-1”). Now, there is actually a species of shark named sand shark but this film has little use for them. Instead, we’re still stuck with the unleashing of a prehistoric predator onto an unsuspecting world.

When an underwater earthquake cracks open a crater deep beneath the ocean’s surface, it unleashes a pre historic armoured predator, capable of ‘swimming’ through sand and rock. On the sleepy nearby island of White Sands, local teens drink and party beside a beach bonfire and everyone is getting ready for the music festival which will save the islands ailing tourism trade.

With the extra professionalism and technical polish, we’re into prime SyFy movie territory here. The acting is actually okay and the special effects, for the most part, are passable, with the bonus of some genuinely effective practical gore. Sure, the premise itself is as dumb as the rocks the titular creatures swim through (point of order: if they can swim through soil and rock, how were they ever trapped underground?) and the limitations of the budget become apparent when the music festival kicks off and the audience struggles to number in the tens. Seriously, there are so few people around they could probably have just starved the sand sharks to death by letting them eat the festival attendees. There’s a half-hearted attempt at a business/ shark metaphor and there are a fair few jokes and references to Roger Corman and bad shark movies in a good natured attempt at self-aware irony so “Sand Sharks” gets points for trying at least.

The film seems to use many of the same locations as “Dracano” so either Nemec doesn’t like to travel or he signed up for a two-for-one deal with the producers. Whatever else you say, Nemec brings his A-game to the B-movie nonsense but after a while the constant puns wear thin and the dragged-out ending just will not quit. It’s harmless, goofy fun and while it’s still nowhere near a good movie, it’s at least not an abysmal one.

3/10 

Jurassic Shark (2011) #SharkWeak Review

Another shark movie, another Spielberg pun and it turns out that I didn’t judge “Raiders Of The Lost Shark” harshly enough, because one of its writers should have known better given they directed this errant nonsense some three years earlier. Welcome…to “Jurassic Shark”.

When an oil company unwittingly unleashes a prehistoric shark from its icy prison, the lurking predator improbably maroons a group of art thieves and a handful of young female college students on – would you believe it? – an island in the middle of a lake. The two groups of strangers must put aside their differences and work together to fight off the monster and escape.

“Jurassic Shark” may infer the eponymous creature is a Megaladon (a favourite option for bad shark movies) but the mismatched and over-repeated stock footage is mainly of mismatched Great Whites. The lake setting, drilling and subterranean frozen fish give me pause to wonder if I’m still watching “Raiders Of The Lost Shark” but no, apparently this is a different movie.

You can often judge a shark film on the first appearance of the shark and this one is guilty as hell. Once upon a time this was famously the worst rated film on IMDB (it now languishes at no. 19), astonishingly this is Brett Kelly’s 22nd directorial credit and yet he still has developed no discernible skill in composing a shot, telling a story or eliciting any kind of performance from his cast.

The acting is laughably abysmal, from the improbably brotastic art thieves to the college students who come across as unlikely to even have managed a high school diploma but it’s in the sheer ineptitude of the writing and production that this film actually manages to drill down further than any subterranean Megaladon storage, hitting rock bottom and punching through on its way towards a molten core of base stupidity.

The reawoken Megaladopopsicle doesn’t seem to like boats in his freshwater lake, but it’s hardly surprising as it must be quite cramped in the obviously shallow water. Not that the film spends a great deal of time in the ‘depths’ preferring to pad its run time with endless montages of characters walking through forests. Even more technically inept than “Raiders Of The Lost Shark” – if such a thing is possible – there are so many goofs it almost becomes entertaining to spot them. If you could bear to watch this more than once, there may even be a drinking game in it. My personal favourite is two of the art thief bros gloating that they have radios while the third goon doesn’t only to follow it up by showing them having a conversation with each other across the island, two of them using their radios and the other one…I guess speaking to himself?

If you do decide to subject yourself to this cinematic atrocity, your reward will be precious little save, perhaps, for a priceless moment which evokes “Free Willy” and a laboriously set up stinger gag that’s not worth waiting through the nearly 12 minutes of credits for.

It’s a rare zero score for this movie, and if Shark Weak continues at this level, I might just throw myself overboard.

0/10 

Raiders Of The Lost Shark (2015) #SharkWeak Review

Sharks are fascinating creatures, worthy of protection and study, their place in the oceanic food chain more complex and precious than we realised. But we’re not here for a nature documentary. No, no no. We’re here to revel in the myth of the shark as nature’s soulless, remorseless, evil, killing machine and sensationalist budget movies’ bogeyman of choice. Sharks have a long history of being movie bad guys, often henchmen until Spielberg’s 1978 masterpiece put them firmly into the top billing bracket. Unfortunately, since “Jaws” – with a few exceptions – those starring roles have not been kind to our fishy friends. Welcome…to Craggus’ Shark Weak.

Given Spielberg put shark movies firmly on the map, it’s only appropriate that we open things with this trashy low-budget offering which riffs off another Spielberg classic. It opens with a tongue in cheek warning tht the following is a true story only to cap off the warning with ‘Just messing with you’. It’s the closest you’ll get to genuine wit for the next hour and eleven minutes.

The film’s promise of a tale of toothy terror as four friends set out by boat for an idyllic vacation on a private, remote island where, unbeknownst to them (but knownst to us), a weaponized shark has escaped from a top secret military lab nearby. For reasons best known to the surprisingly plentiful ichthyologists who specialise in dicking around with sharks, this shark has been genetically engineered with hate in its blood, programmed to hunt any human within range. There’s not even a hint of the ‘whoops, we were trying to do something good and accidentally created a monster’ trope here. No, siree, this fish was bred to fuck shit up.

Unfortunately, what’s mostly fucked up is basic filmmaking in this short, cheap and profoundly dumb pseudo home movie. It’s hard to discard the idea that they came up with the title pun and then figured out a story they could afford to make which even vaguely connected to it. Nothing is raided as far as I can see and the only thing lost is seventy-one minutes of your life you’ll never get back and possibly some of your will to live.

There’s zero logic to the script which set the lake on an island which can apparently only be reached by specifically chartering a boat yet innumerable people seem to wander onto the scrubby shore of this supposedly forbidden and heavily guarded island but its hardly a surprise seeing as the lake itself seems to be less than 50m across. Mind you, this is also a research lab where going into the water is specifically prohibited but everybody, including the security guards, wears swimming costumes under their clothes. The script is sub-first draft quality, with dialogue written like the makers had never heard real people talk to each other ever and the acting is cheesy porn quality at best, without the payoff (although the film does include crusty old seamen).

The ‘special effects’ are even worse;  blink and you’ll miss ’em shots of the CGI shark which never even remotely interacts with the environment around it mixed with mismatched stock footage. Things certainly don’t improve when the shark abruptly develops the ability to fly for some reason.

The kills are entirely bloodless as the shark merrily chomps its way through the surprisingly large cast (the credits take a full 15% of the already brief running time) without building any drama whatsoever.

It lacks the wit and invention that can sometimes make micro-budget features work although you have to respect the frugality and creativity with which some shots were put together. It’s certainly a ballsy move to script a scene of a shark destroying a plane when you can’t possibly afford to show even the merest hint of it.

Poorly edited and badly plotted; staring at the egregiously misleading poster for the whole of the running time would probably provide more entertainment. As a bunch of friends goofing about and making a gag movie for themselves, it’s barely passable although I’m sure they had a good laugh making it. As a feature film intended for an audience, though, it’s borderline insulting. There are, here and there, vague hints that it might be knowingly bad but if it is a joke, the joke falls completely flat.

1/10 

47 Metres Down (2017) Review

“47 Metres Down” might have the alluring lustre of a cinema release, but under the surface lurks the silent, gliding cliché of just another dumb shark movie. I gave serious consideration to folding this review into #SharkWeak but I’m feeling generous and although “47 Metres Down” makes some mistakes, it’s nowhere near “Sharknado” bad.

Sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are holidaying in Mexico after Lisa’s boyfriend breaks up with her because she’s not exciting enough. It’s with this in mind that after a night of drinking and dancing, Kate convinces Lisa to try cage diving after hearing about it from some local men. At first, everything seems fine but when the boat’s winch breaks, the cage is sent plunging to the sea floor while great white sharks circle above.

The premise of “47 Metres Down” has a lot of promise but, like “The Shallows” before it, it throws away the genuine survival horror in favour of crassly unrealistic shark behaviour and jump scares.

Writer/ Director Johannes Roberts is much enamoured of his own creation, as the title card reads “Johannes Roberts’ 47 Metres Down” lest you confuse it with other, inferior, 47 Metres Down offerings. The film starts well enough, with the script giving Moore and Holt enough to flesh out both Lisa and Kate as real, likeable characters but once the real action begins, the film’s respect for realism all but vanishes in favour of monster movie moments, leading to a third act which is mishandled mess of badly executed ideas.

Visually and effects-wise, this is a cut above the usual schlocky shark movie fare and you’d never guess it was filmed in a tank filled with finely chopped broccoli in Basildon, Essex. Some of the shots – especially a scene where the characters light a flare underwater after a moment of darkness – are quite impressive but there’s just too much for anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about sharks, scuba diving or both to ignore for it to all hang together. In the end, it’s an indecision between the realism of a diving accident and the fantasy of inexplicably bloodthirsty and murderous wildlife that puts too much strain on the film’s narrative cable, causing it to snap and sink without a trace.

5/10 

Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens (2016) Review

Sharknado-The-4th-Awakens-PosterOkay. Enough already. This one-joke franchise has more than outstayed its welcome and this flabby, facile and unfocussed fourth outing should (but won’t) mark the end of it. From the tediously laboured “Star Wars”-themed opening, the whole thing feels tired and dated. The pre-credits sequence set in Vegas immediately underlines the cheapness of the whole affair when the paparazzi crowd greeting the arrival of the partially plot-relevant tech billionaire numbers in single digits.

Actually, Las Vegas works well as a metatextually grotesque and tacky backdrop to this cheapest and tackiest of franchises. From the very beginning, “Sharknado 4” feels as flat and lifeless as its CGI predators. The joke has long since worn out and the writer has abandoned any attempts at creativity. There’s a sequence where they literally do the exact same thing twice in a row, just with a slightly different type of shark.

Demonstrating a crappy grasp of physics (I won’t even credit it with an awareness of marine biology) realised by crappier special effects, even in the Trumpnado climate of 2016, “Sharknado” manages to plumb new depths of stupid. The dialogue is peppered with plenty of Star Wars dialogue references, none of them clever or witty but the references don’t stop there. With “The Wizard Of Oz”, Stephen King’s “Christine”, “Lavalantula”, “Terminator 2” and even a really left-field Action Comics No. 1 “Superman” reference all thrown into the mix, a film which gleefully brings us bouldernados, oilnados, firenados, lightningnados, hailnados, cownados and even nukenados actually blends everything into a fetid, swirling garbagenado.

Nobody deserves to watch this rubbish, and nobody involved in it deserves to work again.

2/10 Score 2

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015) Review

Sharknado 3Like a scab you just can’t help picking at, the so-bad-you-just-can’t-look-away franchise drops its third instalment with an admirable, if ill-deserved swagger; a selachian mic-drop of ludicrous proportions.

When Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) goes to Washington DC to collect the highest civilian honour from the President of the United States, the last thing he expects is a sharknado to drop right on top of the White House. But that’s only the start of Fin’s problems. With sharknados popping up down the length of the eastern seaboard, he faces a race against time to get down to Orlando – where a heavily pregnant April (Tara Reid) is waiting to give birth – before the sharknados combine into an unprecedented sharkicane.

So I guess at this point, physics, meteorology, marine biology and, what the hell, plot logic and common sense are completely out the picture, right? Certainly, veteran asylum writer Thunder Levin (“Sharknado”, “Sharknado 2: The Second One” and, erm, “Atlantic Rim”) throws them in the bin and busts out his big book of stupid clichés with which to shove the plot along. The dialogue is awkward, stilted and often cringingly bad, which is unfortunate because the storyline is so convoluted it requires a lot more talking than previous efforts, with the pacing suffering badly as a result. The special effects are often anything but special, and the editing is shockingly bad, with some scenes clearly sequenced out of order, even for a franchise as uninterested in continuity and lucidity as this one.

Most offensively, though, this third “Sharknado” is so self-aware it makes Skynet look like a ‘Speak & Spell’. It’s no longer just ‘in on the joke’, it’s become the movie equivalent of Eric Idle’s character in the classic Monty Python ‘Nudge nudge, wink wink’ sketch. Nearly every scene is forced product placement for another product or division of the NBCUniversal empire. From theme parks to TV presenters and even their recent tie-up with NASCAR, nothing is off-limits as far as crow-barring references and cameos into this self-referential and self-promoting cavalcade of carcharadon caricatures.

The cameos have, of course, become a proud staple of this series and as you’d expect, the third one is chock full of ‘em, from the actually-related-to-the-plot appearances to the jumping-on-the-bandwagon want to be involved style. As with the principle cast, the quality of the cameos varies enormously. Mark Cuban is the least convincing POTUS in cinematic history and there’s an ill-judged cameo from Michelle Bachmann, a Tea Party supporting former member of Congress so scientifically ignorant she probably accepts the ‘science’ of Sharknado as fact. Luckily their involvement is brief and there are better guest stars on offer. “Star Trek: Voyager” veteran Tim Russ is good value but its Frankie Muniz who impresses the most, managing to life the material above the mediocre during his time on screen, his eventual demise managing to be epically funny, possibly the highlight of the entire film.Possibly the most surprising cameo, though, is from the terrible fake baby from “American Sniper”, who plays a small but pivotal role in the finale. The least surprising? Of course Fin’s estranged father is played by David ‘The Hoff’ Hasselhoff.

However, there must be a special place in Hell reserved for any film which goes to the trouble of casting Jedward as a ‘celebrity’ cameo and yet doesn’t kill them as gruesomely as possible; though given how brief and pointless their appearance is, most of it may have ended up on the cutting room floor.

The returning cast do their jobs with a commendable earnestness, especially Ian Ziering whose devotion to duty and delivering dialogue with a straight face is worthy of an award better than the one he is presented with during the film. Cassie Scerbo’s return after being benched for “Sharknado 2” is a welcome one and makes up for much of the absence of Tara Reid who seems to have upset the producers at some point given her marginalisation during the story and the cliffhanger ending they give her.

And yet, despite all its many, many flaws, it actually manages to be a bit more fun than the first two instalments. Rising to the challenge, the plot this time round is probably the most outlandish, nonsensical and stupid narrative of the series and possibly all time. The opening sequences is a witty take on James Bond films with the White House-set action forming the pre-credits sequence. The Orlando theme park is actually a great location for the sharky shenanigans, lending itself to some good jokes referencing “Jaws”, “Twister” and the fishiest of Red Wedding gags. But this is a threequel and simply destroying the entire eastern seaboard of America wasn’t going to be sufficient so of course, they go into space! Good thing space launches aren’t extremely weather sensitive otherwise a cluster of toothy tornados would be a problem. Oh, and you can now add astrophysics to the list of disregarded disciplines too.

From tooth to tail, “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” is an aggressively dumb B-movie, starring C-list actors and produced by Z-list talent. Yes, it’s unhinged from anything remotely approaching reality and goes out of its way to flout accuracy in favour of delivering on its central, stupid idea but there’s an endearing side to its desperation to deliver more outlandish set-pieces than its predecessors. It’s still utter crap, of course and the joke is wearing desperately thin (a fourth instalment has already been confirmed though) but there’s fun to be had in amongst the execrable dialogue and clunky exposition. It’s my favourite of the three so far, but that’s not saying much.

mr-t-punching-shark-shark-gifs

 

4/10 Score 4

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) Review

sharknado2_keyartSequels, eh? Always got to go bigger and outdo the one before. Of course, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But what if it’s totally, embarrassingly inept, shouldn’t you try and fix it just a tiny little bit? Not if you’re the makers of “Sharknado 2: The Second One”. No, siree. Instead, they demonstrate a breathtaking ability to double-down on the dumb without improving a single aspect of the original.

Yes, that’s right – “Sharknado 2” brings back all your favourites: that girl from the “American Pie” movies and…and, yeah, that guy…from the thing? You know, the thing…? Yeah, he’s back too. And this time they’re off to New York as part of a book tour about the events of the first movie. This time, though, a storm front bafflingly crammed full of sharks already, is bearing down on New York almost before they arrive.

I was frustrated into reviewing the first “Sharknado”, not by the ludicrous premise but by the cheap and inept way the film was put together. Because it ended up being a bit of a smash hit, I kind of hoped they would throw a few more dollars at the sequel to maybe raise the quality just a little bit. If any more money was spent on this thing, the only way it shows up on screen is in the constant parade of gratuitous cameos which litter the script in a desperate attempt to cover up the production’s shortcomings. At least this franchise which unceremoniously jammed the words ‘shark’ and ‘tornado’ together to give us ‘sharknado’ treats us to another gloriously conjoined word: celebricapitation. The B- and C-list stars literally lost their heads to be in this film: hardly anyone manages to make an appearance without a shark chomping their noggin off. There are genuinely too many cameos to mention but when Andy Dick fails to stand out from the crowd, you know you’re dealing with a spectacularly bonkers film. Judd Hirsch (“Taxi”, “Independence Day”) should know better than to stain his legacy with this nonsense though.

The same cheap production problems that plagued the first one are all repeated here. Spectacular set pieces are mentioned (‘the sharknado has devastated the UN building’) but conveniently happen off-screen while ill-fitting plot points are inserted to make up for location filming (an ‘unseasonal cold front’ accounts for some snow on the ground because they were filming in winter). Ropey GCI weather effects fail to disguise the generally bright and dry weather during filming but my favourite thing – and there may be a drinking game in this – is to watch the general public in the background and the wide shots. I know New York is meant to be a tough town, but the calm way the people and traffic go about their business while a wind and tooth apocalypse explodes around them is truly remarkable. I also think while there are more sharks technically visible on screen, you get to see fewer up close for any length of time.

Still completely oblivious to the laws of physics, marine biology and meteorology “Sharknado 2: The Second One” makes the egregious error of referencing films far better than itself and manages to achieve the near-impossible task of making “Jaws: The Revenge” seem taut, gripping and well made. To succeed, this sequel needed to replace novelty with a little more competence. Unfortunately, it lacked both.

2/10 Score 2

378449_Shark week is coming

Sharknado (2013) “Review”

sharknadoHaving finally got round to watching it the day after the UK TV Première (I missed it because I was out watching “Only God Forgives” and we know how that turned out), I wasn’t going to review it. After all, what more was there to be said that wasn’t tweeted when it debuted on American TV? Well, it turns out there were a few things that bugged me about it and so here we are.

First of all, I love disaster movies. Love ’em. I put disaster movies in the same category as pizza and blow jobs – even when they’re bad, they’re still pretty good. I’m also a fan of cheesy movies (I devoured every episode of “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” I could lay my UK-based hands on). Finally, I have always been a fan of sharks in movies, from the great (“Jaws”), through the adequate (“Deep Blue Sea”) to the plain bonkers (“Shark Attack 3“). Given all those ingredients, I had put my serious film-head aside and was all set for some cyclonic selachian shenanigans.

I’m a firm believer that you have to go into some types of films with a certain frame of mind. If you’re down for watching “Sharknado”, you’ve given up the right to complain about the idea of a tornado occurring over the ocean, scooping up only sharks (and no other aquatic life) and then those sharks being able to function out of their natural habitat. So far so good, and the film even began with a sly and apposite commentary on the shark fin industry and who the real monsters are (clue: it’s us). The fishing boat is, of course, in the path of the oncoming storm and a bizarre gun battle is interrupted by some storm-tossed sharks who, as per movie cliché convention, are always hungry.

So far, so dumb and so good. To give the film credit, it’s got the courage of its convictions and it doesn’t hold back, even in the face of a level of basic scientific ignorance that would make even the Kansas Board of Education pause for reflection. As I said, I’m giving the film a pass on meteorology and partial credit on marine biology. But the line must be drawn here. This far, no further.

I wanted this film to be nonsensical, whacky entertainment. And it tries really, really hard to be just that, despite setting a surprisingly high percentage of the film inside various cars film through the windshield while some junior prop sprays it with a hose. What lets it down is that it’s made with such basic technical ineptness that it becomes impossible to suspend your disbelief for prolonged periods of time.

Apparently in the grip of a “global warming”-induced superstorm, the weather is astonishingly changeable and frequently changes from torrential rain to bright sunshine to partial cloud, often within the same scene. Locations and interiors are mixed with abandon without really making any visual sense, exacerabted by the physics-defying flooding (which allows the sharks to infiltrate Los Angeles) which can’t seem to decide whether it’s caused by rain or by the sea. This results in a bizarre action sequences where a house near the top of a hill is flooded to the extent a large shark can swim through the rooms, yet the exterior of the house and indeed the rest of the hillside is unflooded. I could go on and on nitpicking like this but I won’t (sharks chewing, sharks having articulated “necks”…).

The Z-list cast do what they’re there to do – mostly feed the sharks. The script is as good as this kind of nonsense deserves. It’s the technical production which really lets it down. The ironic thing is that because it’s been a huge “hit”, there’s a sequel in the works. And because they know there’s a built-in audience for it, they might – just might – put a bit more money into it, and attract a bit more talent both in front of and behind the camera, so there’s a real chance that the sequel might actually turn out to be something a little bit special. And props for officially calling it “Sharknado 2: The Second One“.

2/10