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Santa Jaws (2018) Review

Santa Jaws brings a bit of festive fin for a Shark Weak 4 Christmas Special

SANTA JAWS is a pun so delicious and filled with festive promise that it’s a wonder it took until 2018 for the chum-grinding sharksploitation mill to get around to it. While it shares all the usual hallmarks of its peers: cheap production values, so-so CGI and widely variable performances but for all its shortcomings, it’s got just enough spirit and self-awareness to land just on the right side of so-bad-it’s-good.

Aspiring comic book artist Cody (Reid Miller) discovers the pen is mightier than the swordfish in this festive cautionary tale when a magic pen brings his latest comic creation to terrifying (and serviceably CGI’d) life to grant his petulant wish to be free of his family for the holidays.

Mercifully (and, no doubt parsimoniously) free from the usual holiday-themed trappings of fake snow and conspicuously incongruous weather, SANTA JAWS focussed its festivity on finding reasons for its eponymous monster to absorb the blessing of the season. So a Santa hat sits implausibly atop the dorsal fin and a string of Christmas lights take the place of razor-sharp teeth, although a narwhal-like candy cane horn stretches the concept to breaking point.

There’s cleverness in the incorporation of the comic book as a basis for the selachian shenanigans and some of the kill scenes are pretty inventive and entertaining, under the experienced supervision of director Misty Talley (OZARK SHARKS). The acting is decent – the younger cast members are conspicuously better than the older ones – and, especially after an eggnog or two (or three, maybe four to be safe) – there’s enough silly shark action here to satisfy for a late-night midnight Christmas movie treat.

Cruel Jaws (1995) Review

Cruel Jaws ends Shark Weak 4 on a profoundly stupid, deeply ignorant and poorly made low note

Directed by notorious Italian filmmaker Bruno Mattei – renowned for repurposing other films’ footage to suit himself – CRUEL JAWS may just be the most tired and badly made JAWS rip-off of all time, making THE LAST SHARK look like THE LAST EMPEROR. Oh, sure, it tries to disguise its plagiarised nature by changing the shark from Great White to Tiger Shark but apparently, nobody told the poor intern in charge of snipping the scenes from other movies to splice merrily into the atrocious original footage Mattei was shooting. The size, breed and sex of the shark changes throughout the movie and occasionally in the middle of a scene. At one point, it’s a tiger shark, then it’s a massive great white, then it’s a bull shark. It’s even occasionally obviously a dolphin.

The acting is laughably bad. Most line deliveries sound like the actors were quickly told what to say just before the camera started rolling, with the result you have the movie’s shark expert describing the subject of his life’s work as “…sort of locomotives with a mouth full of butcher’s knives”. Woah – slow down their Poindexter. Less of the technical jargon if you please.

Gregg Hood (left), who plays the aforementioned shark ‘expert’, objectively delivers the worst performance of the film. It’s quite the achievement given the stiff competition from nearly everyone else, particularly Scott Silveria as Water Park Owner and pound shop Hulk Hogan Bob Snerensen.

No matter how wooden, stilted and awkward the performances are, though, they’re soundly beaten in a race to the bottom by the shoddy production values and an editing job that looks like it was left to Freddy Krueger and Edward Scissorhands when both were wearing blindfolds. For bad movie aficionados, the shots of the cast pretending to windsurf (intercut with stock footage) may be worth the price of admission alone and for everyone else, there’s a wonderfully “Where’s Wally”-esque game of spot-the-stolen-shot with footage from Spielberg’s JAWS, Jeannot Szwarc’s JAWS 2, Joe D’Amato’s DEEP BLOOD, Castellari’s THE LAST SHARK and finally JAWS 3. It even lifts dialogue from JURASSIC PARK at one point, a movie that unbelievably predates this slapdash throwback by a couple of years.

It’s not just the visuals that are cut’n’shut, either. The score, evidently composed and performed on a Bontempi keyboard, is as ridiculous a patchwork of influences as the visuals it accompanies. There’s even a leitmotif lifted directly from John Williams’ STAR WARS score. Imagine making a rip-off mongrel shark movie and the John Williams music you nick isn’t from JAWS?

Bruno Mattei might have been too preoccupied with seeing if he could, he never stopped to think if he should but the only cruelty CRUEL JAWS is guilty of is in torturing the audience and the art form of cinema. There’s a lot of latitude in the murky grey water of “so bad it’s good” but let’s be perfectly clear: CRUEL JAWS is so bad, it’s wretched.

Cage Dive (2017) Review

Cage Dive reminds us that sometimes when footage is found, it’s absolutely fine to just leave it where it is

Found footage horror is quite the rarity in the bad shark movie genre but then again, CAGE DIVE (sometimes badged as OPEN WATER 3: CAGE DIVE although it has no direct relationship OPEN WATER) is a film of contradictions. While it does, at least, feature sharks – unlike its shark-free predecessor – it doesn’t actually devote a great deal of time to a cage dive either.

Opening with the eye-roll-inducing cheesiness of a warning that “In 2015 an underwater camera was found at the bottom of the ocean. We would like to warn viewers that the footage on the camera contains graphic material”, the film proceeds to layer on the authenticity by interspersing the ‘recovered’ footage with news reports and talking head testimony, none of which make up for the fact that before we even get to dip our toes in the water we’re subjected to half an hour of obnoxious holiday home movie/ reality show audition tape/ unnecessary love triangle. It does, at least, give CAGE DIVE a unique feature in that – long before they appear – you’re already rooting for the sharks to eat ‘em all.

It’s a shame for a film franchise that previously prided itself on its (admittedly speculative) realism that this rebadged third chapter leans so heavily into the fictional shark movie trope. There’s certainly no commitment to realism in the camerawork, which markedly improves once our protagonists are in the water although the sound mixing clings to some verisimilitude as it’s often badly muffled and frequently inaudible. Not, unfortunately, as frequently as you might wish, though, after you’ve had an earful of the incessant whiny bickering which passes for dialogue between the three main characters.

The briefest glimpse of the tidal wave which precipitates their situation is arguably more terrifying than any of the shark-related schlock that follows and it at least has the benefit of being unexpected. Despite being ostensibly ‘found footage’, most of the bite-related kills are often telegraphed in advance as if the camcorder operator was blessed with an uncanny precognizance.

Burdened with all the usual found footage tropes including the scourge of the genre, night vision scenes, CAGE DIVE never manages to escape the tar pit of its fundamentally unlikeable lead characters. Indeed, potentially the most horrific death has nothing to do with the sharks or the situation and everything to do with their relentless, petty quarrelling.

Although generally praised for its diving authenticity, the film has attracted afair amount of criticism for the unrealistic actions of the sharks but I came away with a different theory: the relentlessly predatory behaviour of the sharks makes perfect sense when you realise they were just doing everything they could to get the three floating humans to shut the fuck up.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2020) Review

47 Meters Down: Uncaged adds some Mexican spice to turn a ‘negative encounter’ into a surprisingly positive experience

It’s fairly common in the world of bad shark movies for franchises to be fashioned out of films that share little to nothing in common other than the presence of sharks. In fact, it’s actually quite rare for there to be a consistent through-line from one film to the next. 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED very firmly belongs in the former category, sharing neither cast, characters or even premise with its forebear.

What it does share, though, is director Johannes Roberts who brings a recognisable visual approach that I guess we’ll have to call the 47 METERS DOWN ‘house style’ from now on.

When a group of school friends in in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula decide to go scuba diving in a recently discovered sunken Mayan city one of their fathers is excavating, they think they’re in for an interesting afternoon’s cave diving. But when an underwater accident blocks the way they came, they’re forced to swim further into the city where something dangerous has long lurked, undisturbed.

Although the execution is something of a mixed bag, 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED deserves credit for at least trying to bring some new ideas to the long-in-the-tooth milieu of bad shark movies. Sure, it might start by getting tangled in some sub-HOLLYOAKS teen movie cliché drama as we’re introduced to our main protagonists, Mia (Sophie Nélisse) and stepsister Sasha (Corinne Foxx) whose relationship you can probably guess without seeing a single frame of the movie. Although the film isn’t really interested in exploring their family dynamic beyond setting out some basic interpersonal stakes, the girls’ divergent personalities and fractious relationship does provide a reasonably solid emotional core around which Roberts is able to build the required atmosphere of suspense and dread.

The setting of a sunken Mayan city makes for some wonderful backdrops to the action – and ample opportunities to use torch-lit negative space to build tension and while the script isn’t anything to write home about dialogue-wise, there are a handful of decent jump scares and a hitherto undiscovered species of blind shark brings some new wrinkles to an old set of perils. Unfortunately, the shark itself is one of the movie’s chief disappointments, belying the rest of the decent production values with a cheapness that seems conspicuously out of place.

It all gets a bit bonkers towards the end when the remaining characters develop plot armour that would make Vin Diesel’s Dominic Torreto blush and we switch out the blind shark in favour of a couple of common or garden Great Whites but it does at least give an opportunity for one last flourish of 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED’s house style as the murky depths are illuminated by underwater flares to great effect.

It’s no minor classic but thanks to a relatively fresh take on a very stale fish tale, 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED rates a cut above the usual Shark Weak fare.

Sky Sharks (2020) Review

Sky Sharks is a disappointment I did Nazi coming

Brought to you by four production companies who seemingly put more thought and effort into their studio idents than they did producing a good movie, SKY SHARKS not only promises more than it delivers, what it does put on screen is haphazard, unpleasant and – psychologically speaking – somewhat concerning.

When a team of geologists discover an old World War II Nazi laboratory intact and fully functional, they revive a threat that endangers the entire world. As part of their increasingly desperate attempts to turn the tide of the war, the Nazis created cybernetically enhanced sharks that could fly and carry ordinance and pilots who themselves were genetically mutated undead super-soldiers. As the Nazi menace rises, a reformed Nazi scientist working for the US Government initiates his failsafe programme – a task force code-named the Dead Flesh Four made up of reanimated KIA Vietnam soldiers.

Once again, despite putting them in the movie’s title, SKY SHARKS isn’t a bad shark movie. Not to say it’s a good movie, not by a long shot but in reality, at best, it’s a bad shark-adjacent movie. Yes, there are sharks in it, but they’re not the main thrust of the story – unless you would classify any Western as a horse movie, whether good, bad or ugly. Instead, it’s a vapid, gratuitously graphic and gory zombie movie which, lest your Mountain Dew-frazzled attention wander for even a second, includes copious graphic nudity.

Not to say those ingredients can’t be blended in an entertaining and interesting way, but SKY SHARKS is less a movie than an unpleasant parade of edge lord video game cut scenes strung together by a Red Bull-frazzled basement-dwelling incel onanist.

Superficially there’s some similarity to IRON SKY and DEAD SNOW but where they were underpinned by a sly political satire and a gleefully informed sense of humour that set out to mock the Nazis, there are too many scenes in this movie that feel like the makers were more interested in having plausible deniability for their desire to cavort around in Nazi paraphernalia and fetishise the Third Reich rather than attempt any kind of commentary whatsoever. They play with the potently toxic iconography the way a toddler might play with their careless parents’ loaded handgun.

What humour there is, is crass and cruel, the effects are too obviously digital to delight and amuse. SKY SHARKS is a repulsively clumsy and tone-deaf piece of filmmaking that can’t seem to rise above its obvious origins as a subreddit conversation gone awry.

Deep Blood (1990) Review

Deep Blood will give you cinematic thrombosis

Reaching deep into the chum bucket of bad shark movies for Shark Weak 4, I’ve managed to dredge up the cinematic equivalent of a decomposing fish head in the form of 1990’s spectacularly awful Italian sharksploitation flick DEEP BLOOD.

Four friends head off on vacation but when a killer shark starts to terrorise the beach community where they’re staying and kills one of their number, the survivors realise that the creature is none other than the Wakan, an ancient Hoodoo spirit that ten years ago as boys on a camping trip they took a blood pact to destroy. No, really.

If you think that all sounds familiar, you’d be right. It’s basically JAWS crossed with IT…or at least something that ends in **it. Filmed with the kind of production values you’d expect in a late-season filler episode of BAYWATCH and infused with the dramatic heft of a poorly acted public information film DEEP BLOOD is probably best watched the way I watched it – in the eye-blisteringly high definition format of an old VHS videocassette.

There’s no greater sin in bad shark movies than being boring and on that basis alone, DEEP BLOOD is destined for the ninth circle of movie Hell. While the quasi-mystical native legend provides an intriguing jumping-off point, the film uses it to belly flop into the briny deep and sink without a trace. The actual shark attacks are few and far between and almost exclusively use stock footage purchased from National Geographic which, of course, never match up with the above-the-water action or, indeed, each other. What practical effects there are, are risible in the extreme from the Ribena and cornflour blood to the final explosion which is lifted directly from THE LAST SHARK.

For fans of expansive directorial visions such as Peter Jackson’s KING KONG or ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE, DEEP BLOOD does perhaps offer one saving grace: although it’s only ninety minutes long, it’ll feel like you’ve been watching it for four hours by the time it finishes.

Zombie Shark (2020) Review

That putrid rotting smell isn’t the star of Zombie Shark, it’s the movie itself

While more recent bad shark movies have displayed a greater range than might be expected, ZOMBIE SHARK (also known as Shark Island) is very much a throwback to the sausage factory bad shark movie output of the 2010s. After the unexpected ocean delights of SHARK KILLER and DEEP BLUE SEA 3, this decaying corpse of a movie abruptly re-pollutes the waters of Shark Weak 4.

When a group of friends travel to an exotic island for a vacation, little do they know that the waters surrounding their tropical getaway are home to a genetically engineered shark, the accidental byproduct of military super-soldier research. A shark carrying a deadly pathogen that can reanimate the dead. Boy, that super-soldier serum never goes well, does it?

This is one high concept SyFy shark flick that stinks to high heaven long before the eponymous maneater washes ashore. Yes, it’s whacky and yes, it’s cheesy but apart from the knowingly broad performance by Roger Timber as Lester, the island resort’s concierge, everyone else is so stiff and artificial the movie almost works as a parable about the toxic effects of plastic pollution on marine life. Timber seems determined to single-handedly drag this movie along and inject some personality and energy into proceedings. If the makers of this film had any sense (and ample evidence is provided to the contrary), they would have ditched their original shooting script and reworked the entire thing to revolve around Lester and his ragtag island zombie hunting posse instead of the usual grab-bag of attractive teens straight from the blandest central casting office. While it teases far more flesh than it actually shows, it’s still a little bit sexier than your run-of-the-mill bad shark movie not that the bare minimum of titillation helps distract you from the absence of anything else worth looking at.

The special effects of ZOMBIE SHARK are as awful as you’d expect, which is a real shame because the real tragedy of this film is that the idea at its core is a good one. There’s a lot of appeal to the idea of a zombie virus which can leap the species barrier in such spectacular style but the skill and talent on hand here are woefully short of making anywhere near the most of its grisly premise.

It’s not like it fails solely through lack of resources either, although it’s clearly made on a shoestring budget. There are numerous unforced errors of sloppy filmmaking that undermine whatever audience goodwill ZOMBIE SHARK might have been able to rely on. Chief amongst these is a repeatedly-central-to-the-plot powerful storm that separates the island resort from the mainland which is often discussed but never seen, especially whenever shooting takes place outdoors in either location.

Once the undead plague starts infecting humans, ZOMBIE SHARK starts to lose sight of what it’s really about and in trying to be both a zombie movie and a shark movie at the same time ends up doing neither well at all. It’s hard, though, to completely hate a movie that has a shark killed by a weedwhacker.

Deep Blue Sea 3 (2020) Review

Deep Blue Sea 3 closes out the trilogy in surprisingly impressive style

After the flaccid and facile retread that was DEEP BLUE SEA 2, my expectations for this movie would have plumbed the depths of the challenger deep. In the annals of bad shark movie history, of course, it’s not unprecedented for a shark movie franchise that starts well to quickly sink to the murky depths of sharksploitation. After all, it’s a trajectory first swum by the godfather of shark movies itself: “Jaws”. What’s much, much rarer is for a series to stop and rise up from the darkest depths and breach the bad shark movie barrier but that’s exactly what DEEP BLUE SEA 3 manages to do.

Doctor Emma Collins (Tania Raymonde) and her team are based on Little Happy, an abandoned floating fishing village off the African coast where they have been studying the effects of climate change on the Great White Shark population who come every year to an ‘underwater nursery’ to give birth. Into this tranquil research base, Dr Richard Lowell (Nathaniel Buzolic) and his team arrive in pursuit of three rogue bull shark pups, the last survivors of the failed experiments shown in the previous film.

Where DEEP BLUE SEA 2 offered no connective tissue to the original movie whatsoever and was basically just a cheap SyFy-produced name recognition cash grab, DEEP BLUE SEA 3 not only explicitly frames itself as a follow-up to the original film but does a nifty bit of retconning of its predecessor too, folding all three films into a single, if desperately uneven, narrative.

Everything in this trilogy closer is an upgrade on the middle chapter, no doubt due to the absence of SyFy from the production. Bringing this one back in-house, Warner Bros spend a little more money and take a little more care and it shows. While still not quite within striking distance of DEEP BLUE SEA, the script is, at least, coherent and inventive and the special effects are some of the best you’ll see at this particular depth of movies.

It’s a fun watch and while the cast of good guys largely acts circles around the villainous cast, nobody’s laugh-out-loud bad and the cinematography makes the most of its water-bound sets and location. It even manages a few decent jump scares in amongst all the usual shark-based shenanigans and, like SHARK KILLER, DEEP BLUE SEA 3 has turned out to be an unexpected pearl among the bed of rotten oysters that is usually Shark Weak.

Shark Killer (2015) Review

Nobody does it better than Shark Killer

From its Saul Bass-inspired opening credits, it’s clear that SHARK KILLER isn’t your everyday crappy shark movie. Instead, it’s a goofy action-adventure movie with a dashing hero, a feisty love interest and a plot-driving MacGuffin – with a bunch of sharks thrown in for good measure. This is a bad shark movie by way of a Bond movie – and it’s a blast!

Chase Walker (Derek Theler), shark hunter extraordinaire, is summoned to South Africa by his brother Jake (Paul du Toit), leader of a local crime ring, to recover a giant diamond from the stomach of an enormous rogue black-finned great white shark. Partnered with Jasmine (Erica Cerra), one of Jake’s gang, Chase sets out to track down the shark and recover the diamond. The only thing standing in their way – apart from the shark that is – is Nix (Arnold Vosloo), a local rival crime boss who’s set his heart on the gem too.

Derek Theler makes for an eminently likeable, roguish hero even if he does come across as a store-brand Hemsworth equivalent. Although the film doesn’t quite have the courage to do it, the opening sequence – a brazenly tongue-in-cheek homage to JAWS – which introduces our dashing bed-hopping hero is every bit the traditional Bond movie pre-title sequence. Theler has just the right amount of swagger and charisma to make this good-natured action-adventure work and quickly establishes sparky chemistry with Erica Cerra’s Jasmine, the movie’s ersatz Bond girl. Topping off the Fleming homage is the wonderful Arnold Vosloo who’s great value as a discount Blofeld. Between them, Paul dut Toit and Derek Theler may make for the least convincing on-screen brothers I’ve seen since Vin Diesel and John Cena, but their banter is good and du Toit just about manages to sell the right amount of sleazy comedy to make his character work.

While the giant killer shark is central to the plot, it isn’t the entirety of the plot and the film is all the better for it. The performances from the cast are good value and more than up to the action and comedy elements which keep the caper ticking along. When the film does bring the shark in, the visual effects are pretty good too and – by the standards of the bad shark movie genre – bordering on great.

SHARK KILLER has been one of those rare, delightful surprises of SHARK WEAK – joining the likes of HOUSE SHARK and BAD CGI SHARKS as a bad shark movie that’s actually pretty great. Sure, it may be to James Bond what Richard Kiel’s Jaws was to…er…JAWS but it’s fully aware of what it is and has tremendous fun with a cast that shares great chemistry. Maybe there’s something about Arnold Vosloo that helps nurture action-adventure heroes and heroines with a trouble-prone, comic relief brother character tagging along for good measure.

I don’t think I’ve ever finished watching a Shark Weak movie and genuinely felt like I’d love to see a sequel to it but SHARK KILLER became that movie. It’s also one of the few that, having rented it for 99p, I’ve ended up buying the DVD and adding it to my permanent collection. I mean with a tag line of “Blood Is Thicker In Water” how could I not? Bad shark movies have never been this much dumb fun.

Open Water (2003) Review

Open Water isn’t really a shark movie, it’s a movie with sharks in it

Like dolphins caught up in a tuna net, the trawl of the murky depths of bad shark movies occasionally hauls in something which either isn’t a terrible movie or, even rarer, isn’t really a shark movie. OPEN WATER is one of the latter.

Based on (well, extrapolated from) the story of real-life couple Tom and Eileen Lonergan who, while on vacation in 1998 went out with a scuba diving group to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Having briefly separated from the group, they were accidentally left behind when the boat crew failed to take an accurate headcount. The error wasn’t discovered for two days by which time a three-day air and sea search couldn’t find any sign of them. OPEN WATER speculates on what may have happened to the pair.

There’s a grainy, low-fi feel to the film, an aesthetic that occasionally works with found footage films but feels incongruous and occasionally frustrating here. Before it was snapped up by Lions Gate for $2.5m, it was filmed on a budget of only $140,000 and you can see where the money went – albeit not at particularly high resolution – on the screen thanks to the use of real sharks and location shooting.

It’s an occasionally hard watch and not just because of the air of inevitable tragedy. Daniel Kintner (Daniel Travis) and Susan Watkins (Blanchard Ryan) are borderline unlikable protagonists, authentically but slightly offputtingly essaying their fraught relationship brought on by busy working lives and not spending enough time together. On that last point, the film’s moral could be ‘be careful what you wish for’ because as we already know, the couple are fated to spend the rest of their lives together. The rest of their lives, though, isn’t quite as brief a period as you might be expecting because the film takes its sweet time actually getting into the water and while the early sequences might be designed to give the couple a sense of intimacy to heighten the events to come, it doesn’t quite work and a brief moment of nudity feels gratuitous and entirely unnecessary.

OPEN WATER is a decent existential survival horror movie but, although there are sharks in it, it’s not really a shark movie. If anything, the sharks become a lazy plot device to speed things along, a shortcut cop-out to what could have been a much more chilling and brutally bleak denouement.

OPEN WATER won’t be to everyone’s taste, and its likely to infuriate those who were (like Mrs Craggus) vexed by THE PERFECT STORM’s penchant for similar narrative conjecture. If you’re not hooked in by the situational horror of it then it will, inevitably, feel like an episode of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS stretched out too far to feature-length but if you can empathise with the growing desperation and hopelessness of the situation, it’s quite a ride.

Shark Season (2020) Review

Shark Season’s undoubted lowlight is Michael Madsen’s literally phoned-in performance

SHARK SEASON (aka Shark Attack) bring Shark Weak 4 another cheap shark movie and another cheap, literally phoned-in, Michael Madsen performance.

When his daughter Sarah (Paige McGarvin) takes a modelling assignment, recent widower James (Michael Madsen) wishes her well. But Jason (Jack Pearson), the photographer and Sarah’s ex, has heard tell of a new atoll revealed by a recent storm so they take their kayaks and head out to this undiscovered territory to do the photoshoot instead, accompanied by Meghan (Juliana Destefano), Jason’s new boyfriend. However, as the tide turns, they find themselves trapped on the diminishing rocky outcrop as sharks patrol the water.

There’s a hamfisted attempt to give everyone involved an awful lot of backstory but none of it is even remotely developed enough for it to stick. The dialogue is terrible, forcing an awkward stiffness into the performances of the main cast who actually aren’t as bad as the material is forcing them to be. The half-hearted love triangle is quickly resolved by another triangular object, or at least a mouthful of them as SHARK SEASON becomes yet another movie to follow the FRENZY template although this time with similar results.

The film repeatedly makes attempts to justify and contextualise its situations but it just can’t help but trip over its own stupid contrivances. The would-be shark bait victims enjoy regular contact with the shore yet somehow their location can’t be easily determined because it’s only in range of one cell tower. Fair enough, you might say, but it’s also within a couple of hours of leisure kayaking distance of the shore and for a large part of the movie they’re marooned on what is obviously the foundations of an old building so you’d think there’d be records of it? Yet they’re so remote that professional air/sea rescue cant find them even though a random passer-by on a Sea-Doo happens to zip by and give them a cheery wave before being unceremoniously devoured.

There’s a curiously patchwork texture to the filmmaking here, with plenty of close-up dialogue shots which look and feel like they were shot separately and after they’d returned from wherever the location shoot was. But the crowning nugget of sweetcorn on this glorious turd of a movie is a shambolic and depressing turn from Michael Madsen.

He looks terrible and sounds worse and while they seem to have spent most of the budget on securing Madsen’s rapidly dwindling star power, they clearly didn’t pay him enough to get out of his dressing-gown or run a comb through his hair.

Finally, the CGI shark here is atrocious and the frequent use of conspicuously mismatched stock footage at least gives the film a progressive air as there’s no doubting the unmissable gender fluidity of the primary antagonist. There’s an ambitious sequence – surprisingly unusual for the genre – where a school of dolphins intervenes at a crucial moment to thwart one of the shark’s attacks. It might sound good in theory but it looks absolutely rubbish which is, come to think of it, a pretty near summary of SHARK SEASON itself.

Great White (2021) Review

Great White ain’t so great – but it’s not that bad, either

While its title isn’t exactly inspired (or particularly accurate), there’s a lot to like about GREAT WHITE, a shark survival movie whose greatest sin is that it’s basically fine.

When a charter flight to a remote atoll to spread some ashes comes to an abrupt end when their seaplane is sunk by an aggressive shark, the flight crew of three and their two passengers find themselves trapped on an inflatable liferaft a hundred miles from shore and stalked by the same shark which sunk their plane.

It starts conventionally enough with a young couple enjoying themselves on their yacht but an ill-advised dip in the sea ends in tragedy and sets the scene for the arrival of our real hero. Aaron Jakubenko plays Charlie, the dashing devil-may-care pilot of the charter plane – who I immediately and irrevocably christened ‘Matthew McWannabe’ – and the film spends at least five minutes setting up his character and that of his girlfriend (on the cusp of fiancée) Kaz (Katrina Bowden). While the script is unremarkable, there’s just enough personality in Jakubenko and Bowden’s performances to give them an authentic chemistry that’s all but unheard of in these kinds of movies. The other three principal players are a little less developed but they do the job they’re needed for without putting a foot wrong.

In its set-up, it feels a lot like FRENZY but where that movie repeatedly doubled-down on stupid plot twists and contrived situations, apart from the unfeasibly persistent sharks, there’s not much in GREAT WHITE that strains the bounds of credibility. The final ‘showdown’ is pretty well orchestrated and while the shark “roaring” loses the movie some points, it’s a solidly handled finale. The performances are decent and the cast are likeable enough (except for the one who’s meant to be deeply unlikeable) and the effects and cinematography are decent and even occasionally impressive.

There’s a smart use of silhouettes and shadows and when it comes time to see the shark, there’s a competent and reasonably consistent mix of CGI model and stock footage.

GREAT WHITE is on a par with the more polished sharksploitation titles like THE SHALLOWS and, like that movie, there’s nothing new here you haven’t seen before which is probably why GREAT WHITE hasn’t generated the kind of following its adequacy deserves. However, what’s not in doubt is that the people decrying this as a bad shark movie haven’t watched nearly enough genuinely terrible shark movies.

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2015) Review

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre bites off more than it can chew

The overlap between crappy sharksploitation movies and softcore titillation remains vanishingly, thankfully, small despite the occasional flash of gratuitous boob so it shouldn’t really come as such a surprise that a grindhouse title like SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE comprehensively fails to live up to any of the sleazy promise its title pun inspires.

When Arkansas Fracking Industries explosive activities open up an underwater fissure releasing a prehistoric shark from its confinement, it spells trouble for a work party from the nearby State Women’s Prison who have been tasked with removing tree stumps in the local swamp.

Before I summarise what a dull and disappointing bad shark movie this admittedly wonderfully titled SHARK WEAK entry is, I do need to give it some credit. Not for the acting, of course, and certainly not for the script which is so padded that Eva Herzigova could’ve worn it on a 1994 billboard. No, the thing that genuinely caught my eye was the special effects. Not all of them, admittedly, but the ones where we get a glimpse of the monster shark scything through the swampy water. There appears to have been a real attempt to animate not just the shark itself, but some physical effect on the surrounding water and environment. Whether by accident or design, I appreciate the effort.

Effort in other areas, unfortunately, is something SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE is sorely lacking in. Mixing sophomoric sexploitation with seafaring slaughter can prove to be a guilty delight as evidenced by the likes of PIRAHNA 3D the this all just feels so tame and half-hearted. Writer/ Director Jim Wynorski is no stranger to B-movie fun and erotic hijinks since the 1980s but there must be few who would have believed the esteemed director of the likes of THE BARE WENCH PROJECT 2: SCARED TOPLESS or THE WITCHES OF BREASTWICK would line up so many adult actresses only to produce something so unremittingly bland and spiritless. With a body count of only six, having blown the potential of the Women’s Prison setting, it hardly justifies its claims of massacre either.

Not that gratuitous nudity would have saved SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE, but it would at least break up the cheap monotony of the stilted dialogue scenes and risibly ramshackle plot.

Land Shark (2017) Review

Land Shark bites

There are, broadly speaking, two types of bad shark movies. Those that are professionally yet ineptly made and those that are the work of dedicated – if not necessarily talented – amateurs. LAND SHARK is definitely one of the latter.

Written and, apparently, directed by Mark Polonia (despite plentiful evidence to the contrary), this nonsensical sharksploitation is a triple lack of threat, lacking a decent script, game performances or even competent cinematography to save it.

Cheap and cheerless, it purports to tell the story of Lucinda (Sarah French), a scientist working at MALCO Oceanic Research who finds herself in mortal danger after stumbling across a conspiracy between Doctor Lorca (Kathryn Sue Young) and Doctor Foster (Peter Baldo) to create biological weapons by combining shark and human DNA.

Polonia, of course, is no stranger to Shark Weak, having bobbed to the surface of the chum bucket with SHARKENSTEIN a couple of years ago but, if anything, LAND SHARK suggests a declining grip of the cinematic arts rather than benefitting from the experience.

It opens with a bizarrely staged homage to the opening of the greatest shark movie of all time, JAWS. It follows a young woman staggering along a beach and while it was clearly shot during the daytime it’s colour-graded to make it look like night-time, the better to mimic Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece. The illusion is somewhat spoiled, though, when the would-be bathing beauty decides to lie down and sunbathe. At night. It matters nought, of course, because she’s soon dispatched by the titular monster although we get to see very little apart from the “victim” being drizzled with what appears to be chocolate sauce and then raspberry sauce. It turns out the LAND SHARK is less a remorseless eating machine and more a broken sundae maker that’s run out of soft scoop mix and just squirts out sauces instead.

The effects are so far beyond laughable that you just won’t want to laugh, you’ll just feel bad for the makers and it’s wicked to mock the afflicted. It features some of the worst performances I’ve seen in my years of covering this particularly schlocky genre and the end result is a waste of everyone and everything involved down to the very photons which convey the light from the screen to your eyes. “Fail fast, fail often” might be something of a successful business mantra but LAND SHARK fails quickly and fails comprehensively by every metric you can measure a film by. Shark Weak 4 is off to a hell of a start.