Syfy. Director: David Lister.
Creature Feature Bleachers Awards: Dumbest Looking Sharks, Most Closeted Gay Men
What I’ve noticed over the course of my journey into the world of sharksploitation films is that they all have a unique feel to them. “Malibu Shark Attack” (a.k.a. “Mega Shark in Malibu”) bucks this trend. While I enjoyed the film, it failed to leave an impression in my head, and it was only upon further reflection that I teased out the interesting points discussed below. Perhaps I’ve seen far too many of these films, but I found “Malibu Shark Attack” to be very middle-of-the-road: not great, not bad, and not particularly original. With this in mind, I recommend it for sharksploitation junkies in need of a fix, but warn off innocents who have not yet been initiated. “Malibu Shark Attack” won’t hook you on the genre, but if you need another bad shark movie to watch, this one will help you get through the week.
It’s a typical day on a typical beach in “Malibu.” (No explanation is given for the fact that everyone on or near the beach happens to be Canadian or Australian). Lifeguards and ex-lovers Heather (Peta Wilson) and Chavez (Warren Christie) argue about Heather’s new boyfriend Colin (Jeff Gannon) and the disruptive construction work he has been doing at a private residence on one end of the beach. Ditzy blonde Jenny (Chelan Simmons) tries to get out of her court-mandated community service, while Bryan (Nicholas G. Cooper) asks lifeguard Barb (Sonya Salomaa) to marry him. This unbelievably gripping tale of their fascinating lives is interrupted when a tremor simultaneously unleashes killer goblin sharks and a large tsunami. The giant wave floods the beach, trapping the characters in the lifeguard station as the sharks move in for the kill!
“Malibu Shark Attack” may be unremarkable on the whole, but it does have a few defining characteristics. For example, the action takes place in an extremely limited amount of space: one section of a single beach. When I say that, I mean it. We get a few shots of the highway, the National Earthquake Center, and the water, but everything else happens either at the lifeguard station or on Colin’s construction site. These two locations are clearly within eyesight of each other. Perhaps the restricted setting is meant to give the film a feel of claustrophobia, but it just made me think that the characters existed in some sort of pocket universe separated from all other reality.
In addition, the sharks in this film are some of the goofiest that I’ve ever seen.
The bizarre thing is, goblin sharks actually look like that. Well, somewhat less computer-generated, but they really do have scary teeth and protruding noses. With such creepy faces, I’m surprised they don’t appear as the villains in more shark movies. Or the heroes, depending on your point of view.
“Malibu Shark Attack” contains some interesting if underplayed sexual politics. For instance, Bryan is pretty obviously gay, yet he proposes to Barb anyway. Why does he do this? Have his parents pressured him to get married? Is he having difficulty coming to grips with his sexual orientation? Does he even know? The film would have been more enthralling had it tackled these issues, rather than trying to pass off Bryan and Barb as an enthusiastically engaged couple.
Heather makes for an even more sexually enigmatic character. Chavez won’t commit to getting married and starting a family with her, so she leaves him for Colin, a curiously effeminate man. But perhaps I’m being too quick to attach labels to people. Having a lisp doesn’t necessarily mean a man isn’t heterosexual.
This would be odd enough on its own, yet Heather throws out a very strange comment at the end of film. Colin and Chavez have been butting heads throughout the movie, and both have saved Heather’s life. She intensifies the rivalry by openly admitting that she loves them both. As the action winds down, the two men make veiled arguments for why she should choose one of them over the other. To this she replies, “You guys went to preschool, kindergarten, something, right? How are you about sharing your toys?” The guys sort of smile, then the focus shifts to something else. Ummm…
All things considered, “Malibu Shark Attack” is a fairly solid if uninspired sharksploitation film. You’ll probably enjoy it if you take the time to invent elaborate background stories for the characters, since this film’s charm lies in what goes unsaid and unexplained. And as always, if you don’t like it, don’t bite my head off!
It’s somehow fitting that the trailer doesn’t even attempt to introduce the characters:
“Malibu Shark Attack” is available on Amazon.