Horror Thursday, Reviews — March 29, 2012 at 3:00 am

DYLAN’S HORROR THURSDAY TAKEOVER: SHARK ZONE

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When B movie aficionado Jason Soto asks you to review a film for him, fair or not, there are certain expectations that come with it.  I’m thinking either a great horror film, a cheesy 80s flick or perhaps something epically bad, a la The Room or Birdemic.  Since I knew he was doing a Shark Blog-a-thon(g) – and figured that he’d be seeking out the crappiest of crappy shark movies, I had to adjust my expectations to something of the Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus variety.

Sadly, I got nothing of the sort, and have only myself to blame.  Jason laid out several films to choose from and I clearly chose wrong.  I got neither a genuinely scary shark flick nor a comic gem to feast upon.  What I got was a Nu Image Film – but worse than that, a “circa 2003” Nu Image film.  Back then, they were a production house that was probably a step above The Asylum in terms of quality (lately, they’ve gone much more legit, with several films that have seen the inside of a theater, like Drive Angry, 16 Blocks and The Wicker Man).  However, an uptick in quality from an Asylum film only decreases entertainment value.  What’s left is something that feels like a horror movie version of a Skinemax flick…minus the skin (mostly).

What’s left…is Shark Zone.

The film starts with a history lesson of sorts.  The vast open sea ahead of us, and an old-timey ship that we’re told is the Santa Cruz, on its way from Spain for one reason or another.  Somehow, it ends up near California (ok) where its overturned during a storm, sinks, and the crew drowns, their tiny ship (and all of the diamonds aboard) lost forever.  Sorry, I’d give you more specifics, but I was too busy being distracted by the ballet music (???) that was played while we saw this.  Obviously, director Danny Lerner thought he was classing up the joint.

Fast-forward to (close to) the present day.  Andrew Wagner (Alan Austin), a former Navy SEAL now on hard times, is forced to slum it, chaperoning scuba divers wishing to investigate the remains of the ship..  He’s joined by his twentysomething son Jimmy (Dean Cochran), along with the least sympathetic character ever  – seriously, the guy practically has “Hate me!  I’m a giant asshole who is soon to be eaten by sharks!” stenciled on his forehead – and his friends.  Despite being shown some stock footage (a recurring theme) of the Golden Gate Bridge, they drop into the water from a Russian helicopter (??), where they find the ship, where all but Jimmy are promptly eaten by sharks apparently hell-bent on protecting the aforementioned diamonds.

Oh, and the sharks growl and roar like tigers.

Fast-forward to the present day, 10 years later.  Young Jimmy, clearly affected by the events of a decade prior, works as a…well, it’s never clearly stated, but he reports to the mayor and is more or less responsible for the safety of anyone that goes into the ocean in his small community (which may or may not actually be San Francisco).  He’s like a lifeguard that never actually goes to the beach, instead patrolling millions of gallons of water via a small boat or helicopter.  All the better to shoot sharks with shotguns from!

Oh, and the mayor is played by the same actor that played his dad…only without facial hair.  This is 3000% obvious within about 14 seconds.

Jimmy is married to “Hot Chick” and has a son named Joey or Danny or something like that.  We know Jimmy is a great father because all he ever says to his son are things like “Don’t forget to buckle up” and “Eat your vegetables.”  We know that his wife’s name is unimportant because her only job in the film is to parade around in lingerie, not wear bras and cry when something bad happens (foreshadowing!!).  Suffice to say, I wanted to see more of her character (she never doffs her top, sadly).

But first, those evil Great Whites from days of yore must resurface to cause calamity (I guess) on the town of [Insert Town Name Here].  Jimmy is sworn to protect the people at all costs, despite the mayor’s insistence that the beaches be open in a few days for the cash-cow that is the town’s creatively-titled Beach Fiesta.

I think we all know where this is going, so let’s zoom through the rest and get to some highlights/things I learned while watching Shark Zone:

* Did I mention that the sharks growl like tigers?  They do.  It is easily the best part of the film, every time.

* I learned that the sound of a shark biting into a victim sounds exactly like breaking a crisp head of lettuce in half.

* The sharks travel in schools and, rather than actually eating their victims, are content to hack a bite or two and move on for maximum destruction.

* Jimmy tells the mayor at one point, “nobody knows what the gestation period is for a Great White.”  Which is totally true, so long as you don’t count Wikipedia and thousands of scientists and god knows who else.  I found the answer in three seconds: “The great white has an 11-month gestation period.”

* They have mixed family/topless beaches in [Insert Town Name Here].  The lifeguard spends his time checking out the women while people die in the water.  Good times.

* Despite the wearing of underwater breathing devices (like these) and the lack of any headsets, you can still speak to and hear other divers and people on boats.

* San Francisco looks a lot like Bulgaria, even down to the distinctively Euro license plates on vehicles (the film was shot mostly in Bulgarian with a mostly Bulgarian cast outside of the leads; the plates on the vehicles actually change depending on the scene).

* The credits tell us that Jimmy and Young Jimmy were each played by Dean Cochran.  Can you believe it?  The two “characters” that look exactly the same because they are exactly the same are played by the same guy!!  Was this just a way for Cochran to get more money?

* Cochran and Hot Chick Wife are married in real life, and she is one of Barker’s Beauties (or whatever they’re called now) on The Price Is Right.  Awww.

Long story short, the mayor is selling out Jimmy to some Russian mobsters who want to force Jimmy to take them to the Santa Cruz so they can recover the diamonds.  How anyone knows there were ever diamonds on board is never discussed – you know, since the original crew all died.  But anyway, they eventually kidnap Joey/Danny forcing Hot Chick Wife to cry and Jimmy to accompany them to the vessel.  Why he’s needed is never made clear either.  All they do is bring him to a boat on the ocean, he tells them to go in the water (more or less) and then they’re there.  He was absolutely unnecessary to their vile plan.  Of course, they all get killed by sharks and Jimmy saves his son.

Cut to a cruise ship, where Jimmy, Hot Chick and Danny/Joey are living it up.  Danny/Joey is swimming in an on-deck pool and Jimmy, still haunted by nightmares of sharks, sees a MASSIVE shark head emerge from the pool.  A massive CGI shark head, that is – had we seen the entire body, it would have been approximately 300 feet long. Oh, but it was just a hallucination.

The end.  There are still plenty of sharks in the ocean, but I guess now that the Beach Fiesta is over with and the mobsters are gone and Danny/Joey is ok, everything’s aces.

Now, the way I’ve painted this picture – by pointing out only the worst in it – may lead you to believe that it’s actually worth your time.  Do not make this mistake.  Shark Zone does indeed feature many laughable elements, but is surrounded by so many actors trying (but failing) to make something worthwhile.  These are all soap-opera level actors, and each and every one gives their all – it just so happens that when they do, they come off as earnest and not-quite-talented enough.  The shark scenes are intensely repetitive (I read they even cribbed an entire scene from an earlier film in the series – oh yeah, did I mention that this is, essentially, Shark Attack 4?  No matter – sounds like there’s no continuity to worry about) and feature so much stock footage.  In fact, it feels like, with the shark footage and the landscape/town footage, at least half of this film was constructed with stock footage.  Generally speaking, stock footage looks professional, so what’s left is this weird conglomeration of quality (if out-of-context) footage, earnestly-bad acting, mediocre storytelling and horrible/funny sound effects.  As we all know, the only thing worse than a terrible movie is a just-plain-bad one.  Shark Zone is just plain bad.

This review is a part of the Shark Attack Blog-a-thon(g) going on over at Invasion of the B Movies.

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