Welcome to the world of false DVD advertising. It doesn't happen all that often, but when it does...BOY, does it make a critic's blood boil. Sometimes, all we have to go on is cover art, a back of the box blurb, and the suggestions that come from each. Unless we've seen the film in theaters, or have some manner of pre-publicity knowledge of the content, the advertised implications are the only doorway into this digital world. In the case of Psycho Shark, a made in Japan thriller brought to the US by indie distributor Cinema Epoch, the photo on the front of the case is pretty self-explanatory: a gal in a bikini floating in the middle of what seems like a monster fish's giant maw. Even the back cover suggests a blood spattered, skin flicking, sea-faring good time. Of course, in this instance looks are more than deceiving. Not only does Psycho Shark not deliver on a single express promise, it's deception destroys what could have otherwise been a tasty bit of Eastern T&A.
At a beach resort in Okinawa, a couple of buxom bikini gals decide to take a video camera and incessantly yak about their lack of a love life. Of course, within moments of saying same, one of the ladies hooks up with local hottie Kenji. As she wanders the shoreline and makes cow eyes at the mysterious guy, her dude-less roomie scours their hotel space, finds a random videotape, and begins watching it, Ringu-style. She soon learns that her friend's newfound BFF might be a killer, stabbing and then sacrificing young girls to the ocean - and within it, a legendary local shark. As she tries to protect her 'chum', we learn how three previous babes may have met a similar sad fate. As their stories intertwine and our heroines shower with their tops on, we soon realize that beyond the formal facade, something far more sinister is going on in this tiny resort town.
BOOOOOOO!!!!! Talk about your brutal bait and switch. Psycho Shark only lives up to one part of its title, and it's not the original Jaws in Japan moniker. No, with about 30 seconds of unexplained fish footage attached to what is otherwise 69 minutes of mindless Asian model cavorting, this is not Deep Blue Sea 2. It's more Dull Sea of Japan Home Videos. This is one stupid, shrill experience. You know Japanese girls - everything to them is "cool" and "happy" and "fun" and they relish expressing said sunny emotions in the loudest, most ear piercing voices possible while flashing peace signs...and these arguably lovely ladies are the most maddening of magpies. No matter the size of their breasts - and some are packing whoppers - these girls are aural nightmares. Sadly, this is the only thing scary about Psycho Shark. The rest of the movie plays like The Blair Witch Project meets a travel agency warning short. With all the hand held first person POV shots and so-called "found" footage, the movie tries for something contemporary but fails completely.
The biggest problem here is a lack of a legitimate set up. We don't know much about the first three girls we meet. A blood spattered montage later (equally ambiguous) offers no additional clues. Then we are thrust into the whiny world of our less than dynamic duo. While nice to look at, they are vacant and absent any further plot clarifications. They just complain, dance around, and spew idiocy at the camera lens. Oh - and they shower - completely clothed. How fair is that? By the time we get to the weird meeting between some faceless men (trading videotapes for a small shark medallion - huh?) and the last act attack, we are completely and utterly lost. It's not the translation - we get most of what our characters are talking about, and mostly its love, longing, and 'losin' it' while on holiday. They don't have a single significant expositional moment, and a movie that promises killer sharks, oceans of grue, and scantily clad actresses shouldn't require so much narrative heavy lifting. Simplicity - and some skin - are the keys to winning over a cynical, jaded home video viewership.
Psycho Shark offers NONE of this. Instead, it meanders around aimlessly, leaving us scratching our head more than...doing other things with our hands. For their part, the ladies do again look nice and fill out their swimsuits with libidinous panache. Director Hijiri John, on the other hand, can't concoct a single cogent scene. Nothing makes sense - not the reason why the girls have to hitchhike, not the weird way they are greeted at the resort, not the lack of another vacationer - and definitely not the arrival of the title terror in the last 10 seconds. In the history of WTF? moments, this one takes the fish cake. All horrid CGI aside, it's hard to figure out what exactly is going on. Is the shark real? Is it just in Kenji's mind? If not, why hasn't anyone else seen it except in this final moment? And why is said predator reliant on a whisper thin Japanese kid to supply it with supper? With all of these lingering issues and the lack of anything compelling to keep us engaged, Psycho Shark does the unthinkable - it takes a tempting title and turns it turgid. Very sad indeed.
At least Psycho Shark doesn't look too bad. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image is colorful and bright, displaying a nice level of detail. Interior scenes do suffer a bit, especially those aforementioned shower sequences, and we do get a bit of whiting out whenever our stars scamper in front of their hotel room windows. Still, if we assume that most of Psycho Shark is supposed to be homemade video footage, the defects deliver. Luckily, there is a level of polish that precludes an outright visual dismissal.
If you want to hear eardrum destroying shrieks in all their lifted from a camcorder microphone overmodulation, Psycho Shark offers the best recreation of same yet. Even the dialogue delivered at lesser decibels is grating as part of the Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 mix. And don't let the faux John Williams scoring at the beginning fool you. This movie is more in love with J-Pop and American Emo musically than anything resembling the memorable Spielberg classic.
We get a Making-of (in Japanese with NO subtitles) a collection of trailers (with Psycho Shark nowhere to be found) and a stills gallery. That's it. Since we can't understand what is going on in the Behind the Scenes material, and the rest of the extras are borderline bonuses at best, this is not a great collection of added content - not by a long shot.
Nothing is more aggravating, more irritating, more unnecessary, and critically destructive than promising something that never, ever, ever comes. Psycho Shark pledges to provide large breasted babes scampering around the Japanese shoreline getting snacked on by the local aquatic wildlife. Instead, it's a more boring Paranormal Activity. Earning an angry Skip It, there is nothing redeeming or required about this sad excuse for entertainment. If you want to see good looking Asian girls in bikinis, there is something called Google - learn to use it. Don't fall for this flagrant false advertising. There is nothing "psycho" or "sharky" about Psycho Shark.
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