It takes about 60 seconds before the first tasteless joke announces exactly what kind of film Ghost Shark is going to be. Displeased at his charter boat captain’s attitude, a surly hillbilly struggling to reel in his catch warns his fellow man that “If I wanted any lip from you, I’d pull down your panties.”
It’s a lovely sentiment from a mind-numbing movie. As SyFy’s attempted follow-up to the unexpected social media phenomenon of Sharknado, this Thursday evening premiere lacks almost all that film’s simple pleasures. From its performances to its horrendous execution in the editing room, it’s less enjoyable on every level, the disappointing embodiment of “so bad it’s bad.”
All let-down must of course begin with the titular ghost shark, which to its credit, wastes no time in coming back to life after being exploded to death by a hillbilly grenade to the face. Injured and near death, presumably due to its missing face, the great white shark swim-limps into a cave, where the paintings begin to glow and bestow powers of reanimation that are never adequately explained.
In terms of presentation, the ghost shark is undeniably hideous. The CGI creations of Sharknado were hardly setting the bar high, but the titular star of Ghost Shark revels in the lifelessness of its own undead nature. In each appearance, it darts in and out of the frame, totally inarticulate and without visceral impact. The practical effects that enlivened the kill scenes and especially the gore of Sharknado are nowhere to be seen. This is one case where bargain-bin CGI robs scenes of violence of any impact they might conceivably have, even as macabre comedy. In doing so, the film violates the most crucial rule of trashy filmmaking—you can be stupid, but don’t be boring.
Arrayed against this eldritch aquatic abomination is your standard cast of horror movie clichés, best defined as: The Nice Guy, The Prude, The Kid Sister, The Bitch, The Fat Guy and The Black Guy. Playing The Prude is Mackenzie Rosman of 7th Heaven fame, here unrecognizable as a sneering “teenager” whose contempt for appearing in Ghost Shark feels palpable. Her father, the dead charter boat captain from the film’s beginning, is quickly forgotten as she and her friends raid the local history museum for any Ghost Shark-related exhibits that might shed some light on the situation.
Of special note is the participation of the hulking Richard Moll, once known as Bailiff Bull Shannon on NBC’s Night Court. Here he plays yet another archetype, that of the grizzled old drunk who possesses secret knowledge. The audience learns this as he literally walks up to a murder scene and announces the problem—ghosts, possibly in shark form. Of course, after being rebuffed by the local sheriff, he’s curiously unhelpful when the kids return to seek his guidance, screaming in their faces and generally forgetting that he’s the one who brought up the topic of ghosts and sharks earlier that day. As the old man, Moll turns in an embarrassing performance, bellowing every other line at a volume Samuel L. Jackson would find excessive.
The rest of the cast is nearly as bad, in a film so confused that it can’t even seem to keep character ages straight. Cicily (Sloane Coe), Rosman’s kid sister, is introduced wearing a bikini in a group of horny teens, and immediately follows that up with a bath scene. Minutes later, it’s revealed her character is too young to have a driver’s license, suggesting that the film chose to titillate its audience with the implied nudity of a 15-year-old. Stay classy, Ghost Shark.
In the “best” bad movies, there runs a certain strain of joie de vivre, an attitude of impermeability that makes viewers sound foolish for attempting any sort of serious criticism. Ghost Shark approaches this attitude for only a fraction of its 90 minutes, leaving entirely too much time for audience members to question why they’re still watching. By the time The Nice Guy (Dave Randolph-Mayhem Davis) delivers his incredibly insensitive parting line to Rosman, “sucks about your dad,” it’s hard to imagine anyone will still be tuning in. But if they do, at least they’ll be rewarded by the sight of the survivors swimming away, merrily laughing about the deaths of their friends and loved ones.
Director: Griff Furst
Writer: Paul A. Birkett, Eric Forsberg, Griff Furst
Starring: Mackenzie Rosman, Richard Moll, Dave Randolph-Mayhem Davis, Sloan Coe, Jaren Mitchell, Shawn C. Phillips
Release date: Premieres on SyFy, Thursday, Aug. 22