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Jumping
the Shark
(Part 3)


Welcome back to a blog so epic we had to split it into three. Last month our survey of Dumb Shark Movies took us from 2009, when a Mega-Shark met a Giant Octopus, through to 2013 when it started raining sharks (hallelujah!) in Sharknado. Since then, the cheese factories of Hollywood have been pumping out DSMs of increasing ludicrousnessitude. We truly are living through a golden age of Dumb Shark Movies.

      Mega-Shark was last seen in 2010 battling Crocosaurus. After that it looked for a while like we’d seen the last of him but four years later, a third double-size Megalodon was defrosted and this time the authorities were ready with a super high-tech submarine - shaped like a giant shark! Mega-Shark vs Mecha-Shark, despite being a fairly obvious riff on Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, was surprisingly watchable, starring Christopher Judge (Teal’c from Stargate) with a cameo by the original film’s star, Dame Debbie Gibson.

      Another crazy fish returning after a four-year hiatus was the toothy, tentacled star of Roger Corman’s 2010 Portmanteau Monster Movie Sharktopus. Reteaming with Dinoshark director Kevin O’Neill, Corman upped the DSM ante yet again with tag-team insanity Sharktopus vs Pteracuda. In this one, a baby sharktopus is raised in an aquarium while Robert Carradine’s mad scientist somehow harvests incomplete pterodactyl DNA and fills in the gaps with barracuda genes (as you would), creating a triphibian monster which eventually faces off against the fully-grown sharktopus. The film’s big selling point was an awesome cameo by Conan O’Brien as himself: messily decapitated, his head is used by some inattentive beach jocks as a volleyball! (As an extra gag, Conan hired an LA billboard touting his sole film role 'for your Emmy and/or Oscar and/or Bafta consideration'.)

      90210 Shark Attack sounded like a classic Type 2 DSM (you may recall, those are films where regular sharks pop up in unexpected places) but it’s something more than that. A bunch of students staying, for some reason, in a huge old house near the sea, are attacked one by one by something shark-like. This turns out to be one of the girls whose father killed a native shark god, one of whose teeth she now wears on a cord around her neck. This cursed shark tooth causes her to intermittently turn into a CGI shark-thing in a cheap’n’cheesy effect that’s given away in the trailer anyway. Heavily padded with long credits and endless scenes of people walking upstairs and downstairs, this is a David DeCoteau picture - so of course none of the boys own a shirt. In a nice bit of stunt casting, Donna Wilkes from Jaws 2 came out of retirement to play the students’ teacher.

      Even cheesier is Shark Babes, directed by DeCoteau’s mate Jim Wynorski under the pseudonym Harold Blueberry. This one seems to have never received a single online review so I can do no more than quote the sleeve blurb: 'Down at the Shark Anomaly Center, a group of sexy marine biologists probe the secrets of the greatest predator known to man!  They soon discover the ferocious sea creature emits an erotic sound that no woman can resist.  But will their newly unearthed 'shark-waves' eventually take them to new heights or simply turn them all into irresistible 'shark babes' bent on overthrowing mankind with unbridled sensuality?' I can wait to find out.

      Now, I’ve sat through a lot of trailers researching this three-part blog and only one has made me exclaim, 'Holy cow! This must be the best film ever made!' That film is Piranha Sharks, directed by Leigh Scott, with the mighty Kevin Sorbo providing top-notch name value as the Mayor of New York. The titular creatures are tiny hybrids sold as pets which reproduce alarmingly quickly, leading many owners to flush them down the loo, where they multiply (and grow) even faster. Baseball legend Jose Conseco and news anchor David Shuster appear as themselves in fake ads in this clearly stupendous cinematic event. Frustratingly, there’s no DVD (outside Japan) and the VOD link is now dead. But I checked with the director and he says a proper release is on the way.

      Asylum alumnus Scott created that movie partly to cock a snook at his former employers, who predictably followed their 2013 smash hit with a sequel one year later. Sharknado 2: The Second One is set in New York where the shark-related weather is so bad it knocks the Statue of Liberty’s head off. Ian Ziering and Tara ‘mark of quality’ Reid reprised their roles and a bunch of names agreed to cameo in what was guaranteed to break viewing records for a SyFy Channel DSM. Judd Hirsch from Taxi is a cabbie, Robert Hays from Airplane is a pilot. Plus Kelly Osbourne, Tiffany Shepis, Judah Friedlander from 30Rock, Billy Ray Cyrus - there’s barely room for the sharks. Anthony C Ferrante directed again.

      A few years earlier, Brett Kelly scored points for directing a film with the terrific title Jurassic Shark. In 2014, he came up with an even better title… Raiders of the Lost Shark! It’s yet another picture about a Megalodon being released from thousands of years of waiting (that’s a Type 3 DSM, fin-fans) which then gets even sillier when some mad scientists get involved and the sharks start flying through the air (that makes it also a Type 1 of course). Kelly wrote and produced this epic cheese-fest, leaving the director’s chair for Scott Patrick. If you like Brett Kelly movies (and who doesn’t?), you’re in for a treat.

      Which brings us up to this year and as fine a crop of DSMs as ever was reaped. Mega-Shark was back for a fourth outing in Mega-Shark vs Kolossus. The fish’s opponent this time was a giant robot built by the Soviets during the Cold War and early word on the picture is that it’s surprisingly good fun. Chris ‘son of Fred Olen’ Ray, the man who previously brought us Shark Week, Mega-Shark vs Crocosaurus and Two-Headed Shark Attack, was back in the director’s chair. And incredibly he stayed there for another DSM sequel because just one month later, US audiences were treated to… Three-Headed Shark Attack! Jason Simmons (from Baywatch and latterly Sharknado) starred in this one, which aired on SyFy as part of an incredible ‘Sharknado Week’ DSM package leading up to the premiere of the third film in that franchise. Two dozen DSMs were screened, interleaved with a variety of Dumb Crocodile Movies, Dumb Alligator Movies and Dumb Piranha Movies. The main selling point of this particular one was Danny Trejo as, erm, basically Danny Trejo. Which is enough, surely. If the idea of Machete fighting a shark with three heads doesn’t float your boat… well... you’re going to need a bigger boat.

      So yes, there was a third Sharknado with Ziering, Reid and Ferrante all back for more. Manfully rising to the challenge of being dumber than the first two films put together, The Asylum not only had the shark-storm attack Washington DC, they also somehow contrived to send the sharks into space where they attack a space shuttle - and Ziering’s character fights them off with a laser chainsaw. Celebrity cameos include (deep breath) Bo Derek, Kevin Sorbo, Steve Guttenberg, Penn and Teller, George RR Martin, Lorenzo Lamas, Corey Feldman, Lou Ferrigno, Jackie Collins and - we are not worthy - The Hoff.

      By now, production of DSMs was just some sort of giant, aquatic, piss-up-the-wall-the-highest contest, as Roger Corman unveiled his own contribution to SyFy’s Shark Week. Originally announced as Sharktopus vs Mermantula, old Rog evidently decided that a half-merman, half-tarantula creature was just too dumb (or maybe not dumb enough) and replaced it with something half-whale, half-wolf. Hence Sharktopus vs Whalewolf. Casper Van Dien, whose last trip into the ocean was 1999’s genre-defining Shark Attack, is an alcoholic boat captain. His wife Catherine Oxenburg is a mad scientist with the sort of over-the-top German accent we haven’t heard since Lili von Schtupp sang about being tired. With a voodoo priest, a Latin reality TV show, a monster face-off on a baseball field and Kevin O’Neill once more in the director’s chair, Sharktopus 3 is a vast improvement on its predecessors and one of the most entertaining DSMs for, well, months.

      Surprisingly, Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws was not part of SyFy’s package and wasn’t even a proper sequel to Ghost Shark. Shot in New Zealand, this film is unusually serious for a DSM, although it is nevertheless about people being attacked by the ghost of a shark so, you know, it’s still pretty dumb. For novelty value, a scene was shot in New York featuring the stars of three notoriously bad films - Troll 2, Birdemic and The Room - although this was cut from the finished movie.

      You might think that 2015 has been nothing but sequels but there have been original DSMs too. February brought us Shark Killer, a fun picture in which a professional shark-chaser is hired by a millionaire to hunt and kill a great white that has swallowed an enormous diamond. Arnold Vosloo from the Mummy films and the Darkman sequels is a club-footed gangster who believes the diamond is his. There’s lots of gun-blasting action inbetween the stock footage sharks in this Canadian-South African production.

      In July, alongside all those already mentioned, two further DSMs debuted on SyFy. Zombie Shark did what it said on the tin (which makes one wonder why internationally it has been marketed as Shark Island). Misty Talley (assistant editor on Swamp Shark) made her feature directorial debut on this tale of stranded holidaymakers who encounter a dead shark infected with a lab-made zombie virus. Before too long, the sea is full of undead sharks and survivors of the various attacks are stumbling along the sand in search of brains and guts. Somehow managing to combine SyFy dumbness with a bleak scenario reminiscent of 1970s' Jess Franco pictures, this is a real oddity in the DSM field. And, somewhat predictably, there was also Roboshark. Written by Phillip J Roth (who previously brought us 2001’s Shark Hunter), this is even more out there than Zombie Shark. A great white eats a small UFO which transforms it into a robotic shark, complete with machine guns. The creature then attacks Seattle, destroying shopping malls, Starbucks, the Space Needle and a local software billionaire. It also sets up a Twitter account. All surprisingly good fun and at least it’s something new, and not just another defrosted Megalodon.

      At least two more DSMs are still to come in 2015. Donald Farmer, the man who previously gave us Chainsaw Cheerleaders, has made Shark Exorcist, in which a shark is possessed by Satan and then hot women are possessed by the possessed shark. Or something. And no less a name than Dolph Lundgren goes into the water in Shark Lake, set in Nevada but shot in Mississippi. Dolph is an illegal dealer in exotic species who accidentally introduces a shark to a lake (hence the title) then has to fight it - and its offspring. This clearly has a thousand times the budget of Shark Exorcist but it looks boring and, frankly, I’d rather watch Don Farmer’s film.

      Just time to give a quick shout-out to the announced but sadly unmade Gatorshark vs Zombie Cheerleaders, a concept that was perhaps trying just a little bit too hard. Still, maybe one day. Instead, let me leave you with Sky Sharks, an allegedly-forthcoming film which somehow managed to combine the DSM sub-genre with that other trope de nos jours, the post-ironic, post-Iron Sky nazisploitation picture. I can do no more than direct you to YouTube where a swift search of the title will discover the concept trailer. If you have ever wanted to see an airliner attacked mid-flight by flying sharks, armed with air-to-air rockets and piloted by Nazi zombies… well, on the one hand you have extraordinarily specific cinematic taste. But on the other hand - bingo, you’re in luck!

      I can honestly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this tripartite romp through the world of Dumb Shark Movies. I hope you have to, and that you will seek out a few of these DSMs next time you’re in the mood. Whatever you do, stay out of the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MJ Simpson has been writing since he found out which end of a pencil makes a mark. After editing sci-fan club mags he spent three years on the staff of SFX and helped to launch Total Film before switching to freelance work for Fangoria, Shivers, Video Watchdog, DeathRay and other cult movie magazines. He has a number of scripts in development and has been working on his third book, a biography of 'Bride of Frankenstein' Elsa Lanchester, for a very long time, but he promises to have it finished soon (-ish). Mike lives in Leicester with his wife, Mrs S, and his young son, TF Simpson. By day he edits the university's website and in the evenings he edits MJSimpson.co.uk. He should probably get out more.