American World Pictures. Director: Mark Atkins.
Creature Feature Bleachers Awards: Most Puns, Least Believable Scientist (Brooke Hogan)
“Sand Sharks” is one of my all-time favorite sharksploitation films, meaning I was actually able to watch it more than once. It rates rather low on both the sexuality and goriness scales, so it’s a good place to start your descent into the world of terrible shark movies. That being said, the film is rated R for bloody violence, so take precautions if you are easily grossed out. Though if you’re squeamish and reading a blog about creature horror films, you’re evidently not very good at thinking ahead anyway.
Like so many sharksploitation films, “Sand Sharks” draws heavily on “Jaws” for its plot. White Sands is an island going through a bad recession, but sleazy Jimmy Green (Corin Nemec) has plans to throw an off-the-wall Spring Break beach party (“The Sandman Festival”) to bring in lots of college student cash. After a mysterious decapitation on the beach, however, the local police suspect there may be a shark on the loose. They call in marine expert Dr. Sandy Powers (Brooke Hogan) to help them figure things out. Yes, the main character of “Sand Sharks” is named Sandy. Jimmy and his father, the mayor of White Sands (Edgar Allan Poe IV, purportedly the famous author’s great-great-great grandnephew), attempt to sweep the trouble under the rug in order to keep the festival from being cancelled. Eventually havoc breaks loose and the cops, Jimmy, Sandy and crusty old Angus McSorely (Robert Pike Daniel) have to find a way to stop the shark menace.
Oh, and did I mention that somehow the sharks can swim in the sand? If you are wondering how this is possible, the movie takes great pains to explain that it’s because SCIENCE. Also, Sandy mentions that BIOLOGY. Good enough explanation for me.
One of the defining characteristics of “Sand Sharks” is the remarkable number of puns it contains. Women in this movie don’t lose their heads when they bite off more than they can chew. No, these ladies are real man-eaters, real sharks who know how to get ahead in business. A lot of the puns really bite but please don’t bite my head off if you don’t like them. Besides, when it comes to taste, we all have to draw our own line in the sand, and if this film doesn’t get you to bite, there are always plenty of other fish in the sea.
Yes, it’s really that bad and that frequent. And in case you had forgotten, the main character’s name is Sandy.
Something else to look for in “Sand Sharks” is the film’s subtle use of stereotypes. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that Jimmy, the money-grubbing hustler, changed his last name from Greenburg to Green at some point before the action of the film. He and his scheming father, who place the entire town in jeopardy for their own economic and political gain, also throw in a few Yiddish and Hebrew words when they talk to each other. Then there’s Jimmy’s unseen investor, Tony Baggio, whose representative threatens to put Jimmy’s name on a tombstone if he doesn’t deliver (it’s hard to believe she doesn’t use the phrase “sleeping with the fishes”). Rounding out the bunch is Angus McSorely, an asocial fisherman who lives in a concrete bunker equipped with a flamethrower. Picture Quint from “Jaws” gone even crazier. Angus is easily my favorite character, spouting colorful one-liners with his crusty barnacle of a voice (“They’ve tasted blood. They’ll keep comin’ back for more, like a porker at a cupcake buffet!”).
With a plethora of puns, subtle stereotypes, and a plot essentially ripped from “Jaws,” what could this film possibly be missing? Try a sense of scale. No matter how many times I watch this film, I still have no idea how big White Sands is supposed to be. On the one hand, the town is apparently large enough to support its own airport. Note that this shot depicts at least four big airplanes and several smaller ones.
In a later scene we also see that White Sands is relatively built-up and covers a pretty huge island.
On the other hand, the town’s entire police force seems to consist of four officers, two of whom appear only in one scene. The other two are brother and sister.
When the mayor holds a town meeting to discuss the shark attacks, only about a dozen people show up. Apparently the other thousands of residents of White Sands were busy that day.
Then of course, there is the Sandman Festival itself, which purportedly has drawn thousands of college students to the island.
Well, either thousands or about 30, it’s a little hard to tell. Seriously, between all the people who worked on this film, they only had 30 college-age friends who wanted to be in a movie?!? The festival would have been a disaster even without the sharks!
All in all, “Sand Sharks” is a highly enjoyable train wreck that will leave you in a good mood. Though often highly repetitive, the script contains several jokes that you might miss the first time through. The cinematography is ordinary but crisp and attractive nonetheless. There’s also something oddly likable about the characters, even if none of them seems particularly genuine. Like I said earlier, if you’re looking to get into bad shark films, “Sand Sharks” is a good place to start.
For a quick look at a few puns and a lot of Brooke Hogan, be sure to watch the trailer:
For more information, check out the IMDb entry or the write-up on American World Pictures’ website. Please note, however, that the bonfire scene described in the blurb on AWP’s website does not actually occur in the film and is in fact a summary of the first few minutes of “Jaws.”
“Sand Sharks” is available for purchase on Amazon.