Shark Zone (2003)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-08-12 21:32

Written and Directed by: Danny Lerner (story), Sam Parish
Directed by: Danny Lerner
Starring: Dean Cochran, Alan Austin and Brandi Sherwood

Reviewed by: Brett G.

Terror has surfaced.

Shark Week is the one time of the year that I humor myself about a loyal readership. I like to think thereís at least one person out there whoís paid attention to my working backwards through the Shark Attack series for the past two years and are thus expecting a review of the first movie in the series to kick things off in 2012. However, that person will have to be disappointed since I uncovered the existence of Shark Zone, an unofficial fourth entry in Nu Imageís awesome shark saga.

The series holds a special place in the heart of anyone who ever wondered what itíd look like if Cannon tried to do a bunch of shark movies (me and a million other people, probably--rough guess), so itís pretty cool to discover one thatís kind-of-sort-of-but-not-really part of the whole thing, and itís amusing to think that another shark series made it to four entries (because it worked out so well the other time that happened). Plus, you donít have to really worry about a dip in quality since the ďofficialĒ ones donít leave much room for bottoming out, so letís plunge into the Shark Zone.

The film gives a glimmer of hope that itís not going to be much of a Jaws rip-off during an opening prologue about some Spanish gold that got lost at sea a few centuries ago. Years later, itís ended up as a hot spot for weekend warrior tourists that Jimmy Wagner (Dean Cochran) and his dad (Alan Austin) have to supervise during deep sea dives; during one of these jaunts, some shit-headed divers wander off and everyone ends up being devoured by a great white shark, save for Jimmy. Ten years later, heís got a wife, a son, and a wicked phobia of sharks, which hasnít stopped him from taking up residence in San Francisco asÖsome kind of lifeguard, or something. I donít know--he basically patrols the nearby waters for the mayor (Austin again, this time sans facial hair!), who has also been getting visits from gangsters wanting in on that sunken treasure.

But first, yeah, the movieís gotta do some Jaws shit. Great white sharks show up in full force on the eve of the summer fiesta to chow down on the smorgasbord of swimmers. Bunches of them, too--Shark Zone is like the Aliens of the series because it supposes that great whites travel in packs now, but thatís okay since thereís plenty of opportunities for attacks (realized once again mostly by stock footage and nigh-incoherent shots of the victims, a lot of which get recycled within the movie). Itís pretty gory, though, when you can actually see it. Also, the script at least keeps the Jaws beats to a minimum since it really only hits the ďwe have to close the beachesĒ part, albeit in hilarious fashion since the mayor still doesnít seem to be convinced after about a dozen swimmers ended up in the intestines of the great whites. I guess you might say that Jimmyís a Brody-style protagonist whoís skittish and uneasy, but, hey, heís got a good reason for it since he narrowly escaped death at the jaws of one of these bastards.

He even has nightmares about sharks eating his family and then puking their guts out, which results in two of the filmís best scenes, one of which should probably be legendary since it involves a 30 foot shark emerging from a cruise-ship pool. Itís worth noting that Shark Attack 2 also featured nightmares and sharks, thus refuting the notion that this saga isnít intricately connected. All this hemming and hawing over the sharks goes on for a while until Jimmy and his buddies decide to hunt them down. This would be the logical conclusion of most movies, but itís only the prelude for Shark Zone, which turns into the Ransom of shark movies once those mobsters re-enter the picture, and theyíre damned insistent on finding that gold. I had hoped that Shark Zone would borrow some of its predecessorís batshit lunacy and have Jimmy cross paths with the shark that ate his old man during the climax, but, no dice. Instead, the ending mostly consists of the type of stuff youíd see on a made for TNT movie: badly choreographed punching and kicking and a pretty cool explosion (it ainít a shark movie without one of these, and Shark Zone actually provides a couple).

After being around the series in a producing capacity, Danny Lerner graduated to the big boy chair behind the camera for this. I guess you could say he directed Shark Zone, but most of these films come together in the editing bay, where all the stock footage gets stitched together to join the bad practical and CGI shark effects. The job probably wasnít too hard, not only because the Shark Attack formula had been so well established, but also because theyíd already gathered plenty of footage for those movies, some of which gets repeated here (I know I saw the infamous ďmegalodonĒ shot from part three a few times). Also repeated: the inanity and borderline incompetence of the previous entries (these are the real commonalities between the entries besides shark nightmares), so you have roaring sharks, people talking to each other underwater, and a wet-brained protagonist who is sure the main mobster is a piece of shit (since he says it 9 times) but claims nobody knows the gestation period for great white sharks.

Lerner apparently has a thing for sharks since the unfortunate end of this series didnít stop him from directing Raging Sharks and Sharks in Venice, so I canít be too mad at him. Sometimes, you just have to make a bad shark movie, and heís been responsible for a half dozen of them. You could do worse as far as legacies go. At any rate, Shark Zone is maybe the worst of the series, I guess, with part three still reigning supreme as the best; weíll see how the first one holds up next year, assuming the Mayans are wrong, and I hope they are since there will probably be a few bad shark movies released between now and next summer. In the meantime, check out Shark Zone on Netflix or DVD; the latter offers no real advantage, as itís just got an average full frame transfer, a half-decent stereo track, and no extras, so it should only be on your shelf if youíre the type of guy who would be proud to show off a complete Shark Attack collection. Iím one of those people, but I think this is one of those times where you should do as I say and not as I do. Rent it!

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