Written by: Cameron Larkin and Joel Benkis
Directed by: Mark Atkins
Starring: Corin Nemec, Brooke Hogan, and Vanessa Lee Evigan
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
“Eat this you sand of a bitch."
Sand Sharks is another one of those movies whose pitch doubled as a joke, and we’re expected to laugh at its ineptness because there’s no way a movie about underground goddamn monsters can be any good, right? For whatever reason, studios have reached a cynical level where they seem to think dabbling in the killer shark genre gives them free reign to produce any sort of bullshit meant to be appreciated on some ironic level. Just super-size them or graft them onto another animal (or weather pattern—I have no doubt Sharkquake is in our near future), and you’ve got an instant sarcastic yuk-fest. This was charming to a point—it was hard not to get a hoot out of the likes of Sharktopus, but even that had some modicum of skill involved. On the other hand, Sand Sharks is like a 3rd generation copy of an already shaky concept, and, hyper-aware though it may be, it’s an unfortunate reminder that this once (and briefly) proud genre has become a literal joke.
Speaking of jokes, one of the best ones here involves Brooke Hogan playing a marine biologist. When the sleepy coastal town of White Sands experiences a rash of unexplained deaths, she’s called in to investigate. Meanwhile, the mayor’s prodigal son, Jimmy Green (Corin Nemec), has returned to town to pitch his latest scam/idea to turn the town into a popular Spring Break destination by throwing a huge party. The town is already skeptical about this (someone glibly refers to the fact that fifteen people died the last time Jimmy had some crazy idea), but it seems like an even worse idea once a bunch of impossibly landlocked sharks made an appearance.
If Sand Sharks has anything going for it, it’s some level of self-awareness. Initially, it just seems to be another token Jaws imitator, as it lifts wholesale chunks and beats from Spielberg’s classic. When its obligatory Quint knockoff (Robert Pike Daniel) saunters in and delivers his own riff on Robert Shaw’s introductory scene, you’re wondering if Sand Sharks really thinks it’s gonna get away with this shit—and then it just keeps on, like a kid who keeps stuffing his face after being caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Pretty much everything’s up on the chopping block, too—it’s eventually revealed that the titular sharks are prehistoric creatures who have emerged from the sea after an earthquake, which is lifted straight from Piranha 3D (it also borrows that film’s climactic, gory spring break massacre), and there’s references to “lame shark movies,” though it specifically name-drops Shark Night, which has been the high-water mark for this genre recently. It doesn’t even restrict itself to Spielberg’s adaptation of Jaws, as Jimmy is desperate to throw a profitable Spring Break party because he owes the mob some money, which vaguely echoes a subplot from Benchley’s novel.
All of this would be effective in the service a movie that actually aspired to be better; however, Sand Sharks is content to be another bad shark movie, complete with lazy special effects that can’t possibly bring its concept to life with any respectability. At first, it seems like the film is going to rightfully hide its shame, as a couple of dirt-bikers are devoured by the mostly unseen sand sharks. But from the moment you glimpse so much as a fin, the jig is up—at no point does it look like these creatures exist within the same space as anything else. The graphics are stunningly poor, which is sadly par for the course with this genre; however, these are decidedly subpar and even feature inconsistent renderings that change the sharks’ size and dimensions from one scene to the next. The models are perhaps consistent only in their utter flatness and their cartoonish sense of weight, and it’s impossible to take any of it seriously as a result.
Of course, no one’s supposed to take this stuff seriously, and I’m sure the entire production was driven by a “so bad it’s good” mantra, a philosophy that’s been woefully misunderstood during the past half decade by just about everyone that’s tried to take the Grindhouse baton. Silliness has become conflated with badness, as if spoofs haven’t actually been skillful endeavors for decades. After all, Dante’s Piranha wasn’t effective simply because it was a cheaper, intentionally inferior riff on Jaws; instead, it represented a scrappy crew’s bootstrapping effort to craft a loving homage within more restrictive confines. Sand Sharks has very little of that, so it attempts to compensate with glib, jocular approach that mistakes its own limitations as an excuse. Admittedly, it does help that is a spoof and even features a couple of clever moments, such as when the first body turns up on the shore—since it’s resting there, the two deputies deduce that a shark couldn’t be responsible, right?
That’s the level Sand Sharks is operating on, and all the actors are at least in on the joke in a big way. Nemec especially throws himself into the role of the sleazy jerk who refuses to blink, even when the sand sharks are tearing up his big shindig. Speaking of which—even that disappoints since it’s the world’s quaintest, cheapest Spring Break party, replete with maybe 30 or so extras that scatter when the sharks show up. Some of them are swiftly devoured when the pixilated sharks leap into the frame, which looks fairly awful, but the film at least has the decency to spray some practical blood and gore effects around. Between that and its briskness, Sand Sharks is watchable as it treads on being sort of insulting—why not make a killer shark spoof that’s actual feasible instead of leaning on an absurd concept that’s impossible to do with any sort of effectiveness? It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Spielberg’s biggest hindrance while making Jaws (the model shark’s refusal to work with any consistency) has been completely inverted—these days, filmmakers can’t help but show off their beast, no matter how terrible and stupid it may look. Back to the Future 2 may have erred in its Jaws 19 prediction, but it nailed one thing: the shark still looks fake, and that’s unfortunately still a joke that I’m getting tired of laughing at. Rent it!
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