Jurassic Shark (2012)

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2012 was a real banner year for Brett Kelly. Apart from directing maybe the worst film this site has ever seen – “Agent Beetle” – he also had the time to make this, another addition to the ISCFC’s ongoing mission to review every low-budget shark movie there is.

Not that anyone could possibly care, but the plot revolves around some drilling by some evil company that unleashes a prehistoric shark, the megalodon. This is near a beautiful deserted island somewhere, and the two groups of people who’ve decided to visit the island are some hot college students, one of whom is a journalist trying to expose the drilling company; and a group of thieves who’ve stolen a painting and try to make a water-getaway, only to get their boat eaten by the shark.

I occasionally wonder what I’m doing with my life. I’m sat here, slightly hungover, writing a review with a farting dog sleeping next to me, and Brett Kelly, a man with absolutely zero ability as a filmmaker, gets to hang out with model-beautiful women all day and make movies. He’s annoying because 99% of the audience of this film think “I could do better than him” and they’d be right. As we’ve proved on this site, budget is no hindrance to making a decent film, but ability is. I presume the extremely low budget was a tax write-off, or a money laundering scheme, or some pathetic attempt to get the crumbs from the table of the big boys by selling this to the sort of channels which show anything with bikini-clad women in it.

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One day, I’d like to see a film where a group of sunbathing women are shown as competent and resourceful, as opposed to eye candy. We’ve had “Tucker And Dale vs. Evil”, an amazing comedy which turned the cabin in the woods hillbilly tropes on their head; so the time is right for a movie which turns these tropes around. Although, in reality, with films like this I’d take anyone being resourceful and competent, because all you’re doing is just waiting for everyone but one or two of the hot girls and maybe the new love of one of them, to die.

Sadly, the lack of competence appears to extend to the entire cast and crew. Not a single good actor, the script is tired and cliched, the direction is boring, the sound is rotten and the camerawork is ugly. More so than even the films I see normally, this has depressed me and made me doubt what we do here. If you’re going to make a cheap movie as a tax dodge (let’s settle on that as a reaon for its existence) why not have fun with it? Why not hire a college improv team and say “here’s twenty grand, go make me a 75 minute movie about anything you like”?

There’s a good argument to be made that if you watch a film like “Jurassic Shark”, you deserve everything you get. I can see that, but as any long-term readers of our site will know, there’s good stuff out there hiding behind cheesy titles and promises of bare flesh. I think this will be our last interaction with Mr. Kelly – I advise you to look at his IMDB page and avoid everything on there.

Rating: whatever below “thumbs down” is

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Ghost Shark (2013)

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The SyFy Channel has finally become self-aware. After years of being the butt of jokes on websites like this, Twitter and so on, they realised that the only reason people watched their original movies was to mock them and decided to start the joking themselves. Throughout “Ghost Shark”, little boxes appear at the top of the screen with hashtag recommendations for your mockery, but does this spoil the fun?

Of course it does, is the simple answer. After “Sharknado” – https://iscfc.net/2013/07/17/sharknado-2013/ – SyFy became the bullied kid that started picking on itself to try and ingratiate itself with the cool gang. The films aren’t any better or more self-aware, they just didn’t bother hiring anyone particularly famous, relying on Twitter. The big name they got for this one was third banana on “Night Court”, a sitcom much more famous in the USA than it was over here, and he’s not in it all that much anyway.

After a couple of drunk rednecks wound a shark, it swims off to die in a magic cave and is reincarnated as Ghost Shark. That’s all the plot you need, really – a group of nondescript kids tries to save the day; the Mayor tries to stop everyone panicking due to the big development he’s got planned for the town; Ghost Shark eats a lot of people.

Unusually for a film about teenagers, they’re played by people who look roughly the right age, so when they’re filmed in extremely small bikinis, it made me feel a little uncomfortable. I mean, women in their mid-20s pretending to be teenagers, that’s a recipe for film success. This just seemed…indecent? The main male teenager is, unless I missed something important at the beginning, just a sleazy hanger-on to the main group of friends, who does literally nothing of any importance to the plot.

Enough of this. Let’s talk about my four rules of shark movies!

Rule 1: ‘there must be a shot where the three heroes are on a speedboat looking ahead with determination’.

YES! About an hour in, the Mayor and a few cops take their boat to fight Ghost Shark.

Rule 2: ‘ there must be a large seafront entertainment event that can’t be cancelled, for some reason’.

YES! (almost) The event that can’t be cancelled is a pool party, but as Ghost Shark can manifest in any water at all, I’m counting that as “seafront”.

Rule 3: ‘at least one character must behave in a brain-buggeringly stupid way, to drive the plot along’

YES! Line up, you dumbasses. There is no one specific moment of dumbness, though, just lots and lots of little ones.

Rule 4: ‘sharks be super-powered’

YES! It’s a shark that’s a ghost, that at one point appears inside a cup of water and proceeds to eat the water-drinker from the inside.

So, 4 out of 4, which is pretty good going. It also fulfils the additional “SyFy Film Naming Rule” – which is cool event or thing in one bucket, monster name in the other, draw a word from each bucket, make a film.

There’s really no sense reviewing any more of this film. SyFy clearly don’t care what these films are like any more, so why should we? If you’re bothered, you can look out for the number of times the rules surrounding Ghost Shark change and change back during the course of the film, the way the Sheriff describes normal police work as “madness”, the way one of the heroes is actually a panicky little asshole, and my personal favourite, survivors being bizarrely happy that everyone they’ve known or loved is now dead.

There’s no reason these films have to suck. There are plenty of B-movies on a level with this where there’s humour, excitement, well-shot fight scenes and a decent ending, but the air of no-one (aside from the young actors trying to get a start in the business) giving the tiniest bit of a damn hangs over every aspect. It’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, but replacing the comedians with Twitter, and the genuinely bizarre and terrible films they used to cover with just flat, boring garbage.

 

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RATING: negative 1 out of 10

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

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1999 is seen as something of a golden year for film, we were adorned with modern classics such as American Beauty, Eyes Wide Shut, Fight Club, The Green Mile, Magnolia, The Straight Story and Man on the Moon with other, more left-field titles also serving up consistently strong content such as Arlington Road, Being John Malkovich, Buena Vista Social Club, The Virgin Suicides, The Boondock Saints, Office Space and Mystery Men. We were also given multiple enduring genre game-changers like The Blair Witch Project, The Matrix and The Sixth Sense which brings me nicely to one of my guilty pleasures of ’99, Deep Blue Sea.

’90s Hollywood action hack Renny Harlin (born Lauri Mauritz Harjola) was one of the top studio go-to-guys for middle budget actioners in the last decade of creative freedom in film before the bean counters took over. He was entrusted with the second instalment of the Die Hard (1990) franchise, worked with Shane Black on The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), oversaw John Lithgow overpowering Sylvester Stallone with a headlock in Cliffhanger (1993) and is responsible for the biggest box-office flop of all time, Cutthroat Island (1995).

Harlin then decided to wave the 20th century goodbye with an elaborate science-fiction/horror/action hybrid starring an ensemble cast made up of Tom Jane (in one of his earliest leading roles), Saffron Burrows, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, pop-rapper Ladies Love Cool James and some genetically engineered CGI sharks.

L. Jackson plays Russell Franklin, a corporate executive whose company is bankrolling an ocean based science lab called ‘The Aquatica Project’ in the hope of finding a cure for alzheimer’s disease by testing on sharks. Aquatica is headed up by ambitious scientist Dr. Susan McAlester (a pouting Saffron Burrows) and the sharks are kept in touch by good-at-heart criminal Carter Blake (Tom Jane) who is made to herd the underwater predators as part of his parole conditions.

It turns out Burrows has been using illegal made-up sciency stuff on the sharks which increase their brain capacity making them capable of hunting in packs and also gives them the super-power of swimming backwards (there’s even a collective gasp among the cast when this is first noticed). Cue an underwater Frankenstein rollercoaster ride of creation rebelling against creator which starts with Stellan Skarsgard having his arm bitten off by one of the test subjects and then, while being airlifted to a chopper the unlucky Swede’s rescue is first scuppered by adverse weather conditions and finally (and fatally) by the leader shark who slams him into the main window, thus breaking it and securing entry to the facility.

Australian screenwriter Duncan Kennedy was inspired to write Deep Blue Sea by witnessing firsthand “the horrific effects of a shark attack” on a beach near his home which onset a recurring nightmare of “being in a passageway with sharks that could read his mind”. The only way Kennedy saw fit to alleviate his subconscious mind of those terrible dreams was to thrash out the basic plot of what would eventually evolve into Deep Blue Sea. He also noted that Harlin wanted to go one better than Jaws which has a 25 foot killer shark so the big one in Deep Blue Sea reaches a length of 26 foot. Take that Spielberg.

In a neat and surprising twist the film’s biggest star is killed off about halfway through while delivering a rousing speech proving that Deep Blue Sea is much more than just a standard-fare guessing game of who gets got and in what order, in fact Deep Blue Sea showcases a broad range of technical competencies that made the Finnish filmmaker such a highly-rated genre director throughout the decade. Bonus points too for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo from Ronny Cox as the head of the corporation behind it all.

Like most of Harlin’s previous work it’s packed full of slick, suspenseful build-up and thoughtful and wholly original action set-pieces, in one scene he even manages to blow-up water which even his closest challenger for ridiculous action sequences, John Woo, never achieved and he blends the serious with a good dose of humour as one of the clever sharks turns on an oven that LL Cool J is hiding in reminiscent of old Looney Tunes cartoons. Harlin plays it straight throughout the film no matter how ridiculous it gets (and it gets very bloody ridiculous) and it’s this tongue-in-cheek approach that appeals to me kind of like a subtle, marine version of Police Squad but without the Zucker’s zany humour. One feels it could’ve too easily descended into farcical parody territory had he taken a lighter route.

This film along with countless others throughout the 90s emphasises just how much filmmakers were getting away with and how big budgets were being blown on any and every idea no matter how far-fetched, fantastic or just plain weird they were. However coming into the following decade Renny Harlin soon fell out of favour in Hollywood, maybe this simply coincided with the belt tightening of the 2000s or maybe it’s just because he was making tosh like Deep Blue Sea.

– Greg Foster

Deep Blue Sea on IMDB
Buy Deep Blue Sea [1999] [DVD]