"Fear the shiver." Does that even make any sense? Not really, but nothing about Shark Swarm does so why should the hyperbole on the back of the packaging be any different?
The latest in the Maneater series of 'nature gone amok' films from Genius Entertainment is this made for TV stinker from director James A. Contner (a man who has actually helmed quite a few solid TV shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files and if you wanna go back for enough, The Equalizer) is...Shark Swarm! The movie follows a fisherman named Daniel Wilder (John Schneider of The Dukes Of Hazzard) and his wife Brooke (Daryl Hannah), a loving couple who live in a small town off the coast of Northern California. They're not at all stoked that their idyllic small town life is going to be disrupted by the big corporate resort that's going to be built in the area, but what can you do. Their daughter, Heather (Darcy Rose Byrnes) spends her days picking up surfer boys like all teenage girls are wont to do while some evil industrialist types lead by Hamilton Lux (Armand Assante) spill a bunch of sludgy crap into the waters. This sludgy crap attracts a horde of sharks (the packaging claims they're 'mutant Great White sharks' but many of them appear to be Hammerheads and Bull Sharks) who proceed to start eating many of the locals just time to ruin the tourist season for the town.
Thankfully Bo Duke doesn't put up with shark's ruining his town so he calls up his brother, a university professor named Phil (Roark Critchlow), and his wife, Brenda (Elisa Donovan) who talk to the senior Wilder patriarch, Bill Girdler (F. Murray Abraham!) before heading to the coast with a pulse gun to send those sharks running back to the murky depths from which they came.
Okay, the premise of the assorted cast members stopping sharks with an underwater pulse gun sounds like it could be a good time with a bad movie, but Shark Swarm is bad in the literal sense. First off, it's two and a half hours long. Why is it two and a half hours long? That's a very good question because it would not have been hard at all to trim an hour's worth of superfluous sub-plots out of this movie. Secondly, ALL of the sharks in this film are CGI. Unless I blinked and missed it, there's not one real shark anywhere to be seen in this film. To make matters worse, the filmmaker's couldn't even throw in any gratuitous gore or nudity to save things. So what we're left with is an overly long movie about sharks the features not sharks, fairly bloodless shark attack scenes, and a blinky underwater pulse gun. There are a few laugh out loud moments here - seeing Daryl Hannah swimming with CGI sharks wielding what is essentially a blinking light and sending them scurrying is kind of funny - but the bulk of the film is made up of goofy dialogue and unnecessary subplots about summer romance and corporate espionage.
The gory cover art makes this look like it could be in line with fun sharksploitation movies like the Shark Attack series but sadly, despite the presence of oodles of Playstation era CGI sharkies, it fails to deliver. It's not good enough to take seriously and it's not trashy enough to be enjoyed as an exploitation film - it's just lame.
Shark Swarm is presented in a pretty spiffy 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that features nice color reproduction and a fair bit of detail in the foreground and the background of the image at all times. There's a bit of edge enhancement and at times sharpness looks to have been artificially boosted just a little bit but there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and overall the image is pretty decent on this DVD.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is of fairly decent quality. The levels are well balanced and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion to complain about. Dialogue comes through clearly at all times and the score and sound effects are mixed in with the appropriate amount of punch. Don't look for any subtitles, alternate language dubs or closed captioning options, however, as you'll be sorely disappointed.
There's a preview for other films in the Maneater series that plays before you get to the static menu screen but aside from that, all you get on this release is chapter selection. That said, if slipcases that feature cover art identical to that found on the keepcase is your thing, you'll be happy to know that this release features just that, and you get the added bonus of bumpy sharp teeth on the case. That's right, if you run your fingers over the shark teeth on the cover, you can feel them! Too bad the sharks on the cover look better than the sharks in the actual movie...
You've really got to be a glutton for punishment to want to sit through this one. Even by 'made for TV movie standards' Shark Swarm is bad - it's overly long, riddled with cliché after cliché, and to add insult to injury, it doesn't feature any real sharks! Parts of it work on a 'so bad it's good' level but it really isn't enough to save the film. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.