Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast (2011)

Metroshia Productions.  Director: Sam Qualiana.

Creature Feature Bleachers Awards: Labor of Love, Most Flying Blood.

“Snow Shark” is the little homemade sharksploitation film that could.  With a miniscule $7,000 budget, director/writer/actor/director of photography/prop master/costume creator/caterer/fin designer/camera operator/casting director/behind-the-scenes photographer/blood master/weapons master/lighting technician/green screen artist/set decorator/art supervisor Sam Qualiana was able to create a pretty successful movie.  I don’t know the exact sales figures for “Snow Shark,” but I can say that it was released on DVD and distributed by Canadian Walmarts.  Maybe that doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but ask yourself— has anything you’ve created ever ended up in a Canadian Walmart?  Didn’t think so.  (And if yes, why not become a corporate sponsor for the Creature Feature Bleachers?)

Though “Snow Shark” has a very comforting homemade movie quality to it, be advised that the film contains a fair deal of hillbilly vulgarity, hillbilly sexual humor, and some unpleasant hillbilly nudity.  Since we’re on the subject of ratings, let’s switch things up a little this week.  In lieu of our customary plot synopsis, allow me to share with you the IMDb Parent’s Guide description of the “Violence and Gore” in “Snow Shark”:

A man is attacked by a shark and blood flies, blood is seen in the snow.
A man is bitten by a shark, blood flies in the snow.
A young man is seen walking with a shark bit [sic] injury; blood and guts are seen spilling out.
A shark pulls a young man away.
A shark eats a man and blood is seen.
Two young women are attacked by a shark, a man is also attacked.
A man is eaten by a shark, blood is seen.
A girl is eaten by a shark, blood flies.
A man is killed and lots of blood is seen.
A man is eaten and blood squirts.
A shark bites a mans [sic] legs off.

Poster depicting the film’s many honors

Just kidding, you can have a real synopsis!  February, 1999: a team of scientists enters the frozen woods near a small frosty town, intent on figuring out why local wildlife has recently disappeared.  Surprise, surprise, no trace of the expedition is ever found!  Five years later, the same creature kills the local sheriff and deputy, but hillbilly Mike (Sam Qualiana) kills the beast.  Yet another seven years later, the snow shark returns!  As the death toll rises (claiming the new sheriff’s son), the mayor (Robert Bozek) assembles a crack team of scientists and a renowned hunter to bring it down.  Sheriff Don Chapman (C.J. Qualiana) mourns his son, while Mike looks forward to killing the beast that has taken so much from him.  Could a mysterious stranger provide some added help?

I think the eye patch answers that question.

I think the eye patch answers that question.

“Snow Shark” bears the unmistakable marks of a homemade labor of love.  If you’ve ever made your own movie with friends, you will appreciate the intense effort and dedication that it probably took to produce the 80 minutes of relatively coherent film that is “Snow Shark.”  At certain points, you may even forget about the film’s teensy budget (“What a cool overhead shot!”), but you’ll quickly remember the truth (“Oh wait, someone probably had to climb a tree to get it”).  Qualiana’s use of friends and neighbors to stretch his limited resources lends the film a friendly, collaborative quality.  Perhaps my favorite instance of this folksy feel is the town hall scene.

snow-townhallIn this homage to “Jaws,” panicked villagers demand action from the mayor and sheriff.  When you reach this point in the film, you may notice that the acting is somewhat… sub-par— even by “Snow Shark” standards.  You get the feeling that Qualiana just invited all his acquaintances and neighbors to fill the local town hall.  I am happy to report that that is exactly what happened.  In fact, you can still RSVP to the Facebook event that he created for it.  Though the film’s quality suffers a bit from this casting choice, I really like the thought behind this method of shooting a movie— it takes a village to make a film.

That’s not to say that everything is hunky-dory with “Snow Shark.”  For one thing, the setting causes me no end of confusion.  Qualiana filmed in western New York, a linguistically and climatically northern region of the country.  Yet most of the characters have southern hillbilly accents and an extreme disregard for cold.  Hats and gloves are a rare sight, and some outdoor hot-tub enthusiasts even forgo most of the rest of their clothes.  Furthermore, the “young frisky couple that gets killed by the monster” trope is invoked… in the middle of some frozen, snowy woods… in broad daylight.  As a Chicagoan, I just want to say BRRRRRRR.

There's nothing like making out in the freezing cold where anyone can see you.

There’s nothing like making out in the freezing cold where everyone can see you.

“Snow Shark” does, however, contain some nice homages to the sharksploitation canon.  In addition to the previously mentioned town hall scene, Qualiana includes a nice scene of father-son tension lifted from “Jaws 2.”  Remember Chief Brody trying to convince his son to get a job?  Well, Sheriff Chapman has the same problem.  Not only that, but his son Bruce (Simeon Qualiana) shares a name with the shark prop used in the “Jaws” series.  I can’t help but wonder if the character of adventurous hunter Cameron Caine (Andy Taylor) was in any way inspired by the treasure-hunting adventurer Caine in 1969’s “Caine.”  I’m probably reading too much into it, though.

Essentially a recreation of the film's birth.

Especially considering that the film was likely written in conditions such as these.

I can’t say that “Snow Shark” is a good movie, although I do believe it’s good for what it is: a highly entertaining micro-budget sharksploitation flick.  I mean, you probably wouldn’t buy a movie called “Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast” at a Walmart in Canada and expect a highly professional, serious piece of drama, would you?

The trailer captures the film’s high quality acting:

“Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast” is available on Amazon.

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