AUGUST 19, 2012
Considering how many shark movies I've seen, it's strange how few of them are intentionally funny, mocking themselves and the overbearing glut of shark movies that have come before it. So I was a bit taken aback when I realized that Sand Sharks was intentionally ripping off Jaws for comedic effect, barreling through the usual setup scenes and presenting caricatures of its iconic characters - how is this the first time I've seen a parody of Quint's offer to kill the beast that's hurting the town's livelihood?
But my favorite joke was earlier than that, when the town's (only?) two cops find a head on the beach, with tracks indicating that the killer was on land and thus not a shark. Even though they literally just found it, one cop informs the other that the mayor has demanded that the beaches stay open anyway, even though it doesn't seem possible that the mayor could even know about it yet - the joke being that there's no reason to go through the motions when we know that's what will happen anyway. It's the kind of comedy I like, where they're not doing Mad magazine spoofs of a specific movie but just sort of generally having fun with a sub-genre's tropes (not unlike the less sight-gag driven parts of Airplane, or the first Naked Gun).
But it gets less silly as it goes on, probably because they figured the joke would wear thin BECAUSE so many of these movies are unintentionally hilarious anyway, due to the shitty FX that plagues this one as well. Best as I can tell, apart from maybe a couple of fin shots, they use CGI for every shot of the sharks, with no practical heads for closeups or anything like that. Of course, this allows for sillier shots than would be possible for these productions, like when one of them dive bombs a pier and takes out like 20 people at once, but come on! There's a bit where one comes up through the floor inside a little shack, and we don't even get any real interaction between it and the actors, despite the close quarters.
And this focus away from goofiness actually pays off, as the movie kills its most sympathetic character at the end of the second act, which legit shocked me even though I wasn't exactly invested in the proceedings. I even contemplated the possibility that I had missed something and another person wearing similar clothes was the one who actually gotten bit in half, because I was so sure that this person would be its Ripley. But maybe I was still mad that Gina Holden's character had exited just ten minutes prior; it was bad enough she wasn't in the movie as much as I would like (every frame) to begin with, so that I had another 40 minutes to go without her presence (a main reason for watching it) was a bummer.
Otherwise, my main concern as a viewer was whether or not I was watching a sequel to a film I hadn't yet seen. Throughout the movie they discuss an incident that occurred some years before, where certain people (Corin Nemec's mother among them) were killed due to a shark attack of some sort. I even broke down and looked at the IMDb halfway through, only to discover no "original" movie existed. It's a strange device to use for an original movie, and the characters are even introduced as having prior histories that we should be aware of, such as Nemec's relationship with the female cop. Considering how different they are and how they are utilized in this movie, it's impossible to comprehend how they ever could have lived together or even gotten along, so perhaps the screenwriter WROTE two movies and just made the sequel first? It's really odd.
Back to Jaws, one thing that I found kind of charming is that they copied an element not from the movie but the source novel, which is that the Mayor was mixed up with the mob, something that was informing a few of his (bad) decisions. Nemec is the Mayor's son here, and owes money to the mob, which is why he needs his planned event (Sandman, a big Spring Break type event that, in typical Syfy (or Syfy-esque) fashion draws about 40 or 50 extras) to go on without a hitch, and so he covers up another death after a Sand Shark is killed and the problem is presumed to be over by everyone else. Since they're not even trying to hide the fact that they're riffing on Jaws, I admit I was kind of impressed that they went all out and even borrowed stuff from Peter Benchley's book.
Speaking of the extras, keep an eye on them during the big attack on the Sandman festival. Director Mark Atkins clearly just told them to run around at random, so you see them running every which way even though, you know, OFF THE FUCKING BEACH would be the only sensible option (some even appear to run for the water!). Then there's a particularly large guy with no shirt on who is seen running left to right in one shot and then back the other way in the next. Since the tone veers from parody to somewhat serious (relatively speaking), it's hard to tell if this sort of stuff is supposed to be sloppy for a joke, or if it's just sloppy.
No hints are available in the disc's only extra besides the trailer, a "Making Of" which is primarily Atkins talking about his cast, with about a minute or so about the production itself. I can't imagine a world where anyone would find this stuff interesting, but if you exist, they got you covered. And it's a Phase 4 DVD release, which means there are several hundred hours of trailers at the top of the disc, so if your menu button is broken you can go make yourself a sandwich (or an entire Thanksgiving style meal) and come back when they're done and you can enjoy this uneven but mostly charmingly odd take on the killer shark movie.
What say you?
P.S. Instead of the trailer, which gives away most of the best gags, I will post this short, which I saw on HBO or something when I was a kid and thus was scared of being killed by sand sharks for a while.