Shark Swarm (DVD)

Shark Swarm DVD review (click for larger image)Reviewed by The Buz

Starring John Schneider, Daryl Hannah, Armand Assante, forty pissed off man-eaters

Directed by James A. Contner

Distributed by Genius Products

Sharks are fierce. That's a fact. You know what's also fierce? A fuck ton of sharks. More to the point, a Shark Swarm! *cues ominous music* Such is the title of the new entry into the Man-Eater series and the Hallmark Channel's foray into the horror genre.

First off, I love sharks. I saw Jaws as a wee lad, and sharks have both terrified and fascinated me ever since. In essence I'm a sucker for killer shark movies. From Jaws to Deep Blue Sea to even Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. As a matter of fact I'm listening to the Jaws soundtrack as I write this. I just can't get enough of sharks eating oblivious swimmers off of coasts (or sometimes up rivers), so of course when I heard there was going to be a mini-series about multiple sharks attacking everything in sight, I was ecstatic.

Shark Swarm DVD review (click for larger image)When Dan Wilder (John Schneider), Full Moon Bay's local fisherman, refuses to sell his land to the greedy Hamilton Lux (Armand Assante), Lux begins to dump toxic waste into the bay to destroy the local fish population and eventually starve Daniel and his family out into selling their land. All in the name of really expensive condos. However, the toxins aren't killing the local sharks; instead they are increasing their aggressiveness. With no fish to eat, the sharks begin to turn to the only other thing in the water they can eat. Humans. The great thing here, though, is that we're not just dealing with a couple of great whites or a few killer makos. It's a gaggle of killer sharks. A shark swarm! *cues ominous music again* There are threshers, makos, hammerheads, bull sharks, and of course big mean great whites. In very large angry packs. So now it is up to Daniel, his wife (a lackluster Daryl Hannah), his marine biologist brother, a concerned E.P.A agent, and F. Murray Abraham as the genius college professor Bill Girdler to expose Mr. Lux's plan and stop the killer swarm from destroying their coastal town.

Now this is a made-for-TV movie, and with it comes some baggage. But first the good. Surprisingly, the production values for Shark Swarm are incredibly high, especially for a TV movie. The cinematography is fantastic, and the set pieces are pretty good. The score isn't bad either, reminding me somewhat of Aliens in some parts. But the best thing going for Shark Swarm is its characters. Leave to the Hallmark Channel to cast normal looking people instead of supermodels for every role. John Schneider does an excellent job playing stubborn family man Dan Wilder as he earnestly tries to convince the town of Hamilton of Lux's dirty tricks. He comes across as flesh and blood, which I dug and is something you rarely see in TV movies. His first mate Clint (Brent King), however, steals the show. As the young happy-go-lucky kid eager to make a living, he was by far my favorite character. There is a great father/son approach to Daniel and Clint's relationship, making Clint one of the most sympathetic and interesting characters to watch. Even though the characters aren't the same in any way, his name does rhyme with Quint so he could be a subtle nod to Jaws, though I could just be reaching on that one.

Shark Swarm DVD review (click for larger image)Dan's brother, Phil Wilder, who teaches marine biology at the local college, is also one of the best characters. Roark Critchlow, the actor playing Phil, must have seen Shark Attack 3: Megalodon before shooting began because he channels John Barrowman's character throughout the film. His interaction with E.P.A agent Amy Zuckerman (Heather McComb) screams THE LINE. Whenever he was on screen talking, I kept quietly whispering the sacred LINE and then chuckled to myself. He's hilarious and has some of the greatest flirting techniques I've ever heard. In fact the film has a lot of great bits of dialogue, one of my favorites being: “Did you show her your longboard?” That made me laugh hysterically. Phil Wilder also shares the most screen time with F. Murray Abraham, who is always fun to watch .

The bad guys are also very well written and rounded out. I'm a firm believer in having strong bad guys, ala Grueber from Die Hard, and not one-dimensional ones, a la Bennet from Commando. While Hamilton Lux and Kane Markus are no Grueber(s), they are still very good at displaying real motivations and are charismatic people. Hamilton Lux (which could also be a reference to Jaws because Murray Hamilton played Mayor Larry Vaughn, the antagonist in Jaws) is liked by everyone in town, and he keeps his head cool when under fire from the Wilder clan. All in all, though, he is just a greedy corporate whore. His henchman Kane, while playing up to be overtly Italian, has some great witty banter with Daniel and comes off as a very loyal employee of Mr. Lux (is Kane gonna have to choke a bitch?).

You'd think because it's Hallmark that the amount of kills would be cut down. Not here. I kept a running tally, and according to my calculations there is body count of thirty-seven and a hand. That is the single highest body count of any killer shark movie I've ever seen. And they show no mercy with whom they kill. From emo-environmentalists to Baptist churchgoers, the sharks kill and eat everything in sight. They even torture a poor little girl throughout the film a la Piranha. Speaking of which, many of the attack scenes were very reminiscent of that film with sharks sucking folks through inner tubes and swarming upon groups of people like big fucking vicious piranha. Of course, this made me happy. The CGI, while shoddy in some places, looks fairly good overall. Better than most killer shark movies, and especially great for a TV movie. The sharks also make the same noise as the smoke monster from "Lost", which was a little odd, but it's better than a roaring shark like the one from Jaws: The Revenge.

Shark Swarm DVD review (click for larger image)The pacing is also a plus. Coming in at 164 minutes, it is a pretty long watch. However, it really doesn't feel that long because the shark attacks just keep coming, and it doesn't let up. Needless to say, I was never bored.

But ...

With good comes bad. My two biggest complaints are Daryl Hannah and the shark attacks themselves. With movies like Blade Runner, Kill Bill, and Dancing at the Blue Iguana on her resume, I always thought Hannah was a fairly good actress. After her performance in Shark Swarm *cues ominous music a third time for continuity's sake* though, I have a few doubts. She is completely dry and emotionless throughout the entire film. It is the very definition of a phoned-in performance. I found it hard not to laugh every time she talked to someone because she looked slightly cross-eyed. She even made what was supposed to be a very emotional scene into a dry and almost comedic one. Hannah was just utterly terrible. This, of course, makes me question if she was ever a good actress. Could she have been fooling us all this entire time? Could killer shark swarms have finally revealed her for the cardboard cut-out she is? I'll have to do more research on this subject and get back to you.

Her daughter was also a bit of a stiff. While the actress did a fine job, she seemed to always be wandering aimlessly on the beach for no apparent reason whatsoever with a somewhat vacant, soulless look. Or she could have just been prowling for surfer cock, so who am I to judge?

As for the shark attack scenes, if I have to see one more blood puddle in the ocean, I'm going to shoot somebody. It was like the ocean was having its period. As I said before, there are thirty-seven kills with an attack probably every ten or fifteen minutes. While I fully appreciated this, almost every attack consisted of the sharks just biting at the screen and then a pool of blood appearing on the surface of the water. That's it. While for a TV movie it is incredibly violent, it would have been nice to actually see the sharks bite someone instead of just the aftermath. It seems like they ran out of money and could only afford a water cannon full of fake blood. They could have easily cut out a few of the shark attacks and expanded on a few others. In one of the best scenes in the movie a group of scuba divers are attacked. It is filmed wonderfully, but this is the only scene where you actually get to see a shark bite someone. Other than that ... blood puddle. I'm sure Hallmark's regular audience will find the blood puddles quite terrifying though.

Another problem I had with the film was the absence of concern. No one really seemed to care that about twenty or so people had gone missing. There are few mentions of them here and there such as: “Hey, have you seen so-and-so?” or “Where'd that lifeguard boy go?” but no real cause for concern. When twenty plus people have disappeared in a small town over a period of two days, I think people would be a bit more freaked out.

Shark Swarm DVD review (click for larger image)And while the pacing of the film was brisk, there were many poorly edited scenes. Sometimes shots would just not flow well together. I'd blame this mainly on attempting to cut out certain violent shots by cutting them short.

The climax of the film is also a little lacking. Our main characters get their hands on electric pulse guns and begin shooting the swarms of sharks with them to “scramble their circuits.” While this was awesome initially, it was kind of a letdown when that's all they were doing to fight the sharks. I'd be curious to know if there was a bigger climax written but then cut due to budget constraints and the pulse guns were all that got used. However, the climax also comes with a lot of great shark attacks, and we're given a little more than just a blood puddle. For that I was thankful. After the big finale with the bad guys getting their retribution, as well as a bitch bartender, I found myself slipping into a diabetic coma with the overly sweet crane shot of all the survivors hugging on the beach. That wasn't necessary.

Basically, I enjoyed myself. Most killer shark movies these days are nothing short of awful, but Shark Swarm *cues ominous music for the last time until the sequel* kept me entertained the whole way through, and it rightfully deserves its place as one of the better films in the killer animal movie genre. The filmmakers did their research and pulled off a convincing and entertaining thrill ride, with just a few too many blood puddles. It is something I would respectfully place between Jaws and Piranha on my DVD shelves. And at least it didn't have an LL Cool J song to accompany the credits, even though his hat was like a shark's fin.

In any case, you're still going to need a bigger boat.

Special Features

  • Dozens of scenes that show blood in the water


    3 out of 5

    Special Features:

    0 out of 5

    Discuss Shark Swarm in our Dread Central forums!

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    Gus Bjork's picture

    I don't know these other boards. This is pretty much it for me online aside from hitting on gals. But I would never take away from what you accomplished and brag ahoy! I do simple, easy things like these puppets and I prattle away non-stop (speaking of which pick up the next Puppetry Journal, I have a kick-ass article on using Model Magic for puppets with photos and everything!).

    I would have liked nothing more than to come back and shoot off how much I loved Shark Swarm and I'm sorry I could not. But I'll be looking forward to your next script.

    But do me a favor. Please write a script about giant spiders that actually friggen works! You do that and I'll start a fan club (with blackjack...and hookers!) just for you.

    Submitted by Gus Bjork on Mon, 05/26/2008 - 8:56pm.
    Messiahman's picture

    Fucking weird. Apparently, people on that site defended us, and JT spent most of his time accusing them of being us and cursing at them. Now the mods over there are telling him to can it before he gets banned.

    Sounds pathetically familiar.

    Submitted by Messiahman on Mon, 05/26/2008 - 7:13pm.
    Terminal's picture

    Wow, they used my review to help win their argument.

    I really don't know what to think of that.

    Submitted by Terminal on Mon, 05/26/2008 - 7:06pm.
    Ultimo Franco's picture

    Holy shit. You wanna know how bad this insane personal grudge against us has gotten? I just saw that there are THREE Shark Swarm threads over on BD, and two of them have been locked already. Firefly started the most recent one. Guess who started the other two?

    These people think that we've been "bragging" about how "great" everything we've written is. We haven't. We've just been talking about how much fun it's been to be involved in making movies. We've been posting on these boards for YEARS, long before we met each other. Somewhere along the line, we managed to get jobs doing something that we love, something related to the very theme of this website. We wanted to share that with our friends on the boards. People do this all the time!!! Think of all the job announcements, or baby announcements, or marriage announcements, or birthday announcements, or success announcements you've read on the boards over the years.

    We started one thread per movie. That seems fair, doesn’t it? In those threads, we’ve posted news, photos, scenes from the scripts, links to info, updates on when they're coming out, basically everything we know about the projects. We’ve posted about how much fun we’ve been having doing a job we’ve always dreamed of doing. We’ve answered every question we’ve been asked. Want to know where an idea came from? We’ll tell you. Want to know why we wrote a scene a particular way? We’ll tell you. Want to know why something ended up being shot in a certain way? If we can, tell you. Want to ask us how to get your script into the hands of a producer? Ask and we’ll try to help. Want some feedback on a script? Send us a PM. That’s all we’ve been doing. We thought, seeing as how we’ve all been conversing with each other for YEARS here, some of you guys (and gals) might be interested in what we’ve managed to make happen. Is that such a fucking terrible thing to do?

    David and I have appreciated every single congratulation we've gotten from you people. Thanks for all of it.

    Long before we started this fun new career, David and I rubbed a few people on the boards the wrong way. Everyone knows it. Let’s just clear the air. Truant began hating me the moment I called him out for race baiting in the Situation Room. He’s never been the same since. He went from liking me to hating me in an instant. So be it. Firefly hates David because of years worth of arguments on the boards. NME pretends to hate me because I’m a loudmouth Liberal who can counter his every political argument. That just about sums it up. Did I leave anyone out?

    The worst part of this is that Dread Central’s name has been dragged along behind, every where it goes. Just like many of you, David and I love Dread Central. We highlighted DC in an article about us in Creative Screenwriting magazine. We always mention DC when someone asks us how we got started. Dread Central is hugely important to us. It’s where we met. It’s been instrumental to us. Best of all, it's where we get our horror news! It's our first stop on the web. Just like many of you, we’ve spent hour after hour posting here, year after year. I know for a fact that I’ve written better film analysis on these boards over the years than I ever wrote in college. That’s because I had you people to challenge every fucking word of it. David and I have come to know many of you, and for that we’re thankful. We’ve all been involved in a messy, multi-year conversation. Personally, I’ve enjoyed talking to all of you, even the douchebags.

    For the record, I’m quite proud of what David and I have managed to accomplish. I’ve been hesitant to actually say that, for fear of exactly this kind of bullshit. We wrote three produced films in one year, and it’s only just the beginning. When we signed up as members of DC, we weren’t in this position. But I'm wondering if maybe now we should bail. That would fucking suck, but maybe it’s overdue? Creepy is right when he says that he and the DC staff are good friends with many people in the industry. That’s true. But maybe there’s a good reason why not many of those industry friends post as much as David and I do. Maybe it’s too messy this way. You tell me. I’ll listen. Just shut the hell up about all this “bragging” nonsense. We haven’t been doing that at all.

    Submitted by Ultimo Franco on Mon, 05/26/2008 - 4:22pm.
    The Buz's picture

    Scuba scene was one of my favorites. And yeah the Fight Club like beginning made me laugh.

    Submitted by The Buz on Mon, 05/26/2008 - 2:22pm.
    Gus Bjork's picture

    I was considering writing my own review but I really didn't have much to say beyond what Terminal said. I'm afraid I was just bored through most of it. The story didn't justify the length and almost all the kills were people we never met beyond being shark fodder. Sorry. There were sections I enjoyed most certainly. There was some nice characters and some set-ups worked. John Schneider seemed to give his all and he was a bright spot. I really dug the opening when you watch from inside the shark as it's nervous system got fried by the contaminated fish. Oh, and the scuba scene were the divers were on the line and 'chomp chomp chomp'.

    Submitted by Gus Bjork on Mon, 05/26/2008 - 8:26am.
    Cash Bailey's picture

    Comeback, Creepy! We love youuuuuuuu!!!

    Submitted by Cash Bailey on Mon, 05/26/2008 - 12:45am.
    Terminal's picture

    Yeah, I actually saw the entire movie. Weird, no?

    And the excuses are null and void, too. I have no axe to grind, I have no vendetta, I watched with clear focus, and the particulars of the shooting matter none when the final movie showed.

    The ONLY good performance was F. Murray Abraham and that's probably because he was barely in this. Beyond that, all the performances were terrible. Hannah was the spotlight of the worst.

    Submitted by Terminal on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 11:54pm.
    The Buz's picture

    BAM! Someone wrote a review for it. Rock on Terminal.

    As far as the performances go, I thought Hannah was really the only really bad egg. The daughter wasn't too good either.

    Submitted by The Buz on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 11:51pm.
    Terminal's picture

    I really don't consider it fair to attack the writers on "Shark Swarm" and hate it because of them.

    Especially when there's so much more about "Shark Swarm" to hate. I gave it a fair shake of the lamb's tail and really found it to be an brutal three hours typical of usual Hallmark movies.

    Terrible performances, terrible special effects, a nonsensical and cliche plot, and a considerably lackluster series of villains. And that last device was straight out of "Batman."

    Instead of shooting you right here and now, I'll instead slowly drop you into the water in an easily escapable cage, and rather than ensuring you're eaten, we'll just forget about you and convince ourselves you're dead. Meh.

    2 out of 10.

    Submitted by Terminal on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 8:56pm.
    The Buz's picture

    Right on Crimson. Perfectly stated.

    Submitted by The Buz on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 5:14pm.
    admin moderator CRiMSON, that was possibly
    Jon Condit's picture

    CRiMSON, that was possibly one of the most rational responses I've ever read.

    Submitted by Jon Condit on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 2:00pm.

    How many times have you held off on seeing a movie, because it received a slew of piss poor reviews, but when you finally saw the flick you really dug it? Or how many times have you waited hours in line to see something on opening night, based on your expectations, its hype, and rave reviews... only to be heartbroken?

    One of the beautiful aspects of writing a review is actually sharing your opinion with the public. It isn't necessarily the fact that you've taken the time to string together an intelligible series of words and punctuation that makes sharing these gems of personal opinion so enjoyable, it's the aftermath...

    Whether it’s watching a movie, reading a book, or viewing artwork your brain has this nasty little habit of forming judgments (personal opinions) based on the information being received. It's the communication of these opinions that makes writing reviews worthwhile. Intelligent, and not so intelligent, conversation (regardless of how argumentative it seems) stemming from one persons opinion of a piece of work is essential, especially in this genre. It's one of the many reasons our genre doesn't die off, people can't stop talking about it... whether it scared you stiff, made you sleep with the lights on, kept you out of the ocean, it invoked a response.

    It really is great to see this entire dialogue stem from Buz's review, but don't accuse him of wrong doing merely because you didn't agree with the review. Argue with him on why he thought what he thought, challenge him on it, hell write your own review for the world to see... but don't accuse him of essentially selling out.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, were all so different from one another. We all have our own taste, if we were all the same what would be the point?

    Submitted by CRiMS0N on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 1:39pm.
    moderator I give up.
    Steve Barton's picture

    I give up.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 12:34pm.
    The Buz's picture

    When do we ever mention the writers? Unless it's Clive Barker or Carpenter, we usually don't mention them. At least I don't. I appreciate your comments there Malachi, but I assure you I went into this with only wanting to see a killer shark movie.

    Submitted by The Buz on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 12:31pm.
    admin moderator Im still waiting for just
    Jon Condit's picture

    Im still waiting for just one of you to put your money where your mouth is.

    Submitted by Jon Condit on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 12:10pm.
    Dr Malachi Constant's picture

    Wow. I can't believe this is still being discussed. OF COURSE it's a little bit biased. Buz couldn't possibly help that, even if he were trying to stay neutral. It's the nature of the beast. 'Conflict of interest,' and all that.

    I'm not calling it a bad review. I was just making an observation, amusing myself. I mean, it just seemed obvious to me in what ways he (Buz) was (quite understandably) trying to appear un-biased. For one thing, he doesn't mention either of the writers or his prior relationship to them, whilst primarily lauding the script above any other aspect of the film. To anyone who really gave a fuck enough to make a big deal about this, such a thing might seem sort of ... fishy. No pun intended. Then again, anyone who really gives enough of a fuck to make a big deal about a thing like this should probably go jump off a fucking pier or go tangle with some AIDS infected manta rays, or something. We don't need people like that around. They're trouble ... and not the fun kind, either.

    Submitted by Dr Malachi Constant on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 11:07am.

    IMO, if people don't like what's going on here at DC they can always find somewhere else to hang out on the web, or do like the DC folks did; go start their own horror news/reviews website.

    Submitted by PelusaMG on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 8:24am.
    moderator Dude, as Andrew said, most
    Steve Barton's picture

    Dude, as Andrew said, most of the movies we review? We know people associated with them in one way or another. We hang with them. Go out together. Been to each others houses. Have dinner. Gotten drunk. Whatever. Be it actors, directors, producers, you name it. The horror circle is small. If we didn't review stuff because of the relationships we have with whomever, you'd rarely see a review on the site.

    Our reviews are as fair as can be. We cannot worry about hurt feelings or we wouldn't be doing our jobs. Quite frankly we are just as entitled to our opinions as you are yours. We just write it down for people to read. The funny thing? There's a WRITE YOUR OWN REVIEW option (that despite two pages of comments here no one has used) for anyone who agrees or differs. Use it. Say whatever you feel. State your opinion. But please, PLEASE, don't ever think we're faking it for you guys. You're the reason we're allowed to do what we do, and for that we owe you the respect and courtesy of honesty.

    For example, Buz is also good friends with Jeffrey Reddick the writer of the Day of the Dead remake. Did that hinder his review? Not in the slightest. Why? Because there's NOTHING to gain from shilling for friends or ANYONE ELSE, and most "talent" we deal with on a day-to-day basis understand that all reviews positive or negative, are just business. Nothing personal.

    Buz thought this movie to be a decent time. As did the Daily News, The Hollywood Reporter, ETC. Sure some people like Fango, The NY Post, and other publications hated it. That's fine too. More power to them. From what I've seen, the reviews have been split right down the middle. And the ones who praised it echoed Buz's remarks. It's not like he's the only one saying certain things. Some liked it, some didn't. It's that simple.

    He didn't rave about it and give high marks to be kind. He stated exactly what was wrong with it ... Hannah sucking, at times uneven editing, those damned blood puddles, a laughable ending shot, ETC. But in Shark Swarm's case, the good slightly outweighed the bad in his opinion, and honestly mine too. It was labeled just a little above average which is exactly what the movie is. That's far from a glowing review, and it's far from a sterling film. As a matter of fact it's not even close. No one's claiming that it's anything more.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 3:48am.
    Cash Bailey's picture

    I think there IS a bit of conflict of interest in the DC crew reviewing this.

    Even Fatty Knowles doesn't review Rodriguez films because of their friendship. And the words 'Knowles' and 'integrity' don't belong in the same sentence.

    Except that one.

    Submitted by Cash Bailey on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 2:54am.
    Messiahman's picture

    By the way, the Hollywood Reporter just gave us a rave review.

    Submitted by Messiahman on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 2:42am.

    controversial meaning ''guy gives buddies movie better review than it deserves'' shocker, then yes it is.

    Submitted by Fireflyfan on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 2:19am.
    moderator I've seen the unrated DVD.
    Steve Barton's picture

    I've seen the unrated DVD. There's no real added violence. It's still all really menstrual.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Sat, 05/24/2008 - 7:22pm.
    Rorschach's picture

    I don't seem to have Hallmark channel on my cable set up.....guess I'll be waiting on the UNRATED DVD then. Which hopefully will dispense with the menstrual pools Buz described and bring the real sharkin' deal.

    I am disappointed to hear Darryl Hannah phoned it in, though.....from the way MM and Franco were talking about her performance on the forum, it seemed like she would be one of the film's strong points.


    Submitted by Rorschach on Sat, 05/24/2008 - 6:58pm.
    The Buz's picture


    Submitted by The Buz on Sat, 05/24/2008 - 2:19am.
    moderator I have deleted all the pot
    Steve Barton's picture

    I have deleted all the pot stirring, personal attack comments from this article. I suggest the shit talking cease with their departure.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 11:36pm.

    Comparing our review to Fango's simply isn't fair. Differing opinions on movies are not uncommon. Just because they didn't dig it, loved it, or liked it to a passable level does not make Buz's opinion any less valid.

    Instead of complaining and/or making personal attacks via the comments section, watch the film and write your own scathing review if you feel Shark Swarm didn't live up the average score it was given here.

    Submitted by Kryten Syxx on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 8:01pm.
    Messiahman's picture

    TDA, PM me your mailing address.

    Submitted by Messiahman on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 7:21pm.
    thedudeabides's picture

    I think this is all a smokescreen to deflect discussion away from my wayward DVD.

    Submitted by thedudeabides on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 7:15pm.
    moderator I am the scourge of the
    Steve Barton's picture

    I am the scourge of the internet

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 7:12pm.

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