Tag Archives: Shark

CAPSULE: DEEP BLOOD (1990)

DIRECTED BY: Raffaele Donato,

FEATURING:  Frank Baroni, Cort McCown, Keith Kelsch

PLOT:  A shark hunt progresses after a native blood pact drives a group of privileged boys to avenge the death of their friend.

Still from Deep Blood (1990)

COMMENTS:  Summer 2021 is fading away, and it’s wise to see as many shark movies as possible. Of those, the fuzzy and buzzing 80’s Italian shark film Deep Blood isn’t the worst selection—but it comes close.  Many claim it’s worse than Jaws 4, and judging from its warbled and faded approach to both narrative structure and aesthetics in general, that’s a reasonable assessment. The shark attack scenes lack excitement, women and minorities are marginalized, and the main characters appear bored. Thankfully, the bulk of the movie is made up of narcotizing scuba scenes where little happens besides the inadvertent conjuring of serene oceanic bliss, making it a minor hit for weirdos with an interest in the peculiar and ironic entertainment of dated oceanographic sequences.

Donato and D’Amato succeed in creating a shark drama complete with boats, copters, and underwater scenes, but it’s frazzled by incompetency in the form of loopy synth pads and awkward, boring camera angles. It also hits sour notes with the seeping indolence of the era’s culture—things get kind of racist and sexist.  The only native character (credited as “Indian”) is used as a MacGuffin, and the ladies’ only function is to cheerlead, so distaste and disinterest with Deep Blood grows fast while the boys mope around the cabana, attended to by servants. While the questionable culture of a bunch of yuppie shark hunters is detestable, the characters’ mission to avenge the death of a friend with whom they made a blood pact with gives the narrative some validity. This central concept is enough to propel Deep Blood forward, highlighted by the curious rewards of sleepy scuba scenes.

Stock deep sea footage cuts to polluted swarms of kelp faded in haze, with tranquil swimmers slowly flipping fins, and not much occurring other than a handful of chord changes. The calm Zen quality of these quiet underwater shots is the true charm of Deep Blood. With grey and blue aquatic smears, the undersea content has a distinct 80’s ocean feel that brings to mind better films like Dead Calm. But the nagging synths and wooden acting draw negative attention to Deep Blood‘s lack of charisma. Luckily, there’s a pair of shabby kill scenes to laugh at.

It’s tough to tell (or even care) who is getting killed by the shark during the attack scenes because all characters look and act the same. Protagonists Ben, Miki and Allan all appear to be overzealous wimps when using explosives to kill the shark instead of good old hooks and lines. After all, as Grody in Jaws, Roy Scheider only resorted to pyrotechnics after his bones were rattled by seeing his captain get eaten alive by a prehistoric killing machine. In Deep Blood, the crew has a full arsenal of support together with their mansions, servants, striped pastel shirts, and yachts armed with explosives. And even with the motivating power of some very flirty Italian ladies, they barely get the job done.

Deep Blood boasts cheeky and misguided shark content along with sucky characters. The kill scenes are as exciting as a mail room staff party. What redeems it is the peaceful feeling of floating underwater while a droning score highlights the glowing VHS ambience. Like the moody aesthetics of early PC educational software, Deep Blood offers nodding maritime pleasures with a total lack of self-awareness. You can always watch Jaws afterwards to cleanse your palate.

A flawed but festive watch, Deep Blood is currently available on Youtube for free, and also on DVD and Blu-Ray from Severin films.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“I feel pretty confident in assuming it’s the only movie where a Native American randomly binds together a group of friends for a blood oath that ends with them confronting a killer shark. Throw in the other stuff you expect from Italian horror—gonzo dialogue, baffling character interactions, low-rent effects work, ill-fitting music—and it all comes together to form a singularly strange experience.”–Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror! (Blu-ray)

CAPSULE: DICKSHARK (2016)

The reviewer of this film has requested to remain anonymous.

DIRECTED BY: Bill Zebub

FEATURING: Erin Brown, Kayla Browne, Rachel Crow, Scarlett Storm, Bill Zebub

PLOT: A renegade scientist creates a substance that alters genes, hiding it in the innocuous form of a penis enhancing cream. A man applies the cream, transforming his penis into the head of a shark, his partner shoots off his penis, and the Dickshark escapes into the sewers to wreak havoc on countless female victims.

Still from Dickshark (2016)

WHY IT WONT MAKE THE LIST: Although the subject matter is quite surreal, the dialogue and acting style (although often absurd) halfheartedly attempt realism. The incoherent narrative is less by design than by poor execution.

COMMENTS: Dickshark is what might emerge from ’s production house if Smith really stopped caring about production quality or coherence in his work. Director Bill Zebub is also from New Jersey and shares Smith’s earthy humor, emphasis on dialogue and a love of titillation and risqué subject matter.

You know what you’ve signed up for with Dickshark from the title and trailer. This is an exploitation picture, there’s going to be a shark, it’s going to be shaped like a dick, and its going to attack a lot of women. What you probably didn’t expect are the endless, at first mildly amusing scenes of director Bill Zebub (as the scientist, Dick) delivering half-exposition/half-nonsense monologues as he massages the breasts of semi-naked women “for science” until Dickshark comes to the rescue by clumsily “raping” the women (i.e., someone off camera throws a prosthetic shark at the actress’ groin). Zebub makes no attempt at disguising this personal porno fantasy, filling every rape scene with slow motion footage of undulating female buttocks and even a mock confession: “I’m not an aging movie director who only cops a feel by paying models to be in his movies, and who writes parts for himself that have him making out and groping them.” Really, that’s about all this film amounts to, and while at first this nonchalance and irreverence are kind of fun, it wears thin after the first hour.

What other attempts at plotting remain are tedious interludes, usually two-shots with a rival scientist intent on stealing Dick’s genetic secrets, which stretch on forever and contain lingering close-ups while the off-screen actors talk. The production values and editing reminds one of Manos: The Hands of Fate, but with more vaginas.

The acting quality is slightly above the average pornographic film, with Erin Brown faring the best of the women with her earthy, laconic humor. Zebub’s acting style is best defined as a composite of Alan Moore’s haircut and a working class Woody Allen with the spasmodic gesticulations of ’s character in Apocalypse Now.

Towards the end of the film there emerges a kind of commentary on the nihilism of modern existence: in a confession to the camera, the rival scientist chooses to end his life while bemoaning his small penis. It comes across as a kind of apology for how scattered and half-hearted the film has been, but if all we as audience members are to take away from Dickshark is that life is pointless and must be filled with nudity, shark ejaculate and directors frotting on their actresses, then thank Christ we only paid five dollars video on demand for the privilege.

What I personally took away from the film is how fascinating an undulating vagina looks in extreme close up and slow motion. Not even in Antichrist could compete with the sheer weight and focus Zebub gives to the female sex in Dickshark. The film really deserves the IMAX treatment, and preferably with raincoats offered to prospective male viewers.

The three hour first assembly—which I confess I couldn’t brave—can be found on Vimeo on Demand here:

The two hours and eight minute cut (which still taxed my patience) can also be found on Vimeo on Demand (under the alias Frankenshark):

The DVD runs an advertised 150 minutes.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…like the demented love child of Tinto Brass and Troma for which we never asked.”–Randall Lotowycz, The Ink & Code (DVD)

CAPSULE: SHARKNADO (2013)

DIRECTED BY: Anthony C. Ferrante

FEATURING: Ian Ziering, Cassie Scerbo, Jaason Simmons, Tara Reid

PLOT: Global warming causes shark migrations and storms with heavy winds that pick up angry sharks and hurl them through the streets of L.A.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: C’mon… Sharknado? Really? When you’ve got the weird movie review sites scoffing at the ridiculousness of your premise, you know your movie has issues.

COMMENTS: There have been high concept movies before, but Sharknado has streamlined the process by inventing a title that’s so high concept it makes the rest of the movie superfluous. In case you missed the point of the clever portmanteau, the movie is about a tornado that contains sharks. The problem here for the filmmakers that you really can’t fit more than five, ten minutes at most of actual sharknado footage into your movie, and you have an obligation to fill out the rest of the running time with a plot that doesn’t suck. Not to spoil Sharknado, but they can’t. In Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, Mary Lambert at least included a Tiffany/Debbi Gibson rivalry subplot (culminating in an old-fashioned hair-pulling catfight that actually one-upped the giant reptiles). Here, we only get a lame, barely realized domestic drama to fill in the stretches between flying shark attacks. The two male leads are bland. Alleged protagonist “Fin” (groan) acts like a self-sacrificing hero who values his family’s safety above his own life, but his ex-wife and daughter keep insisting that he’s a selfish jerk. It’s like they’re reading their lines from a different draft of the script. Fin’s surfin’ sidekick, “Baz,” is Tasmanian, and that’s all there is to say about his character. Tara Reid’s only purpose in the story is to be miffed and bitchy—she doesn’t even kill a single shark—and she looks bored in an underwritten role that will do nothing to get her stalled acting career back on track. Other than beach barfly John Heard, who seems like he will have a major role until he becomes an early victim, only Cassie Scerbo (who looks fantastic in a bikini, even with a shark scar on her upper thigh) gives it her all and has the kind of fun an actor should when romping around in something called Sharknado.

Besides the suspiciously selective-for-sharks cyclones (why couldn’t a tornado dump a bunch of lobster on us, preferably during a drizzle of drawn butter?), there are many deliberately dumb moments in the script that will have you shaking your head in either delight or disgust. For example, there’s a scene where the heroes are driving around the flooded streets of L.A. in their SUV and we are told that a full grown tiger shark is swimming under the car. Later, these geniuses scheme to destroy the sharknadoes by flying a helicopter into them and dropping a bomb, reasoning that “tornadoes happen when cold and warm air meet. If you drop a bomb head right in the middle of it, you just might equalize it.”

But, you must resist testing your wits by looking for the plot holes in Sharknado. That’s just what the filmmakers want you to do—to congratulate yourself for being smarter than the people who made this movie, while they in the meantime lounge on the Santa Monica beach, drinking fruity beverages with umbrellas and slices of pineapple in them and texting their financial advisers to see what investments they should buy with the money people like you paid for the DVD. Although these shark movies made by the studio known as the Asylum can be fun in a junk-food cinema sense, they are basically a scam; they profit off hastily churning out shoddy shark product and marketing it as camp. Critics were surprisingly kind to Sharknado. But the praise only rewards the filmmakers for being dumb, and encourages them to try to be even stupider next time out. I very nearly gave this schlock a “” rating, and only relented because, if by some miracle you have managed to avoid the Asylum’s other aquatic monstrosities like Mega Piranha and Sharktopus, Sharknado will seem original and mildly amusing. Enough said.

Much like contemporary children can’t comprehend how “Fonzie” could ever be considered cool, future generations will find it hard to believe that the television debut of Sharknado was a pop culture event. Archive this report from The Verge of this compendium of tweets from the Huffington Post and show them to your grandchildren to prove to them that, yes, a movie about a tornado full of sharks was a big deal for a couple of hours in 2013. Hopefully, that generation will look back at Sharknado as the point at which the seafood horror genre (please forgive me) jumped the shark.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…the movie signals its determination to efficiently get you the balls-out-crazy mayhem you want and not let narrative, budget constraints, or the laws of science get in the way.”–James Poniewozik, Time (TV broadcast)

CAPSULE: THE ADVENTURES OF SHARKBOY AND LAVAGIRL IN 3-D (2005)

DIRECTED BY: Robert Rodriguez

FEATURING: George Lopez, Cayden Boyd, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Dooley

PLOT:  Dreamy young Max invents the imaginary superheroes Sharkboy and Lavagirl from Planet Drool to brighten his dull existence; when his dream journal is stolen by a schoolyard bully, Planet Drool is taken over by tyrants and his imaginary friends whisk him away to his disintegrating dream world to set things right.

Still from The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D (2005)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The childishly imaginative The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D shows all the evidence of having been taken out of the hands of the original scenarist, 7 year old Racer Max Rodriguez, and script-doctored to fit into a kiddie film format that would be more comfortable for adults. The tale heads off in weird directions, obliterating the line between fantasy and reality as it meanders down a stream-of-consciousness style from superheroes to roller coasters to electrical plug villains to omniscient floating head robots. It’s a near-perfect exhibition of the hyperactive schizophrenia of a typical seven-year old. So far, so good; but then, someone—my money is on director Robert Rodriguez—imposed a standard three-act structure on the story, smoothed out the non-sequiturs, and tossed in a moral about realizing your dreams to placate stern, rational adults. Had they stuck to Racer’s original vision, Sharkboy and Lavagirl, as the first script actually written by a seven year old, might have turned out as one of the weirdest movies ever made.

COMMENTS: Sharks are not weird. Pomegranates are weird. I base this conclusion on the fact that the Armenian director Sergei Parajanov once chose to make a weird movie about pomegranates, but no one has ever made a weird movie about sharks. Sharks are b-movie heavies, excuses for bad special effects and senseless gratuitous violence. They serve the same cinematic purpose as other non-weird bad guy archetypes like giant spiders, psychotic killers in hockey-masks, and Paris Hilton.

Mega-sharks, on the other hand, may be weird, but I thought of them too late.

Robert Rodriguez, who alternates making weirdish adult cult movies like Grindhouse and Sin City with wacky children’s movies like the Spy Kids series, loves sharks, a love affair that began when Steven Spielberg’s Jaws premiered on his 7th birthday. For recreation, he goes scuba diving in shark-infested waters in a steel cage. He’s passed down his obsession with sharks to his son Racer, who, between the ages of six and seven, made up the character of Sharkboy in stories he told to amuse himself. In an attempt to recapture the spirit of youth and create a movie that would appeal to directly to kids with as little adult intervention as possible, the elder Rodriguez took Racer’s ideas, dialogue and plot sketches (as verbatim as he could while still making a reasonably coherent movie), cast professional talent in the key roles, and directed his son’s daydreams in front state of the art green-screen special effects as The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl.
Sharkathalon!
I say this to explain why a weird movie website is covering a semi-weird, shark-lite, non-horror movie for the b-movie roundtable SHARKATHALON!, “week-long tribute to everything that has to do with sharks and horror films” scheduled to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the release of Jaws. Fans of the toothy marine predators looking for tales of blood in the water, prepare for something completely different.

With those flimsy justifications out of the way, let’s jump into Racer’s kiddie shark pool, where the chum floating in the water isn’t chunks off a great white’s latest victim, but shreds of childhood dreams.

First off, forget 3-D. Part of the reason this film was originally panned is because the 3-D effects, which came along at the very tail end of the red-blue glasses era and just before the contemporary polarized glasses became standard, just didn’t measure up. The DVD comes with red-blue glasses and offers viewers the chance to torture themselves with them should they so wish, but most will be happy to stick to the standard flat-viewing experience.

The adventures begin with Sharkboy’s origin story: son of a marine biologist, separated from his father and lost in a CGI sea after a storm, adopted by talking sharks; naturally, his exposure to the sharky lifestyle results in him growing gills, fangs and fins  Lavagirl, the affirmative-action superheroine added to tap into the lucrative girl market, doesn’t get an origin story; she Continue reading CAPSULE: THE ADVENTURES OF SHARKBOY AND LAVAGIRL IN 3-D (2005)