Written by: H. Perry Horton
Directed by: Christoper Ray
Starring: Josh Allen, Bart Baggett and Patrick Bergin
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
7 Days, 7 Sharks, 1 Survivor
If Grizzly was “Jaws with claws,” then I guess Shark Week is "Jaws with Saw," which sounds like a great idea. Shark Night treaded into these waters, but who wouldn’t want a full-on mash-up of a series involving convoluted revenge and murder plots with sharks? I think most reasonable people would like that, and there are probably even some unreasonable people who wouldn’t even mind if The Asylum were the ones to do the deed. Typically, I’d count myself among those ranks, but, this time, I can’t help but think the mockbuster titans really took a cool concept and wasted it on another cheapskate production.
A group of eight people are abducted and brought to the not-so-humble but swanky abode of Tiberon (Patrick Bergin), a megalomaniac with a penchant for feeding people to sharks. Having apparently grown bored with simply shoving people into his shark-infested pool, he’s devised a series of tests for his gathered victims to endure. If they want to survive, they’ll have to play a game…
Obviously, this one’s out of the Saw II and Saw V mold, both of which involved large groups cooperating in order to escape with their lives (and maybe most of their bodies) intact. This largely follows the same pattern, only Shark Week completely misses what made the Saw films so interesting: intrigue, mystery, and plot. Taking missteps right out of the gate, the film reveals its villain in a superfluous prologue before segueing into a montage of the victims being abducted by guys in suits. Far be it from me to tell The Asylum how to run their business (they’ve made 100 movies in 15 years, and I’ve made none), but why not a cold open to replicate one of the most important aspects of the movie that’s being ripped off? Even the little bit of mystery that is there--the connection between the victims--is easily guessed at and all but revealed without a single surprise along the way. There’s some natural friction and distrust among the group (especially when one guy seems to be a little too informed), but it’s hardly exploited, nor is there any profound point to it all. Shark Week just features a shoddy revenge plot that doesn’t even have the faintest echoes of the moral and philosophical implications of Saw.
Perhaps even worse is the lack of any intricate gamesmanship; the traps and tests aren’t really games as much as they’re just encounters with sharks. The group will be lead to a location (such as a cave, which is kind of inspired) that has a bloodthirsty man-eater waiting to devour them unless they can kill it first. So they do that, with many of them biting the dust along the way; I’d say it’s the dead weight that’s shed, but everyone’s quite expendable. Those who survive live to deliver more exposition and even traipse through a minefield, a sequence that only serves as foreshadowing more than anything (plus, it must be some kind of law that all shark movies have to wedge in an explosion or four somewhere). Occasionally, Tiberon chimes in and provides little rewards for those who make it to the next level, so the whole thing really owes much more to Survivor than it does Saw.
Oddly enough, though, this is one of the more straight-laced Asylum productions I’ve seen. Most of them are in on their obvious joke and are played with the right mix of high camp and earnestness, but this one seems pretty damn serious, almost as if just about everyone wanted to make an actual movie. While it doesn’t come without its share of over-the-top moments (almost all of them belonging to Bergin, who is attempting a poor man’s Harvey Keitel impersonation) and stupidity, Shark Week proceeds at an almost normal pace; instead of relentless, wall-to-wall shark attacks, it actually attempts to weave a story in there. Unfortunately, this out-of-character move perhaps proves why The Asylum doesn’t usually do this sort of thing, as they’re remarkably bad at telling stories. The voids between the shark attacks are filled with bland characters, woeful acting, and inane dialogue--basically, all the stuff you’ve come to expect from these guys, only it comes without the frenetic pacing and cheeky gratuity (at least until the end, when things go really off the rails).
Plus, there’s no outrunning The Asylum’s most recurring victim: paucity. Shark Week is another meager offering with plenty of cartoonish CGI beasts (that at least come in a nice variety--there’s hammerheads, tigers, and, of course, a great white); director Chris Ray does what he can to hide them, but it only renders the shark attacks mostly incomprehensible, so what should be the most satisfying part doesn’t even pay off except in unintentional humor. Even Ray’s attempt to mimic the Saw speed-ramping aesthetic comes off as a cheap, jittery tic that looks like a mastering error. For whatever reason, Shark Week actually premiered on SyFy before the Discovery Channel's actual Shark Week, and it’s coming to DVD and Blu-ray on August 28th; the Blu-ray at least looks and sounds quite nice, and there’s a couple of extras in the form of a making-of feature and a gag reel. The Asylum are a known quantity at this point, so the only surprise with Shark Week is how late it took them to cash in on Shark Night. Usually, they’re much more timely with these things; I’d like to say it resulted in a good movie for once, but it seemingly only gave them enough time to systematically destroy a pretty cool concept. Inmates need only apply. Rent it!
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