Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy (2005)

Reviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Jeffrey Combs, William Forsythe, Hunter Tylo

Directed by Michael Oblowitz

As Jeffrey Combs mad scientist character informs us, the hammerhead shark is the pinnacle of shark evolution. Whereas the Great White Shark gets all the glory for being a mindless, voracious eating machine, the hammerhead shark is a highly intelligent animal that is one of the most superior creatures found in the ocean. If that is the case then I can safely say that a hammerhead shark did not write Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy.

To be honest, I’m of two minds when it comes to this movie. Part of me did indeed enjoy it for being the cheesy monster movie that it is. As far as low budget creature features go today, Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy is a perfectly watchable B-movie. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but get aggravated, and not just for the usual clichés and plot logic mistakes that movies of this type tend to make. One of the main reasons that I enjoyed the heck out of Mansquito (review) was because they put the monster front and center in all its cheesy glory and allowed it to go berserk. That’s what makes monster movies fun. That’s also the primary component missing from Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy. Whereas Mansquito gladly embraced its B-movie nature, Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy plays out in a self-conscious fashion, as if it were made by people unwilling to fully revel in its B-movie nature.

Despite being called Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, the only thing really frenzied about the Hammerhead sharkman is the rapid fire editing they used every single time it appeared. Maybe the director did that so as to convey the lightning quick nature of a shark killing frenzy, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the makers just didn’t have much faith in their title monster. It struck as if they built a monster suit, decided it just wasn’t convincing enough, created computer generated shots of the creature, realized the CGI didn’t look all that more realistic than the rubber suit, and tried editing both types of effects shots together only to do so in such a dizzying fashion that it end up sucking a lot of the fun out of watching the monster attacking people. A lot of monster movie keep the look of the monster obscured until the finale of the film. The makers of this movie seem to be trying to obscure the look of the monster even when it appears onscreen. By the end of the movie you come to realize that except for a few very brief long shots of the CGI creature swimming in the water you never ever got one solid full body view of it. I’ve seen production stills from the movie that gave you a better look at the monster than anything you actually saw in the actual film.

Mad scientist Dr. King (Jeffrey Combs, hamming it up with the kind of zeal that would make Vincent Price smile) lures his forming colleagues to the uncharted island in the Pacific where he has been conducting highly questionable genetic research involving the use of shark DNA in finding a means by which to specialize human stem cells in order to cure diseases such as cancer (sharks are seemingly immune from disease). Coincidentally, kidney cancer supposedly claimed the life of the scientist’s adult son years earlier.

When the other scientists and execs that work for the corporation that has been funding his research arrive, King reveals the true nature of his work that somewhere along the way went from being about curing disease to creating a new race of human-shark hybrids that will come to populate and dominate the oceans of the world. He then introduces them to his previously thought dead son, who he managed to save from terminal cancer only to turn him into a half-man/half-hammerhead shark creature that is more shark -physically and mentally – than man. He then informs them that he’s sick of them stealing his work and profiting from it, so he has brought them here to die at the jaws of his son. He does so in such an casually abrupt manner that I’m amazed they didn’t just have him go, “I hate you all and I hope you rot in hell,” before slamming the door and letting the monster loose on them.

By the way, just for the record, if I’m ever invited to the home of a genetic scientist and holds a luau where the main course is a roasted three-eyed pig, not only would I not eat any of it, I do believe that would be an omen telling me to get the heck out of there ASAP.

The rest of the movie has the group running, swimming, and jumping for their lives as they are hunted down by the Hammerhead sharkman, constantly shot at by the mad scientist’s private army that flies around in a helicopter with the number “666” on the side (Real subtle, huh?), and contend with the various deadly forms of genetically engineered plant life Dr. King has created for no particular reason. All the while, Dr. King watches via close circuit television, forever rambling deliriously about how having to hunt them down across the island will help grow his shark son’s intellect.

It also turns out that one potential victim, played by soap opera diva Hunter Tylo, was once engaged to Dr. King’s son turned Hammerhead sharkman; thus leaving us wondering just how old Josh was at the time seeing as how there only appears to be a ten year age difference between her and his father. Nonetheless, crazy mad scientist dad thinks his son’s former fiancé would be the perfect person for sharkboy to procreate with in order to spawn the first generation of his master race of mermen, which seems like a logical choice what with her collagen fish lips and all.

Jeffrey Combs is far and away the best part of the film and it really is a shame that the rest of the movie isn’t up to his performance. Combs knows full well he’s playing a mad scientist in a cheesy monster movie and hits all the right notes without becoming overtly cartoonish. His character is completely, utterly, totally insane but completely unaware of how far removed from reality he is. Everything he does makes perfect sense in him mind. He even has his own Igor in the form of a hapless three-fingered sidekick.

The rest of the cast does a perfectly suitable job considering what little is required of most of them, which is mainly screaming and running away, or in the case of Hunter Tylo, looking good in a wet t-shirt.

The under appreciated William Forsythe, virtually every line out of his mouth is delivered in an overly intense, matter of fact whisper, is cast as the unlikely love interest of Tylo’s character and hero of the group; a casting choice that might strike some as odd given his rather beefy physical nature at the moment. Personally, I liked the fact that the hero wasn’t the usual muscular pretty boy like Lorenzo Lamas, Dean Cain, and Casper Van Dien. Forsythe’s everyman makes for a nice change of pace but that’s all the more reason to be disappointed by the way he suddenly turns into Rambo in the third act. Some might question whether or not a woman like Tylo’s character would ever go for a big lug like Forsythe’s, but for me the thing I found hard to swallow was when his corporate executive character suddenly picks up a machine gun and turns into a better mercenary than the heavily armed soldiers after them.

Also, someone needed to remind the filmmakers that the movie’s title was Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, not Hired Goons: Shooting Spree. If it wasn’t bad enough that the sharkman scenes are filmed using those rapid fire edits, they also pretty much relegated it to being a secondary threat behind Dr. King’s seemingly endless supply of trigger-happy henchmen. The monster for which the movie is named for should always be the real star of the film. Again, take Mansquito for instance. In this case, the monster is just a plot device.

Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy has most of the usual problems movies of this type have – clichéd plot, subplots, supporting characters, and minor details that are introduced but never really followed through on, dull protagonists, illogical science, a monster that somehow manages to always be at just the right place at the right time, inconsistent special effects, etc. All of this would be easier to overlook if the movie gave us the killer landshark action we’re watching the movie for. We do get it but only in quick bursts that fail to fully satisfy.

If nothing else, at least this one’s better than Peter Benchley’s Creature. Well, at least it has a great Jeffrey Combs mad scientist performance, more gore, more cleavage, and it’s shorter.

And since I’ve managed to somehow get through an entire review of a movie about a landshark without ever making a Saturday Night Live reference, here you go: “Candygram.”

2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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