SHARK WEEK – 9/24/14

Shark Week Poster2012 – Strangers find themselves isolated by a wealthy madman on his island compound, where they’re forced into a horrifying gauntlet of deadly sharks.

Say what you will about Shark Week (and let’s face it, not a whole lot of people are saying much of anything about it), but it wastes no time getting to the action. The first scene is a guy all chained up by a pool, yelling things that nobody would actually say, like: “Show yourself!” Our villain, Tiburon, looks like the Most Interesting Man in the World after a week-long bender. The guy declares that he will “die like a man” and then jumps into the pool, where he is devoured by a truly horrendous CGI shark. “Not very manly,” Tiburon mocks. It’s not that good of a zinger.

I never appear in movies. But when I do, I appear in the worst ones possible.

I never appear in movies. But when I do, I appear in the worst ones possible.

Turns out that Tiburon is a major drug kingpin whose son was killed in a bust gone wrong. He kidnaps eight people who were somehow involved in his son’s death, has them brought to his island, and tells them that they will be participating in “a game of life and death” (“Do you always drug and shackle your guests?” one demands). Tiburon quickly proves himself to be a villain of the most amazing variety, going on long quasi-philosophical rants about sharks while twisting his face around like he’s so high he can barely see. Here are his eight victims, introduced on-screen via little freeze-frame computer profiles. See if you can guess who survives!

Bart Harris* – federal prosecutor and designated asshole

Layla Valesques – junkie and overall unattractive female

Peter Arnarson – paramedic and campy gay character

Frankie de Vicchi – drug dealer described as “Ethnicity: Sicilian”

Francine Elliot – judge and middle-aged blonde

Roger Marshall – killed immediately, not important

Cal Wilson – cop and Vin Diesel look-alike

Reagan Wakefield – reporter and young brunette

*The character is listed in the credits as “Holt,” played by actor Bart Baggett, so I’ll refer to him that way

Roger protests his innocence and gets shoved into the pool, where at least a dozen sharks of wildly varying size completely devour him. Completely, as in they even seem to consume his bones and blood. Tiburon lauds the advanced nature of sharks; one character retorts, “They’re just garbage cans of the sea!” I admire that kind of pointless gumption. Some madman declares I’m going to have to face a different shark each day? “Yeah, well sharks suck!”

Tiburon intends to force his victims through the aforementioned shark gauntlet – as Francine puts it, “We’re pawns in this psycho’s game!” The dialog is a true joy to experience – like when Vin Diesel finds a key around one shark’s neck and yells, “I got the key!” Another character observes, “I think he’s got the key!”

The plot sort of drones on from there. One thing you’ll never get tired of are the endless cave scenes – apparently this island is filled with underground lakes, and in each of those lakes dwells a certain kind of shark. Observing the characters via camera and mocking them via microphone, Tiburon notes that most shark attacks occur in three feet of water because “that’s where the food is.” He then tells them that they are, at this very moment, standing in exactly three feet of water! BWAH HA HA HAAAA! As though the water level acts as a magical lure to sharks.

The shark effects are pathetic, and the shark attacks are filmed so horrendously that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. Never mind the fact that the sharks roar audibly, jump out of the water to attack their victims, and change size constantly.

In case you were wondering, this is what a hammerhead attacking a man looks like.

In case you were wondering, this is what a hammerhead attacking a man looks like.

One of the characters declares that “the hammerhead isn’t even the toughest of the sharks,” as though the encounters are set up like the escalating boss battles in a video game. Tiburon warns them that the tiger shark has a taste for human flesh like no other beast in the sea (is this scientifically accurate?) and introduces the great white by saying he saved “the best for last.” Unfortunately, the fights themselves are just disconnected shots of sharks swimming, people screaming, and a few truly laughable moments like this:

The hyper-realistic special effects surpass your wildest imagination!

The hyper-realistic special effects surpass your wildest imagination!

Tiburon isn’t the most active or intimidating villain. He just sits around squinting and shooting the bull with his henchwoman Elena. In one scene he’s randomly wearing a leather jacket and sunglasses. Then, a minute later, he’s shown wearing a goofy cowboy hat.

The very portrait of evil.

The very portrait of evil.

They both get their share of awe-inspiring lines. At one point, Elena observes, “They’ll kill themselves before the sharks get the chance!” Tiburon chuckles like a stoned douche and says, “Maybe.” To get the real feel of that line, imagine him saying, “Duh-huh, duh-huh, maybe.”

I really question whether the screenwriter has ever heard people talking – the conversations ring more hollowly than two skeletons making love in a tin coffin. At one point, Francine and Frankie  have the following exchange: “What do you think it’ll be this time?” “The trap, or the shark?” “Oh God. I meant the trap, but now I mean both.” Huh? In another scene, Layla starts to freak out and Frankie has some inspirational advice: “Stay calm!” “How am I supposed to do that?!?” “TRY!” A few more examples:

The group randomly wanders into a mine field. “Holt” doesn’t want to go first, and Frankie busts his cowardly balls.

Holt: Well you go first then!

Frankie: Fine, maybe I WILL go first!

The gang finds a wrecked boat on the beach

Reagan: Do you really think Tiburon is going to leave us a boat?

Vin Diesel: Only if there’s a shark in it! (everybody laughs, despite having seen one of their friends slaughtered by a shark mere moments before)

Frankie and Vin Diesel wade into the ocean to battle a shark.

Frankie: Where are you, you son of a bitch! (The shark appears right in front of him) Woah, there he is! Get him!

Shark Week isn’t on the level of, say, Snow Beast, but it’s worth a watch. You will be surprised by exactly zero of the “twists” in the plot, like Vin Diesel and Reagan falling for each other, “Holt” shoving someone else toward a shark only to be devoured himself, one of the group making a heroic sacrifice so the others can escape, etc etc. Fortunately, just when things start to get mind-numbingly uninteresting, Tiburon will pop up and slur something smug and nonsensical.

Special attention must be paid to the fate of the villain. When the last surviving hero confronts him (he’s standing on a jetty holding an umbrella, a scarf, and a string of pearls), Tiburon gives a little speech about how the survivor can leave aboard a yacht, having survived the shark gauntlet. Instead of departing in peace, the vengeful survivor spears him through the balls with a harpoon. It’s not explicitly shown, but tell me where you think he got it:

Shark Week groin shotYeah, he’s not doubled over clutching his spleen. Then he tumbles into the water, where one of his own sharks devours him. Hoist by his own petard, etc etc.

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