FTP: Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre (2015)

MAY 2, 2022


I try not to generalize, but let me be clear: you're a complete idiot if you sit down to watch a movie called Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre and expect tight plotting, strong characters, etc. And hell, even if the movie had a more ominous title like "From The Depths" or some nonsense, the credited "Directed by Jim Wynorski" (who also co-wrote) should revert expectations back to the former. So as long as you are aware of its title and director (who can be hit or miss even with his unique set of standards), I think it's fair to say that this actually skirts with "not bad" territory, all things considered.

Since the plot itself is ridiculous (land fracking unleashes prehistoric land sharks) Wynorski and his collaborators are never encumbered by much in the way of human logic, nor do they ever make us wait too long between attacks. All in, this makes the movie move along better than a number of its shark movie peers, so since "don't bore me" is all you can really ask of this sort of thing, I recognize that I've certainly seen worse. Our victims are a group of female prisoners who are doing their cleanup community service, one of whom is about to be rescued by her lover (Dominique Swain), so along with the two cops that are assigned to their group, you get this kind of low key Assault on Precinct 13 thing where some of the prisoners are just trying to keep their head down and don't want to go along with the escape, ending up siding with the cops. And then all of them have to band together to dodge land sharks.

Even better, it doesn't do the thing that annoys me about most of these Syfy-esque shark/monster movies, where they just randomly cut to a new person who we don't know and kill them 30 seconds later just to keep the film's "action" level high. After the sharks are unearthed they kill some dudes in the opener, and then for the rest of the film they're after the prisoner/cop group or a pair of other cops (one of whom is played by Traci Lords, who "understood the assignment" as they say), whittling down their numbers instead of boosting the body count with interchangeable randos. I guess "focus" would be the word I'm looking for here, which is sadly kind of novel with these things, though it helps me appreciate this more than I probably would otherwise.

It shouldn't shock anyone to learn that the shark FX kind of suck though. Since they are land sharks they spend most of their time just kind of tunneling through the ground like the Graboids from Tremors, except with bad CGI making the crumbled up "rocks" look more like giant puffs of popcorn (and when the shark passes by, the area resets itself with flat unbroken ground, naturally). There isn't much in the way of good deaths, either - a big one near the end is just sort of vaguely represented by blood in the water. They even use cheap VFX for body parts; Lords and her parenter find a victim in the woods that is in pieces, and each chunk of leg or torso or whatever is clearly generated over a shot of the ground. Like they couldn't find one (1) FX guy in Florida who had a few fake body parts from a previous shoot just lying around and would be willing to donate them for a few hours?

It's also an ugly film, so be prepared for that. The entire thing seems to be shot at the brightest time of the day with extra lights for good measure - it's not until near the end, when they make their way through a cave to safety, that concepts like "darkness" and "shadow" are shown on screen for the first time. You've likely seen more interesting cinematography on the Spice Channel circa 1997. Again, no one should be LOOKING for this sort of thing here, but unlike the silly plot and bad CGI, it almost seems like they have to go out of their way to make the film look this garish and would be better off just pointing a phone at the actors, so I should mention it.

Wynorski and two of the girls provide a pretty amusing commentary; they're not afraid to call out some of the film's sillier moments and dialogue readings, so it's just as low key charming as the film itself. Long story short, for a movie you could "watch" without your phone ever leaving your hand (or even your vistion), you can do much much worse, and given the ever abhorrent state of the world, such silliness is only going to be more and more welcome, I feel. Long as you keep it in moderation, I feel there's always room for this kind of B-movie nonsense as long as the filmmakers and actors know exactly what they're making and find the right tone with their edit, and - perhaps more importantly - you're in the right mood for it when you watch.

What say you?


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