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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    Messiahman's picture

    Crap, you had to cut it off when it was getting good and NME was proclaiming himself the Puppet Master in control of everything.

    Damn you, Steve!

    Submitted by Messiahman on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 7:11pm.
    admin moderator Oh noes the whistler blowers
    Jon Condit's picture

    Oh noes the whistler blowers are on to us! Run its a conspiracy. Someone call 60 Minutes!!!!

    Submitted by Jon Condit on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 6:15pm.
    admin moderator write your own damn review
    Jon Condit's picture

    write your own damn review if you don't like it.

    ofcourse most of the people bitching haven't bothered to watch it.

    i expect to see atleast 2 user reviews of this movie posted, or some of you are all talk.

    Submitted by Jon Condit on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:53pm.
    Sirand's picture

    News flash: The staff at DC works in the horror business and, as such, we know a good deal of people behind the films we cover. Operating a website like this means we work with them on a day to day basis. That goes for any big journalist in their field. Anytime DC, BD, Shock, or Fango reviews a movie - whether it be some DTV indie movie or the latest Saw film - odds are they know someone involved with the film. It's impossible NOT to in this line of work. By this silly logic, every review ever written is biased.

    Creepy is absolutely right - the only people raising a fuss about this are those who have an axe to grind.

    Submitted by Sirand on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:35pm.
    thedudeabides's picture

    I'm still awaiting the free DVD that was promised to me.

    It is to my utter dismay that I have not received it.

    It makes me sad.

    Submitted by thedudeabides on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:23pm.

    I'm apparently not the only one who thinks it either.

    Hey I don't blame you- the writers are your friends and it's good for the site to be positive. And Buz is a friend of the writers, so he's doing what a friend would usually do. I'm not saying it's bad- it's human nature.

    But I would probably suggest the fangoria magazine review is probably less biased and more accurate overall simply because there are no ties there.

    Submitted by Fireflyfan on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:19pm.
    moderator "Bill Gates to review an
    Steve Barton's picture

    "Bill Gates to review an Xbox"? I know. Buz had such a personal interest in making sure that the movie got a review stating that it was a little better than the usual BS. He's gained so much from it. Give me a break. LOL

    I'm done. Think what you will.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:16pm.

    Almost as much of a shock as the site's staff saying it's not a biased review then huh?

    Above average my ass. Not when better movies have gotten worse reviews here.

    Submitted by Fireflyfan on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:16pm.
    moderator And Firefly fan, when you or
    Steve Barton's picture

    And Firefly fan, when you or anyone questions the integrity of this site, then yes, the staff is going to answer. Especially if what we're being accused of is inaccurate.

    Jesus, all this over a rating that simply states the movie was slightly above average! You guys are acting as if it were a perfect review.

    Hell, NME is commenting on it sight unseen just because he personally doesn't like the writers, as a matter of fact, neither do a few of the other people complaining. What a shock.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:13pm.

    Yeah I'm sorry UC I like you- and woman- but I'm not buying this is an unbiased review. That's like Getting Bill Gates to review an x box 360.

    Submitted by Fireflyfan on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:10pm.

    Fangoria apparently disagrees.

    Submitted by Fireflyfan on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:09pm.
    moderator "Slightly more honest"? Why
    Steve Barton's picture

    "Slightly more honest"?

    Why because someone on their staff didn't like it as much as someone on our staff? Are you kidding me?

    We have never, nor will we ever, worry about hurting someone's feelings with a review, and we've got a truckload of hate e-mail to back that up! LOL

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:09pm.
    moderator To those who feel it's
    Debi Moore's picture

    To those who feel it's biased, how about you write your own reviews after you've watched it? That's exactly why we added the "write your own" feature -- for instances such as this. But honestly, everyone I've talked to who's seen it -- staff or otherwise -- has pretty much agreed with Buz that it's slightly above average, which is what a 3 rating means.

    Submitted by Debi Moore on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:03pm.

    what I suspect is a slightly more honest review

    Submitted by Fireflyfan on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 5:01pm.

    LOL Yeah I love how all the staff are the ones saying it's not biased

    Submitted by Fireflyfan on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 4:57pm.
    The Buz's picture

    I dig sharks. I posted quite a few times in the Day of the Dead remake thread, but still reviewed the DVD for that.

    The movie is far from perfect, but I still dug it. It had a fuck ton of sharks in it.

    Submitted by The Buz on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 4:57pm.
    moderator Buz is the resident Shark
    Steve Barton's picture

    Buz is the resident Shark movie fan. Who better to review it? I'm the Zombie guy, and Deb's all about the Vamps.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 4:52pm.
    NMEwithin's picture

    I really can't comment until I watch it although I would have rather seen the review written by someone who hasn't been posting all along in the Shark Swarm thread in the offense to Buzz.

    Submitted by NMEwithin on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 4:44pm.
    Sirand's picture

    That review is perfectly fair. The DC staff has never cut anyone slack for anything. Buz's review tells it like it is. Pure and simple.

    Submitted by Sirand on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 4:27pm.
    moderator I don't think it's biased at
    Steve Barton's picture

    I don't think it's biased at all. This was a TV movie, there's just so good it can be. Buz clearly stated what was wrong with it and gave it a rating of 3 which is a little above average, and all that the movie was.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 4:23pm.
    Ya Think?
    NMEwithin's picture

    Ya Think?

    Submitted by NMEwithin on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 4:10pm.
    Dr Malachi Constant's picture

    This review is obviously biased.

    Submitted by Dr Malachi Constant on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 3:47pm.
    The Buz's picture

    The longboard line fucking rocks. It's not a lame line at all Butcher. It works with what's going on.

    Submitted by The Buz on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 12:33am.
    Messiahman's picture

    It's actually "You gonna show her your longboard, dude?" It's said by one surfer to another in what is meant to be a very jokey fashion. After which he immediately gets punched in the arm.

    Submitted by Messiahman on Thu, 05/22/2008 - 7:58pm.

    "Have you shown her your long board?"


    I'm looking forward to seeing this though, and will probably go ahead and buy the dvd in a show of solidarity for my Dread Central brothers.

    Submitted by The Butcher on Thu, 05/22/2008 - 7:13pm.

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