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Shark Swarm

This thing is three fucking hours long! Jesus Christ!

You know how it is. Sometimes it's fun to watch a really shitty movie, just for laughs. You get together with some friends, order pizza and have a Bad Movie Night. But there are varying ways in which a movie can be bad, and so you therefore must tread carefully. For example, your movie could be bad by being three hours long and boring as shit. People have certain expectations from a film called Shark Swarm. They will expect swarms of sharks, and in that respect, the film is being honest with us. They won't expect a running time significantly over an hour and a half, nor a bloated cast of characters with lots of little side stories and interpersonal drama. Not good interpersonal drama like that of Jaws, or even Jaws 2, but rather like that of every made-for-TV movie ever made. Yes, this was apparently a two part TV movie, edited into a single, seemingly endless feature for DVD release. Whoever was responsible for this ill-constructed, meandering mess has no business making films; it's not really bad in a good way, but it's not good in a good way, either. Way to fail in all categories, guys.

The cast consists largely of second-rung or past-their-prime actors such as Daryl Hannah, Armand Assante, F. Murray Abraham, and even John Schneider of The Dukes of Hazzard, who surprisingly does a credible job, not that it matters. Assante plays an evil corporate mogul who oozes insincerity like pus, and who plans to buy up the little fishing community of Full Moon Bay, which isn't as lousy with werewolves as one might expect, secretly lacing their waters with evil chemicals that kill off the fish but somehow transform the sharks into hyper-caffeinated death machines. From the moment this character appears on screen, we're essentially counting the minutes until he himself is eaten by the sharks he's unknowingly unleashed. Ahh, the hubris. Seriously, was there ever any other possible way that this movie could've ended? Well, yes: it could have done so in half the time. At any rate, huge swarms of CG sharks which will be seen via recycled footage throughout this interminable trudge start eating people left and right. One might presume that this is the reason for the over-swelled cast of characters, but such would be far too rational. The sharks instead eat an endless supply of nameless extras, averaging about one attack every ten minutes, all of which look exactly the same; one is reminded of the structure of a really bad kung-fu flick. Picture, if you will, a martial arts picture featuring Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Sammo Hung, who wander through various towns talking about family issues and griping about the evil Shaolin monk played by Yuen Wah, while poorly-staged fights break out in numerous bars here and there among unrecognizable nobodies who beat each other to death in about five seconds as our main characters plod by unawares. This, I'm sure you would agree, is no way to stage a movie, and it isn't the half of it. Literally, because the film is three hours long!

Here's a few handy hints for making movies, just in case anyone planning to make Shark Swarm 2: Secret of the Ooze happens to be reading this: No tension is generated when the sharks succeed in every single kill they attempt. One has to believe that there is at least a chance that the hapless victim will get away to build any nervous tension. One also has to give the remotest shit; imperil the name characters somewhere before the ninety-minute mark, when John Schneider finally becomes the first person to actually get away from a shark attack. Follow at least the occasional rule of logic; how the hell has this supposedly small community utterly failed to notice that at least twenty people have disappeared before the big shark attack finally comes? Why is something that, in the first of a series of false climaxes, merely temporarily dispels the threat subsequently employed as the solution to the whole problem when the actual ending mercifully arrives an hour later? It makes no sense. Do not have people fight sharks with "top secret, stolen-from-the-unseen-military" Laser Tag pistols. Do not have nuisance villains suddenly turn into vicious sadists performing bad Hannibal Lecter impersonations. Do not drop in recurring bits of campy humor when you're otherwise taking your film deathly seriously. Here's a good one: don't include a go-nowhere subplot about how Daryl Hannah's daughter wants to go across country to college, as if we cared. Spend that time instead on writing an ending that doesn't bring a whole level of intensity to the term "anticlimactic."

I don't know what movie the people involved thought they were making. It certainly isn't the film we thought we were renting. The endless homilies on not fucking with Mother Nature actually made M. Night Shyamalan's latest failure, The Happening, look subtle and effective by comparison. Perhaps this film could've been called The Sharkening. Perhaps this film could have been cut by ninety minutes. We can all dream, can't we?

Okay, the film is actually "only" two hours and forty-four minutes. But you can't bellow "this film was two hours and forty-four minutes with quite the same gusto.

-review by Matt Murray

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