Cinematically, this is a close encounter of the turd kind

Shark Encounters of the Third Kind is the latest aquatic abomination from Mark Polonia, the auteur behind such illustrious titles as Sharkenstein and Land Shark. If you’re expecting a seamless blend of Spielbergian wonder and nautical terror, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead, prepare yourself for Close Encounters of the Stock Footage Kind, where the shark attacks are as convincing and coherent as a Trump rally speech.

The plot, in the loosest sense of the word, revolves around hostile aliens crash-landing at the ocean’s depths and using mind-controlled sharks to terrorize a small town. Yes, you read that right. Our valiant cast, including Kay Radtke (Jennie Russo), Alan Cason (Titus Himmelberger), and Camilla (Natalie Himmelberger), must unravel this fishy mystery. And because it’s a Polonia film, there’s an obligatory Nazi submarine inexplicably hidden in an American lake. The performances are gloriously terrible, with every performer looking as if they’d rather be anywhere but in front of the camera. Their discomfort is almost palpable and another hallmark of the Polonia experience.

Visually, Shark Encounters of the Third Kind is a feast of dreadful digital effects and laughably reused beach shots although it has to be said the physical props occasionally surprise, with a severed head looking disturbingly realistic enough to have been pinched a far superior production. These moments of adequacy, however, are buried beneath a tidal wave of stock footage and CGI disasters. The shark attacks make no attempt at realism, coming off more like TikTok fever dream than any aquatic nightmare and ultimately there’s far too little shark action and an overabundance of ludicrously costumed flabby aliens, leading to a bizarre imbalance that only Polonia could conjure. The aliens, fiddling with controls that resemble DJ turntables, add an extra layer of absurdity. And just when you think it couldn’t get any stranger, a Harbor Patrol guy (Tim Hatch) shoots a shark, which promptly bursts into animated flames—a moment of pure, unadulterated cinematic gold.

One of my main gripes with Polonia and his output is he’s far, far better at commissioning poster art than he is at making movies although admittedly this isn’t one of his best. Thus, so many really bad shark movies lure in the unwary viewer (or reviewer) with artwork and design which traduce the actual content that ends up, in the most inept manner possible, on screen. Of course, a good pun does not a good bad shark movie make and Shark Encounters Of The Third Kind is almost endearing in its blistering ineptitude as it tries to wrangle its plot of aliens teaching sharks to hate humanity, culminating in a chaotic climax that defies both logic and cinema itself.

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