Hammerhead, a.k.a. Sharkman (2005)

Nu Image Films.  Director: Michael Oblowitz.

Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Most Explosions.

Tremble where you sit!  “Hammerhead” threatens with the scariest of all possible unnatural creatures, the ultimate killing machine, a vicious monstrosity shunned by Mother Nature and brought into the world through the twisted work of a mad scientist: a half-man, half-shark creature imbued with the stupidity of a human and the clumsiness of a shark!

“Hammerhead” brings a certain “Island of Dr. Moreau” flair to the sharksploitation genre.  Yet unlike the H.G. Wells masterpiece and Peter Benchley’s “Creature,” this film focuses on a human who’s turned into an animal, rather than the other way around.  I generally enjoyed it, but if you’re not a big fan of mutants and gross c-sections, you might want to skip this one.  If, however, you absolutely love fire and explosions, this is the film for you.

IT guy Tom (William Forsythe) and his biologist girlfriend Amelia Lockhart (Hunter Tylo) work for Whitney Feder (Arthur Roberts) at a pharmaceutical company with falling stock prices.  An estranged former colleague of Amelia’s, mad scientist Dr. Preston King (Jeffrey Combs), has discovered a new way to harness stem cells, and invites his former business partners to his mysterious south Pacific island for a demonstration.  Surprisingly, it’s a trap!  Dr. King has indeed discovered a way to cure most afflictions: splice shark DNA into human stem cells, turning the patient into a resilient shark-human hybrid.  Yet King has no desire to share his discovery with Feder or the company; he wishes only to get revenge on the people who scorned him years ago.  King sics his own shark-son Paul, Amelia’s former fiancee before he apparently died of cancer 5 years ago, on the group.  Will they be able to reach the helipad before Paul or King’s henchmen get to them?

The German DVD Cover

“Hammerhead” draws on the age-old belief amongst mad scientists that humans would somehow be more deadly if they were combined with other animals.  I don’t understand how humans could possibly become more dangerous than they already are, but at least Dr. King isn’t as delusional in this goal as other scientists.  I mean, the scientist in “Sssssss” believed that the ultimate killing machine would be a human mind in a snake’s body, and Dr. Z from “The Blood Waters of Dr. Z” thought it would be a good idea to turn himself into a human catfish.  By comparison, a shark seems a rather reasonable choice; as King points out, sharks rarely get cancer or Alzheimer’s, and we don’t even know how long their lifespan is.  In addition, King’s particular shark hybrid retains its humanoid shape, and to a limited extent, its reproductive capabilities.  True, its mental functions decrease, but King regularly expresses hope that this is just a temporary side effect.

Intense glare? Check.
Steepled fingers? Check.
Creepy mustache? Check.
Must be a mad scientist.

If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll recognize a few familiar faces in “Hammerhead,” yet another Nu Image shark film made in Bulgaria.  You may remember supporting actress Elise Muller from “Raging Sharks,” where she played alongside veteran sharksploitation actor Velizar Binev.  Binev, who has been in a whopping four sharksploitation films to date (“Shark Zone” and “Shark Hunter” being the other two), is at the top of his game in “Hammerhead.”  As Dr. King’s assistant, Dr. Krause, he brings a true Igor-ness to the role.  Through all of his hunch-backed, hand-clasping sycophancy, you can tell that Binev is having an absolute blast.

Tell me I'm wrong here.

Tell me I’m wrong here.

One of the less believable parts of this film is Amelia’s physical interest in Tom.  Yeah, sure, I know it’s a movie about a guy who gets turned into a shark, but have you seen Amelia?  No way I believe she’d find Tom attractive.

Incidentally voted the most popular TV star in Finland in 1998.

I mean, I know IT guys get all the girls, but come on.

“Now wait,” you may be saying, “that’s not fair!  She’s all glisten-y and wearing a wet t-shirt in this picture.  How do you expect us to compare the two of them when she has these unfair advantages?”

Well, in the interest of fairness, here’s a shot of Tom in a wet t-shirt.

Not pretty.

Sorry you asked?

Physical appearances aside, William Forsythe does a decent job of making Tom a believable action hero.  What I like best is that he’s not your standard tough guy.  He’s not a former CIA agent, nor a Vietnam vet, nor a mafioso gone good.  He’s just your average, chunky guy who works in IT and happens to respond well to emergencies.  I appreciate this because when you see Bruce Willis on the screen, you know it’s only a matter of time before he takes charge, blows stuff up, and gets the girl.  This sort of expectation detracts from the believability of Willis’s characters, since he’s always “Bruce Willis.”  (Don’t tell Bruce Willis I said that).

Seems to me that he had a little unfair help.

If everybody had these closets, the market for sharksploitation films would crash.

I’ll leave you with a picture of my favorite character, Captain Awesome Beard.

A.k.a. Bulgarian Navy Santa.

A.k.a. Bulgarian Navy Santa.

How’s your Castilian?  It’s a testament to this film’s international appeal that I couldn’t find an English trailer:

“Hammerhead” is available on Amazon.


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