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Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012)

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Jersey Shore Shark AttackStarring Jeremy Luc, Melissa Molinaro, Jack Scalia, William Atherton, Tony Sirico, Paul Sorvino, Vinny Guadagnino, Joey Fatone

Directed by Jeff Shepphird


None of the characters in Jersey Shore Shark Attack based on real “Jersey Shore” TV show personalities get eaten by sharks. This strikes me as a fundamental misunderstanding of why many people would want to watch a movie called Jersey Shore Shark Attack. It makes even less sense in hindsight given how completely expendable all of the “Jersey Shore” inspired characters are except for the film’s versions of Snooki and The Situation. Would it have killed the filmmakers to allow “Paulie Balzac” or “J-Moni” to get smushed by an albino bull shark?

When I took part in a Syfy conference call with the producers and cast the week leading up to the film’s premiere, this question was brought up by someone who had already seen the movie. The argument the two producers made was that nobody out there really hates Snooki or The Situation or the rest of the “Jersey Shore” cast; it’s more of a people we love to hate but we don’t really hate them or the show kind of deal. They explained that the reason none of them die in the film is that the “Jersey Shore” cast are such “dynamic personalities” that the audience would be unhappy even to see their fictional counterparts die on film.

Oh, really? I know I hate that damn show and cannot figure out why anyone watches it even ironically. I also know I’m not alone on that one. The cast of “Jersey Shore” are in that same stratosphere of soul-sucking pop culture parasitism as Paris Hilton and the Kardashians. I remember a packed theater erupting in applause when Paris Hilton got killed in House of Wax, and that was actually her, not just an actress playing a part based on her. The Situation practically got booed off-stage a Comedy Central roast. For crying out loud, when “South Park” parodied “Jersey Shore” Snooki was portrayed as a whorish, chain-smoking, rat-like creature whose fame could not be explained by anyone and America turned to Osama Bin Laden to help save us from the Jersey scourge. Regardless of whether it’s out of genuine disdain or merely people we “love to hate” as they argue, if we’re laughing at Al Qaida crashing passenger planes into the “Jersey Shore” cast on “South Park”, imagine how hard we’d laugh seeing fictional versions of them devoured by ravenous sharks.

The producers’ logic makes even less sense given the movie’s highlight is Joey Fatone appearing as himself just long enough to get eaten by a shark. Using their argument, shouldn’t the audience be unhappy to see Joey Fatone die on film? Mr. Fatone is going to be so disappointed to learn the makers of a movie called Jersey Shore Shark Attack must not consider him nearly the unkillable “dynamic personality” that Sammi Sweetheart is.

So, yeah, I can’t help but be let down that all of the “Jersey Shore” characters not only live, they prove themselves to be the heroes when it comes time to kill the sharks. It does goes down a little easier given the movie’s version of the “Jersey Shore” personalities are far less contemptible than their real-life counterparts. None of them made me want to instantly change the channel so that has to count for something. Even as intentionally dumb as they’re portrayed they still seem much smarter than the real thing, too.

Our main guido hero is TC “The Complication” (Because when the ladies see his washboard abs things get complicated). He’s such a lunkhead he’s really more a mamaluke than a guido. He’s at odds with his on-again/off-again girlfriend Nooki, played by actress Melissa Molinaro, who is not a short orange troll and is thus far too attractive to be playing a character based on Snooki. I have a hard time believing the real-life Snooki would denounce materialism like her movie version does, though I do believe the real Snooki would wear Wonder Woman’s bracelets for earrings like Nooki does.

Illegal underwater drilling from a Seaside Heights pier arouses the attention of a school of albino bull sharks that waste no times making chum out of anyone in the water. The Complication and his brotherhood of spray tans and steroids are the only witnesses to the pigment-deprived bull shark invasion but getting anyone to believe them proves difficult what with them being a bunch of dimwitted guidos. Being dimwitted guidos means their idea of hunting sharks initially consists of shooting fireworks at them and trying to bait them with protein bars. “Nothing’s going to resist 25 grams of power-packed peanut butter crunch!”

Yeah, I’m still rooting for the sharks in this one.

But Jersey Shore Shark Attack isn’t just about riffing on Jaws “Jersey Shore” style. A good deal of the plot has the guidos and guidettes clashing with rich preppy snobs thumbing their nose at them. Just to show you how much times have changed, the actors playing the rich snobs, despite their emo Donald Trump hairdos, look more like the guys that would get cast as the bullied slackers in an 80s movie and the guido actors look like the guys who’d be playing the jocks bullying them in that same 80s movie. The world has clearly left me behind.

For a network that I know to be vehemently opposed to allowing the makers of their original movies to produce campy creature features that lean more on the comedic side it makes me wonder how Jersey Shore Shark Attack got past their anti-comedy stance. It is the most intentionally comedic Syfy original movie I can recall. The parody caricatures of “Jersey Shore”, exaggerated performances straight out of the Eddie Deezan school of overacting, the corny dialogue peppered with all manner of Jersey-ese, the tongue-in-cheek catchphrase slates that pop up between scenes, the whole slobs vs. snobs subplot, the blatant silliness of it all: this is less a Syfy movie than a genre comedy made in the same vein as the sort of flicks that used to air on USA Network’s “Up All Night”. It’s because of that Jersey Shore Shark Attack goes down easier than so many other Syfy movies that aren’t allowed to be intentionally funny and just end up being stupid. Not to say Jersey Shore Shark Attack isn’t stupid because, well, it is, very much so. It just happens to be the rare Syfy movie you can actually with as well as at.

The late Joey Fatone won’t be the only familiar Italian-American face to make an appearance. The Complication’s police chief dad is played admirably by Jack Scalia. I’ve seen Scalia in enough b-movies to know he’s a consummate pro that never phones it in even regardless of how corny the film may be.

The great Paul Sorvino, on the other hand, does appear to phone in his cameo as the Mayor. To be fair, it’s not like he has much to do during his screen time other than exactly what you expect Mayor’s to do in shark attack movies. Is it wrong of me that the whole time Sorvino was on screen I couldn’t help but notice how much he now facially resembles Droopy Dog?

Tony Sirico (AKA “The Sopranos” own Paulie Walnuts) appears briefly as the proprietor of the boardwalk bar who gets to go all Robert Shaw telling the guidos the true story of the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attack. I learned that if you want to kill a shark be sure to shoot it through its left eye because that’s the eye of the devil. Okay, then.

William Atherton, in one of his all-too-rare roles as a self-centered jerk, turns up for a few scenes as the father of one of the rich snobs, an Italian-hating real estate developer responsible for the illegal drilling that is part of his plan to transform Seaside Heights into a golf course resort for the super rich that will rival the Hamptons.

Actual “Jersey Shore” cast member Vinny Guadagnino appears periodically as the world’s most excitable TV reporter. If I was him I wouldn’t expect much future work as either an actor or a news reporter when “Jersey Shore” gets cancelled. The way he would constantly lean forward and jitter about antsy as he delivered the latest on-the-scene report, he looked like a cokehead sprinter overanxiously awaiting the sound of the starter pistol to begin a race.

Fairing less favorably were the albino bull sharks, some of the phoniest visual creature effects seen in a Syfy movie of late. I can only assume they blew most of the effects budget getting Paul Sorvino and Joey Fatone to show up for a day’s work. Too many of the shark attacks for the first half tend to be pretty uninspired and poorly staged, but I will say by the time Joey Fatone bites it – literally – the sharks may as well have been explained to be part frog they do so much jumping around. Wasn’t aware you could kill a shark by shooting its fin, either. Must be like driving a stake through a vampire’s heart.

In good conscience I could never tell you to spend money buying or renting this film. I will say I was amused enough that if you happen upon it on Syfy, you’ve got two hours to kill, and you know what you’re getting into, you might have some fun. If you want to see Snooki get eaten by a shark, I’m afraid you’ll still have to use your imagination.

3 out of 5

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Satan’s Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review – Sacrifice This Snoozer At The Altar!

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Starring Jack Kruschen, John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jacqueline Cole

Directed by Greydon Clark

Distributed by VCI


The ‘70s. Satanism. Sultry cheerleaders. Sex appeal. With these tools nearly any low-budget filmmaker should be able to turn out something that is, at the very least, entertaining. The last thing a viewer expects when tuning in to a film called Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) is to be bored to tears. But that is exactly the reaction I had while watching director Greydon Clark’s wannabe cult comedy. Even on a visual level this film can’t be saved, and it was shot by Dean Cundey! No, unfortunately there isn’t a cinematic element in the world that can overcome a roster of bad actors and a storyline so poorly constructed it plays like it was written on the day. The only saving grace, minor as it may be, is the casting of John Ireland as Sheriff B.L. Bubb (cute), a hard-nosed shitkicker who adds all the gravitas he can muster. But a watchable feature cannot be built upon the back of a single co-star, as every grueling minute of Satan’s Cheerleaders proves.

The cheerleaders and jocks of Benedict High School rule the campus, doing what they want, when they want, with little else on their minds except for The Big Game. Their belittling attitudes rub school janitor (and stuttering dimwit) Billy (Jack Kruschen) the wrong way. What they don’t know is Billy is (somehow) the head of a local Satanic cult, and he plans to place a curse on the clothes (really) of the cheerleaders so they… suck at cheerleading? Maybe they’ll somehow cause the jocks to lose the big game? When Billy isn’t busy plotting his cursed plans, he spies on the girls in the locker room via a hidden grate in the wall. I guess he doesn’t think being a sexual “prevert” is fair trade enough; might as well damn them all, too. Billy has his own plans to kidnap the girls, for his Lord and Master Satan, and he succeeds with ease when the girls’ van breaks down on the highway; he simply offers them a ride and they all pile in. But when Ms. Johnson (Jacqueline Cole) gets hip to his plan the two tussle in the front seat and Billy winds up having a heart attack.

The squad runs off in search of help, coming across the office of Sheriff B.L. Bubb (John Ireland), who, as the name implies, may be a legit Satanist. Bubb invites the girls inside, where they meet his wife, Emmy (Yvonne De Carlo), High Priestess of their quaint little satanic chapter. While the girls get acquainted with Emmy, Bubb runs off to find Billy, who isn’t actually dead. Wait, scratch that, Bubb just killed him for… some reason. The girls figure out things aren’t so rosy here at the Bubb estate, so they hatch an escape plan and most make it to the forest. The few that are left behind just kinda hang out for the rest of the film. Very little of substance happens, and the pacing moves from “glacial” to “permafrost”, before a semi-psychedelic ending arrives way too late.

“Haphazard” is one of many damning terms I can think of when trying to make sense of this film. The poster says the film is “Funnier Than The Omen… Scarier Than Silent Movie” which, objectively, is a true statement, though this film couldn’t hope to be in the same league as any of the sequels to The Omen (1976) let alone the original. It is a terminal bore. Every attempt at humor is aimed at the lowest common denominator – and even those jokes miss by a wide berth. True horror doesn’t even exist in this universe. The best I can say is some of the sequences where Satan is supposedly present utilize a trippy color-filled psychedelic shooting style, but it isn’t anything novel enough to warrant a recommendation. Hell, it only happens, like, twice anyway. The rest of the film is spent listening to these simple-minded sideline sirens chirp away, dulling the enthusiasm of viewers with every word.

A twist ending that isn’t much of a twist at all is the final groan for this lukewarm love letter to Lucifer. None of the actors seem like they know what the hell to be doing, and who can blame them with material like this? I had hoped for some sort of fun romp with pompoms and pentagram, like Jack Hill’s Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) for the Satanic set, but Clark provides little more than workmanlike direction; even Cundey’s cinematography is nothing to want on a resume.

Viewers have the option of watching either a “Restored” or “Original Transfer” version of the 1.78:1 1080p picture. Honestly, I didn’t find a ton of difference between the two, though the edge likely goes to the restored version since the title implies work has been done to make it look better. Colors are accurate but a little bland, and definition just never rises above slightly average. Film grain starts off heavy but manages to smooth out later on. Very little about the picture is emblematic of HD but given the roots this is probably the best it could ever hope to look.

Audio comes in the form of an English LPCM 2.0 track. The soundtrack sounds like it was lifted from a porno, while other tracks are clearly library music. Dialogue never has any obvious issues and sounds clear throughout. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

There are two audio commentary tracks; one, with director Greydon Clark; two, with David De Cocteau and David Del Valle.

A photo gallery, with images in HD, is also included.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Greydon Clark
  • Audio commentary with filmmakers David De Cocteau & David Del Valle
  • Photo gallery
  • Satan's Cheerleaders
  • Special Features
1.3

Summary

Although the title is enough to reel in curious viewers, the reality is “Satan’s Cheerleaders” are a defunct bunch with little spirit and no excitement. The ’70s produced plenty of classic satanic cinema and this definitely ain’t it.

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A Demon Within Review – Familiar Possession Beats To A Dreary Tune

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Starring Charlene Amoia, Clint Hummel, Patricia Ashley, Michael Ehlers

Directed by Ayush Banker and Justin LaReau


Possession flicks don’t often hold a long shelf life in the horror community, with Ayush Banker and Justin LaReau’s A Demon Within suggesting why. Hands emerging from the darkness, exorcisms, anxious priests – you’ll see it all again as you’ve seen it before. Early scenes glimmer a polish unlike equal indie products, but that’s just the devil playing tricks on you. Once the film’s main satanic takeover begins, cursing teens and stony glares become the been-here-before norm. Low-budget filmmaking isn’t an immediate detractor like some high-society snobs may believe, yet it’s surely no excuse either. Today’s review being an example of both mindsets.

Charlene Amoia stars as Julia Larsen, a divorcee who moves into Crestwick, Illinois looking for a clean start with daughter Charlotte (Patricia Ashley). Their dusty toucher-upper is a quaint, aged farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, complete with electrical issues and weird noises at night. Nothing to worry about, right? Julia’s focus is better directed towards town doctor Jeremy Miller (Clint Hummel), who she immediately hits it off with (after almost hitting *him* with a car). She’s eating stir-fry at his place one night, all things going well, and that’s when it happens – Charlotte is possessed by an evil force who enacts its sinister plan. Charlotte may physically be present, but only as a vessel for “Nefas.”

Without hesitation, A Demon Within lays predictable groundwork as small-town haunters have for decades. Charlotte’s new home is already infested with a spiritual squatter, Jeremy bottles (and drinks down) a blemished past that’s exposed too late, there’s plenty of characters sneakin’ up on one another – never with much “oomph.” Charlotte’s teeny-bopper voice drops to truck-driver deep at the height of possession, but it’s a distracting sound design that alone strikes little fear. Serious scares are attempted, be it a pitch-black basement slashing or Charlotte’s hide-and-seek pounce, just never delivered. An inconsequential failure to unite tone and atmosphere.

Performances are…well…rigid, to say the least. Amoia and Ashley strike a surprisingly likable chemistry as living humans, but once Ashley goes demonic, chemistry bottoms out. The way A Demon Within positions Charlotte when possessed is utterly dull and undefined; Ashley playing an unenthusiastic harbinger of death. It’s bad enough that Hummel’s tortured doctor masters the emotional range of Mona Lisa and the town’s pastor is hardly a scene stealer – but to have a demon be so vanilla (without a side of nuts, no less)? Getting past the limited lighting and Charlotte’s manly demon voice is hard enough, let alone her mostly relenting threats.

Making matters worse, the film’s third act is hardly a religious salvation that flows with ease. I had more fun watching Julia stammer over pizza and beers with Jeremy than their final fight against ghastly hellspawns. The truths of Jeremy’s past leak out in flashback form, only to reveal his stubborn inability to comprehend one’s own possession encounter in the very house Julia bought (useful information, eh?). The local priest shows up in the nick of time, a few cutaway jolts attempt cheap thrills, and some holy water mucks up an old painting – but again, minimal notability. Er…not even minimal? Shaky last-minute framing makes it hard to even notice the touch-ups to Charlotte’s face that signify her unholy imprisonment, even worse than blackened CGI mists.

A Demon Within tries, fumbles, and tries some more, but it’s best treated as a reminder of better exorcism stories that exist elsewhere. Even something like The Vatican Tapes is an improvement over this possessive redundancy, hokier than the honky-tonk love song that plays atop a pizza-chain flirt scene. There’s something to be said about getting out and creating original horror, but herein lies the problem – this ain’t *that* original. With harsher scares and tension, such a fate could be ignored. As-is? It’s hard to see past anything more than a January release placeholder.

  • A Demon Within
2.0

Summary

A Demon Within is a seen-it-before possession thriller that brings nothing new to the conversation. Not the worst, but also not a “hidden secret.”

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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

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Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow


It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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