Swamp Shark (2011)

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Starring Kristy Swanson, D.B. Sweeney, Robert Davi, Jeff Chase, Sophie Sinise, Wade Boggs

Directed by G.E. Furst

Klanshark: The Great White Supremacist

That should have been the title of this Syfy original.

An exotic animal smuggler has an accident that allows a predatory shark from deep in the crush depth of the ocean to get loose in a Louisiana swamp. Forget the freshwater; the shark adapts so quickly to being in the bayou it instantly adopts the traditional Deep South trait of good ol’ boy prejudice. Every shark attack victim for the first hour is either black or a white woman involved in an interracial romance.

Victim #1 – The shark clearly was in the mood for some blackened Cajun sautéed in whiskey.

Victims #2 & #3 – A young black male and his white girlfriend get eaten after slipping away from their college friends for some nookie in a canoe a few yards from their buddies’ houseboat near a bend where anyone could come boating by in broad daylight.

Victim #4 – A black deputy gets his head chomped off Free Willy style, rather impressively so. What was he doing when the shark jumped him? Using his binoculars to peep on a white girl as she undressed and got it on with her boyfriend.

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I hear David Duke already called Swamp Shark the best movie of 2011.

About seventy-seven minutes transpire before klanshark experiences a change of appetite and stops eating African-Americans and the white women that love them. So much for “Once you go black you never go back.”

Like Edward Norton in American History X, the great white supremacist comes to realize the error of its racist ways and tries to atone by only eating honky douchebags our society would probably be better of without. The shark will actually swim right past a bunch of kids splashing about in the river just to take a launching bite out a Caucasian douchebag…standing on the shore.

The peculiarity of the shark’s appetite aside, Swamp Shark is a fairly average addition to the Syfy canon peppered with a few inspired moments but is still missing…something. If this movie was barbecue sauce I’d say it needed more kick.

One thing this film suffers from is a strange lack of urgency given the situation. Too much of the landlocked inaction remains flatfooted due to how casual everyone is about this lethal situation and the mistake of there being entirely too many characters that serve little purpose – most don’t even get eaten. I can think of at least two characters that get quite a bit of screen time both of whom could have been completely excised from the film and it make no difference. Their time would have been better used elsewhere. Poor Kristy Swanson gets top billing even as she rapidly becomes just another face in the crowd the longer the movie goes on.

And why cast a famous baseball player like Wade Boggs in a movie such as this if you’re not going give him much of anything to do or a memorable death scene? At the very least shouldn’t there be a moment where he tries bashing the shark with a baseball bat?

Robert Davi is as Davi-ish as ever as the man indirectly responsible for the convoluted means by which the shark ends up in the bayou, but from that opening scene on, he doesn’t try to capture it or kill it or hire anyone else to do either or do much of anything to cover his tracks or even sound remotely concerned that a shark is killing people and this will eventually raise serious questions that could blowback his way. When Davi utters “What a lousy way to start the summer” after the shark first gets loose, might as well have had him pull a Homer Simpson, putting his hands behind his back and whistling as he nonchalantly slinks off the screen. I was kind of amused by Davi’s perplexing Homer-esque if-I-don’t-see-it-it’s-not-illegal attitude regarding his deadly screw-up.

The formulaic plot is built around the Broussard family and their “Gator Shack” backwater bistro, a mild-mannered mystery man played by D.B. Sweeney (looking like Paul Rudd gone Mayberry), some partying college kids, and the “Gator Fest” the crooked sheriff refuses to shutdown because the community desperately needs the money the festival generates, which from the size of the crowd, should be all of about fifty bucks. All pretty standard stuff – too standard for a movie peppered with a few inspired moments of monstrous lunacy that makes you wish the whole film functioned on that level. Whether you guffaw in a positive or negative manner, the way the shark is dispatched with is quite the sight to behold.

It is established that this is not your typical shark; unfortunately, the aspects that make it atypical don’t get played up enough for it make a difference. It’s brought to life via an acceptable mix of practical head-bobbing f/x work and computer animation, the former faring better than the latter, though the digital shark still looks world’s better than many recent CGI Syfy creatures. Yes, I’m looking at you, Ice Road Terror.

Grading on the curve one must when it comes to films such as this and by comparing it to some previous Syfy-produced Jaws riffs, Swamp Shark is better than some yet still too low-key to standout in a world now populated by Sharktopus and Mega Piranha.

Watching Swamp Shark I was struck by how it played more like the sort of made-for-TV genre movies TBS used to produce a decade ago than the current Syfy product. As a matter of fact, TBS made a TV movie nearly a decade ago about a deep sea shark loose in the freshwater Louisiana bayou called Red Water. And who, by chance, was the star of Red Water?

Kristy Swanson.

I smell a double feature.

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2 1/2 out of 5

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