RHI Entertainment/ SyFy. Director: James A. Contner.
Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Most Blondes.
At 167 minutes, “Shark Swarm” is truly a monster of a sharksploitation film. If not for the 173-minute “Creature,” this movie would be an anomaly. Still, in the time it takes you to watch “Shark Swarm,” you could view “Psycho Shark” almost two and a half times! (I’m pretty sure that means you would see the same footage about 10 times over). But PLEASE don’t do that; while “Psycho Shark” is wretched, “Shark Swarm” is actually pretty decent. It doesn’t drag on as badly as you might expect, and finds a fair balance between action, comedy, romance (blech), and science fiction. If you’ve got almost three hours to kill, give it a shot.
Entrepreneur Hamilton Lux (Armand Assante) plans to turn the fishing village of Full Moon Bay into a seaside residential development. He orders his goons to pollute the water, thus devastating the sea life and causing local fisherman to sell their property. A single obstacle stands between Lux and success: stubborn mule Daniel Wilder (John Schneider). Dan refuses to sell his family’s fishery and leads a Quixotic effort to oppose Lux’s plans. Meanwhile, Lux’s sludge has altered the behavior of area sharks, increasing their aggression and causing them to gather in swarms. Can Dan and his professor brother Phil (Roark Critchlow) stop the sharks and save the town, or will Lux succeed in his evil scheme?
I’ve come to the realization that John Schneider can really only play one role. In every film, he is the stubborn, down-to-earth, quick-tempered yeoman fill in the blank. I mean, on “Smallville” he played a family farmer. In “Shark Swarm,” he plays a family fisherman. To make matters worse, he is always fighting against a villain named Lex or Lux or Ex-Lax or something. Still, Schneider plays that one role pretty well, and in “Shark Swarm” he even offers some surprisingly hilarious dialogue. In one scene, he and his lackey Clint (Brent King) pull up a load of fish, only to discover that they’re all diseased and smelly inside. As Schneider cuts one open, Clint recoils in disgust, claiming that “Even [local pub owner] Brenda wouldn’t serve that.” Obviously dismayed by the sight before him, Schneider doesn’t alter his delivery one bit as he replies, “Apparently you don’t know Brenda that well.” A corny and predictable line, yet the delivery is pure gold.
“Hey wait,” you may be saying, “you said John Schneider can only play one role. But he also played the bad guy in ‘Super Shark.'” Okay, fine, you have a point. What I should have said is, John Schneider can only play one role convincingly. He was pretty darn awful as the evil businessman in “Super Shark.” Speaking of which, you may recognize another familiar face (well, haircut, actually) that appears in both movies: Shane Van Dyke. This time around, the little scoundrel plays Schneider’s daughter’s boyfriend.
One of the main subplots in “Shark Swarm” leaves me with mixed feelings. Let me take you through it. As all the other kids prepare to go home after a day of swimming, young Heather (Darcy Rose Byrnes) still hasn’t set one foot in the water. Camp counselor Alice (Nicole Gabriella Scipione) tries to convince her not to be afraid, promising her that “it won’t kill you.” Once Heather overcomes her fear and ventures into the water, Alice quickly gets eaten by a shark before Heather’s very eyes. Her mom soon comes to pick her up, but won’t listen to the poor traumatized girl.
Later, Heather’s parents throw a beach party for her. When she won’t get in the water, they force her to swim with a lifeguard, saying, “Honey, we’re not going to put you where it’s not safe.” Just as Heather finally starts to enjoy herself, the lifeguard gets eaten right in front of her. She drifts back to shore, and finds that her parents—who, again, didn’t see anything— still won’t believe her.
Near the end of the film, Heather’s parents try to convince her to participate in a mass baptism in the sea. She stoutly refuses, but her parents wade in to join the rest of the group. Naturally, the baptism becomes a massive shark attack, and Heather’s parents are some of the last people to make it back to shore safely. When the family is finally reunited, Heather admonishes them, “I told you so!”
From this description, the Heather sub-plot probably seems like standard sharksploitation filler: a little girl legitimately fears the water, but through a series of wacky coincidences, the adults around her won’t take her seriously. The only catch is, “Shark Swarm” doesn’t really treat this in a comical manner. While such a storyline could and normally would be funny, this subplot actually just brings you into the world of a frightened little girl who feels absolutely powerless to control the danger around her. I mean, look at her face and tell me this is supposed to be funny.
I’m honestly not sure what the filmmakers were trying to achieve.
Not to end on a sad note, I’d like to say that I enjoyed Armand Assante’s performance as the villain. Lux doesn’t berate his henchmen or make open threats while sneering cruelly. He’s kind of a laid back villain who doesn’t consider himself evil, but just wants to do what he wants to do. Building this development is just a job for him. Yet, the best thing about him is his incomprehensible delivery. He mumbles his lines like a combination of Rodney Dangerfield, Christopher Walken, and a bad Elvis impersonator.
“Shark Swarm” is available on Amazon.