In the final days of World War II, a secret experiment to weaponise sharks is shut down by the Third Reich and thought destroyed but sixty years later, a small seaside town finds itself under siege by a mysterious bloodthirsty monster – one assembled from the reanimated parts of the world’s most ferocious species of shark – the “Sharkenstein” monster!
There’s no need for the nit-picking of actually, ‘Frankenstein’ was the scientist here, because it’s the least of your worries if you’re particular about your pedantry. Opening in black and white as a kind of nod to its Universal Monster Movie aspirational, even the monochromatic medium, enhanced with digital snow can’t hide how cheap the special effects are. Still, they’re a match for the sub-par acting as we’re treated to a backstory of the 1942 German mission to acquire the resurrection technology. The Nazis make their escape on a toy submarine enhanced with digital bubbles and then hand it off to stock footage of a seaplane (more accurately stock footage of various different seaplanes) as the macabre tech makes its way, for some reason, to the United States.
If you think the time jump forward to the present day will bring with it a technicolour step up in quality, you’re in for a rude awakening as the variety pack of stock footage used to establish the ‘modern day’ setting uses such conspicuously different geographies that you’ll be left with no clue as to exactly where the “Sharkenstein” experiment ended up – which may be exactly what the Nazis intended!
When we finally get to see the monster shark (a mere eight minutes in – so time wasting isn’t one of the movie’s sins – at least, not yet) your first thought is likely to be ‘it’s nice the shark from “Jaws 3D” is still getting work’. Your second might be how adorably dorky it is. Your third might be to reach for the ‘stop’ button, but stay your hand, gentle selachophile – there’s still some gloriously bonkers fun to come from this appropriately patchwork movie.
The first on-screen kill is solid gold bad shark movie nonsense; poorly shot with atrocious special effects, it’s off-the-charts hilarious. If the initial set-up and opening scenes suggested we were heading towards ultra-amateurish territory, this at least suggests we may get some inadvertent “Shark Exorcist”-like chuckles. It’s only after the second kill (featuring an extra who was in such a hurry for their scene their costume is visibly inside out) that we find out that the creature is, in fact, under the control of unconvincingly accented Klaus, a Neo-pet Nazi determined to make ‘humonity’ (I told you the accent was unconvincing) pay.
“Sharkenstein” is like a slightly more polished version of #SharkWeak classics “Raiders Of The Lost Shark” and “Jurassic Shark”. Not a streak-free professional polish, of course, but at least a quick spit and shine with a greasy rag. There are the usual egregiously bad green-screen effects and one of the worst overlay matte shots I’ve ever seen in a movie as we find ourselves within swimming distance of the Klaus ramshackle house secret island base.
For most of its run-time, “Sharkenstein” feels like the end result of a Craigslist ad which read ‘Got a friend with a boat, access to some stock footage and a few willing buddies? Then congratulations, you’ve got everything you need for a super-high concept, super low-budget sharksploitation movie’ and it’s almost worth the price of a rental for the brain surgery scene alone.
The likeable cast of amateurs may struggle to find the emotional truth of this story of a reanimated carcharodon chimaera and they’re not helped by production values which provide little sense of space, momentum or consistency. The direction is curiously inert, robbing any scene of even a shred of authenticity or tension and continuity is a laughable afterthought as apparently water resistant cast members are miraculously dry when fished from the water. But there’s an adorability at play here that keeps things fun even when they’re at they’re most facile and just when you think the movie has delivered all it possibly could in terms of trashy special effects entertainment, it ramps things up (down?) to a whole new level by growing arms and legs. Luck, then, that the monster is deathly afraid of poorly rendered digital fire.
You have to admire the commitment to its (all but forgotten since the beginning) homage to Universal’s classic monster mashes as it somehow manufactures a situation where the townsfolk gather with shotguns, torches and pitchforks but just in case you miss this subtle-as-a-brick reference, one of the characters brings everything screeching to a halt to not only point out it’s like a Universal Monster Movie but then list out all of the Universal and Hammer Frankenstein films in a breathtakingly pointless bit of timewasting.
In the end, just about everybody involved seems to be having a [James] Whale of a time but the fun of taking part just doesn’t translate to the audience at all. It would have scored a little higher than it ultimately does, though, because in amongst all the harmless stupidity, there’s an egregiously unnecessary and tasteless ‘shark rape’ joke that’s jarringly out of keeping with the rest of the campy tone. It’s not explicit and it’s played for laughs but it just doesn’t work, and in adding absolutely nothing to the plot, just feels tawdry and vulgar.