Malibu Shark Attack (2009)

AUGUST 14, 2012


Now that it's actually Shark Week, and with the glorious new Blu-ray of Jaws hitting shelves, I figured I should do my duty and find a new shark movie to watch. Unsurprisingly, Syfy came to the rescue, airing their 2009 effort Malibu Shark Attack over the weekend. I've about had my fill of their stuff lately, so I wasn't expecting much, but it was surprisingly humor-free and populated mostly with adults, which kept me more or less entertained and even caring about a few of the folks.

The best thing about it was that it mostly took place in confined spaces, giving it a bit of a Deep Blue Sea feel instead of the usual high seas scenarios. Our heroes are trapped in a lifeguard station that's been half submerged and cut off from the mainland by a tsunami, so the sharks can still get at them by ramming through the floor and walls. And then there are a few construction workers (including the boyfriend of one of the lifeguards) who have their own problems nearby as they try to rescue them. So instead of the usual boating scenes, you get sharks swimming through construction material and submerged hallways (like in the first Resident Evil game!), giving a creepier, claustrophobic feel to the proceedings.

It also takes place more or less in real time, which is unusual. They skip a chunk of time from day to night, but otherwise we track everyone every step of the way. This of course means it's not as fast-paced as some viewers may like (the body count of the entire movie is like 6 or 7, and a record five people walk away at the end), as they realistically attempt to barricade themselves in one spot rather than constantly moving, but it kept it fresh. Hell they barely even rip off Jaws; apart from some cues on the soundtrack undoubtedly inspired by John Williams, there's nothing in here that's recycled from Spielberg's classic: no "close the beaches" element, no Quint like shark hunter, etc.

In fact that's the other thing I dug - they kill the sharks with power tools! Once everyone is grouped at the construction site, the humans use handsaws and nail guns to fend off the "Goblin" sharks, with surprising and admirably gory results - you haven't lived until you've seen a guy take a chainsaw to a shark and get covered in its blood. Makeshift and household weapons are always more interesting than "Let's blow it up!" (or in outer space movies, sucking it out of an airlock), so I was elated to see 2-3 of the sharks go down thanks to the same sort of shit I have in my own home. I am prepared to kill a goblin shark!

CGI wasn't too bad either; the sharks rarely interacted with the humans in a single shot (lot of "and then the water turns red" kills) but at least they looked OK when they were swimming around in the water, as most of these can't even get that much right. I wish they had more (any?) practical snouts or something to interact with for at least one good chomp scene, but I think that the fins are the extent of what the actors had to work with. Guess if they get one thing right they have to sacrifice another...

There's a weird love triangle plot too. The main lifeguard guy (who was in Apollo 18, the poor bastard) used to date the main lifeguard girl, and she's with the head construction guy now. So those two guys face off, and everything's nice and generic, except for two elements. One - the construction guy actually rescues them both, which makes him more of a hero than the ex. Yet, after this, she starts making moves on the lifeguard as if they're going to get back together! Shouldn't HE have been the one to rescue her for her to have this change of heart, like "Oh, I CAN count on him to be there for me after all!" or something (the reason she left him is never made clear). Construction dude risked his neck to save them both and now she's going to ditch him? What the hell?

The 2nd thing is even weirder - both men survive, and she asks them if they want to share her, which they all laugh about. So that's how it's gonna be? Some weird threeway situation? Why not just kill one of them off in sacrifice, Armageddon style (except both being lovers, not a father/son thing), and give it a real solid ending instead of this weird shit? Speaking of odd plot points, the movie continually cuts in a reporter who talks about the devastation, all of which is quite ridiculous considering that the tsunami we see didn't look very tall (she also talks of inland homes being washed away, which makes me wonder how the shack ON THE BEACH remained completely intact). The construction folk are right there too and they don't even get wet, yet somehow 850 people were supposedly drowned and hospitals all the way to Las Vegas are taking in the injured. I think it would have been better to just ignore whatever effect the wave had on the other areas, since they obviously couldn't afford to show any of it (or even where the reporter was in relation to the rest of the characters), and her descriptions often sound a bit hyperbolic - at one point she says it was bigger than the one that hit Indonesia in 2004!

So it's got issues, but I was relieved that they were specific to this movie. I spent my time either engaged or puzzled, but none of it rolling my eyes at failed attempts to copy other movies (though there WAS a reference to Jaws 3D, of all things). And a movie where a guy chainsaws a shark is automatically worth my HMAD-ified time.

What say you?


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