Welcome back for another edition of your new favorite monster movie column, Monstrous Memories! Here at ScienceFiction we’re huge monster movie fans, so now in each new Monstrous Memories post, we’re going to take a look at a different monster movie and talk about what works, what doesn’t work, and whether it’s worth your time to watch it! Monstrous Memories is open to monster movies both new and old, so as long as a monster shows up on screen it’s eligible for a look.
This time we’re taking a look back at this 2011 disaster piece of cinema, ‘Super Shark’! In case you missed this one when it released (which most of you probably did), ‘Super Shark’ is your basic low-budget killer shark movie that you’re used to catching on any given night on the SyFy Channel. It tells us the story of a giant shark that (brace yourself) is giant, super-strong, bulletproof, and to top it all off, it can fly. The only thing that could have made this any cheesier would be to throw a giant ‘S’ and a cape on it! So why should you check out ‘Super Shark’? Or rather should you bother checking this out? Dive on in with us for our Monstrous Memories look back at ‘Super Shark’ to find out!
The story of ‘Super Shark’ can be summed up with some dialog directly from the film itself-
“I need a drink…”
This is both a direct quote from the film and also a perfect metaphor for the movie as a whole. ‘Super Shark’, from director Fred Olen Ray (who has directed 147 films to his credit, about 10% of which are family films, 40% are low-budget horror, and 50% look suspiciously like non-subtle porn), starts off like pretty much any giant killer shark movie with a few nonsensical kills and the shark pulling an entire oil drilling rig into the ocean. Cue our ‘lead’ heroine (and I say lead lightly, because she doesn’t have much screen time) played by Sarah Lieving, who is both a marine scientist and an investigator for the Oceanic Investigation Bureau (is this a real thing? It doesn’t sound like a real thing. ((after minimal research, we have determined it is not, in fact, a real thing))), and who is trying to investigate whatever damage may have been done to the ocean when the oil rig went down and gets caught up in this whole giant shark situation. The story progresses pretty naturally from there, and we’re going to drop off their to avoid spoilers.
Aside from Sarah Lieving’s lead heroine (who is forgettable and reminds me of a low-budget version of Stabler from ‘Law & Order: SVU’), we’re introduced to a few other characters, including Skipper Chuck (the kind of nice-guy-but-also-douchey sea captain who wears a cowboy hat for whatever reason played by Tim Abell), several lifeguards (most of which are way too pale to be believable as lifeguards played by three actors so forgettable that we won’t be naming them), and an oil tycoon who lacks a mustache to twirl (who manages to make several references regarding his lack of twirlable mustache, and is played by former ‘Dukes Of Hazzard’ star John Schneider; aka the biggest star this movie could get). For some strange reason, we’re also given plenty of footage of DJ Dynamite Stevens, who is played by JJ Walker of ‘Good Times’ fame.
All across the board, the acting is super stiff and it feels like these people were all handed their scripts just moments before they walked onto set. The only exceptions here are JJ Walker (who is way over the top and clearly needed a paycheck), and the one lifeguard played by Catherine Annette (who was the only person that seemed like they might have some semblance of acting ability in this film). JJ Walker was… ridiculous, and made way too many ‘Dy-No-Might!’ references for my comfort. We get it, you were on ‘Good Times’, can we move on? I’m not entirely sure what purpose he served in this film, as he often appears wearing the most absurd outfits imaginable and spewing generic DJ talk over the radio. What bugs me, is why is he wearing a sparkling bedazzled cowboy hat and giant glitter sunglasses with a loud Hawaiian shirt when he is broadcasting alone in his radio booth? He also shows up in person for one very long scene that involved a bikini contest that ran for over ten minutes.
Speaking of which, holy crap this movie shows a lot of skin! While there isn’t any direct nudity, there is more screen time given to scantily clad girls in bikinis than there is given to our titular Super Shark! We had a minimum of two several minute long scenes that were entirely bikini montages, which makes total sense when you realize that this director is known primarily for directly low-budget porno as well, but is still disappointing. While we get that some of the fun of crappy killer shark movies is the superfluous amounts of barely dressed twenty-somethings, this movie just focused a little too hard on that and not nearly enough on the giant shark that is swimming (and flying around) eating people. We’re also treated to a bevy of scenes focusing on a poorly developed love-triangle that was ultimately pointless (spoiler alert- all three of them get eaten within like two minutes of one another), which feels like a big waste of time that could have been used for more Super Shark!
Moving on to the Super Shark itself (who is the real hero of this film, if you ask me), we’re given a kind of terrible but still “better than most movies like this” CGI Shark to work with. The Super Shark is gigantic, probably two or three times to size of the shark from ‘Jaws’, and is referred to as “possibly some decedent of a megalodon”. As in many of these films, the Super Shark roars and growls when it swims by, because, of course it does. The shark is super strong, and sank a moderately sized boat by taking out the entire back half in one massive bite! It even takes out a submarine at one point with very little effort. One of my favorite things about movies like this is that we are constantly given scenes where a big shark seems to leap out of the water and eat people off of the beach; even though the people on the beach are a good ten feet away from the water. This is physically impossible, and could never happen. But in ‘Super Shark’, the shark can friggin fly, and actually can leap onto land like ten to twenty feet in order to snatch people. It’s simple and stupid moments like this that are the real heart of films like ‘Super Shark’, and the fact that they actually used this logic is one of this film’s few redeeming qualities.
As far as directing goes, this movie is really rough. There are a lot of jump edits and at at least two points a scene ends and goes to a quick shot of black nothingness before the next scene begins, leaving the film poorly edited together. There is also one scene that is set in John Schneider’s character home, where it looks like they really obviously green-screened another actor into the scene with him. Why would you do this? The scene is in a house, it can’t have been that hard to film them both there. Where they both not available to film on the same day? If that was the case, this other character is literally only in this scene, why not just recast this minor role with someone who was around the area when you were filming? Speaking of which, there were quite a few minor that appeared in one scene each, but the characters were focused on a bit too much, leaving me asking myself “whose niece or nephew do you think that was that asked to be in the movie?”. Director Fred Olen Ray should probably stick to his porn. At least he managed to get the film an absurdly funky 70’s style lead title track that sounds almost like the theme song from ‘Shaft’. Good luck getting that song out of your head for the next week!
As a whole, ‘Super Shark’ is a pretty bad movie, and while some of it is just cheesy enough to make it enjoyable, the majority of it leaves you asking questions like “why is this happening”. At one point in the finale, the military actually decides that “well this shark can walk on land, so we are going to send in a Tank with legs that also walks!”. A Tank. With Legs. This is the kind of logic this film uses. Overall, if you’re really into giant shark movies, you’ll probably still find plenty to enjoy about ‘Super Shark’. If not? Then you’re probably better off passing on this wreck of a film. fans of creature features will likely find a few redeeming things (like the scene where a lifeguard says “I wish I was dead!” and is promptly bitten in half), but even then it’s still a rather weak entry in an overly full genre of giant shark movies. The tagline for this film states “That’s One Bigass Shark!”, and while it isn’t wrong, it says enough about the film that you kind of know what you’re getting into by watching it.