Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Cinema File #52: "Sand Sharks" Review

When I reviewed Dragon Wasps, I noted that the director Mark Atkins had previously worked with actor Corin Nemic on another movie that I had not yet seen called Sand Sharks. I enjoyed Dragon Wasps enough to track down their first collaboration (turns out it is available on Netflix streaming), and while I can't say I enjoyed it as much, I definitely think a pattern is beginning to form with this director.

Both movies start out slow, so slow in fact that I almost questioned my commitment to keep watching, and yet both movies end with such crazy, fully enjoyable carnage that I come away more than pleased with the decision to stick with it. Sand Sharks is a bit harder to slog through, if only because the absence of bad ass military grunts with guns means the action is almost completely confined to the last act, with the death scenes before that being over far too quickly. Once the Sand Shark becomes Sand Sharks and a beach party invasion commences, a below average horror comedy even by B movie standards is elevated to a legitimately fun ride.

Sand Sharks is about, well, Sand Sharks, prehistoric killing machines that can swim in sand, their fins poking out of the ground as they stalk their prey in and out of the water. At first blush you would think they would be a more interesting monster than giant wasps, with or without fire breath, but eventually their attacks become so routine as they jump out, swallow a hapless civilian, then jump back into the ground, that the novelty wears off quickly. Much like Dragon Wasps, there is one twist at the end that reveals the threat to be greater than once thought, but I still found myself wanting a better hook than the ability to swim on land.

Corin Nemic plays a shyster party planner hoping to turn a beach front town into the next Cancun style Spring Break hotspot, and the main emotional arc of the film is his character's vacillation between greedy jerk and not quite as greedy, somewhat noble jerk. While he doesn't get the chance to kick nearly as much ass, what with no Jaguar and all, he's still probably once again the best thing in the movie without fins. Brooke Hogan plays the sexy doctor of something, in this case, shark expert, and she's as wooden as you might expect, but not really a detriment to the film as far as I'm concerned. The rest of our shark hunting team is rounded out by the unscrupulous town mayor, a pair of law enforcement officer siblings, and a pleasantly crotchity old fisherman who needed to have a lot more screen time than he had.

Again, if you're going to attempt to watch this movie, you have to keep in mind that it all gets paid off in the end. Unlike Dragon Wasps, where I felt that the flow of the story from boring to insane was more organic and easier to justify, here there doesn't seem to be as much of a reason for the first half to be as listless as it is. Just before his party begins (when everyone thinks the Sand Shark is dead), Nemic's character makes a choice that transforms the movie from a fairly straight forward horror film with a ridiculous premise into an obviously intentional dark comedy, taking several unsentimental turns that I was definitely not expecting. Nemic is set up with a possible love interest, a girl who he wronged in the past but who obviously still has feelings for him, and instead of going where you think it would go, it ends on such a gloriously grim note that I would almost recommend the movie just on the strength of that one scene.

I only wish the twist that starts this mess off so well were earlier in the film. We don't really need as many Sand Shark deaths as we do before the madness of the last act, especially since there isn't a lot of variation in those scenes. And this may sound strange in the context of talking about a movie called Sand Sharks from the director of Dragon Wasps, but there's probably too much talking and yes, even too much character development in this movie that just gets in the way of what I came to see. Scene after scene exists solely to reinforce the single defining traits of each character over and over again until they get eaten by a shark, and while none of them are overtly annoying or the kind of insufferable jackasses you always want to see killed in these kinds of movies, they aren't interesting enough to justify so much time spent on them either.

If you liked Dragon Wasps, because you were one of the few people that actually watched Dragon Wasps who wasn't me, then like me you'll probably get a kick out of Sand Sharks as well. Just remember your breathing, resist the urge to scoff yourself into a heart attack at the multiple scenes of Brooke Hogan pretending to be a scientist, and give yourself over to the knowing nonsense of it all. Trust me, by the 50 minute mark or so, it will have been worth it. If you can't wait 50 minutes for some inspired Sand Shark fighting action, this movie probably isn't for you.

Also, you probably have no soul. You should maybe get that checked out.

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