Ripoffs of the classic creature feature Jaws are a dime a dozen, especially if the ripoff in question also has a monster shark similar to the one in Jaws. Usually, these kinds of ripoffs try to distinguish themselves with by putting the monster sharks in an unlikely location (in a lake, in a supermarket, in a research lab, in a tornado, etc.) or giving the sharks some unique attribute or ability (swimming in the snow, swimming in the sand, etc.). Yet for fans of Jaws ripoffs who are looking for something a little different in their derivative entertainment, Active Entertainment has decided to ripoff the least of the Jaws movies, Jaws: The Revenge, with its latest film Ghost Shark. If anything, Ghost Shark proves that if you ripoff the lowest point of a popular franchise, you at least have a decent shot at making watchable (albeit not very memorable) entertainment. Read on for my complete review.
Even though the location and characters are different, Ghost Shark shares the same central concept as Jaws: The Revenge: A monster shark that's out for revenge against a group of people. Yet unlike Revenge, which was produced to showcase the acting talents of a studio executive's wife (yes, really), Ghost Shark is a cheap excuse to set up a series of increasingly preposterous shark attacks. Whereas Revenge kept piling on absurdities in its story to accommodate its unlikely star and astonishingly prohibitive production schedule, Ghost Shark takes the absurd concept of a vengeful shark and knowingly pushes it even farther every chance it gets.
Ghost Shark starts with an inept fisherman and his dimwitted daughter on a charter boat trying to catch a prize fish in the wee hours of the night before fishing season ends. Just when they hook what they perceive to be their winning fish, a large great white shark snatches it out of their grasp, which launches the frustrated fisher-folk into a violent rage against the shark. As the dying shark lurches away from the boat, it finds its way into a cursed cave where it becomes a ghost shark that wreaks havoc in a neighboring coastal village. Because it's a ghost, the shark can now attack wherever water is present: buckets, swimming pools, fire hydrants, bath tubs, toilets, emergency sprinklers, water coolers, leaky kitchen pipes, water toys, rain, bikini car washes, etc. With the local authorities baffled by the sudden explosion of grisly deaths, it is left to a group of teenagers to discover the secret of the ghost shark and put its reign of terror to an end.
No water container is too small for Ghost Shark!
If the premise of Ghost Shark sounds silly to you, then you know what you're in for. The cast that plays the teenage protagonists looks like they just arrived from the Disney Channel, and they come across as a much blander version of the teenage characters from Scooby Doo. This kind of film exists to providing a high body count of bloody deaths and in that sense, Ghost Shark delivers to a point. To its credit, the film eschews CGI effects for a practical effects shark made by Shark City Ozark. (You can see behind-the-scenes pictures of Ghost Shark at the official SCO site, and you can read my two-part interview with SCO owner Mike Schultz here and here.) The mechanical shark itself is actually a three-foot mechanical miniature that is inserted via green screen shots, but it looks great and moves mostly like the real thing. Indeed, watching a practical effects shark instead of a CGI shark gave me flashbacks to Roger Corman's numerous cheapjack creature features from the pre-CGI era. Good times, indeed.
Oddly, my biggest complaint against Ghost Shark is that it doesn't go far enough with its whacked-out premise. Sure, the script's dialogue is clunky and its characters are cardboard, but the film's flat direction is what really keeps the flick from hitting its high notes. Even though he has a few special effect-laden titles under his belt, director Griff Furst appears to have no idea about how to shoot special effect-driven scenes to their maximum effect. He doesn't even know how to shoot the scale-sized mechanical shark to get the most shock value out of it. Ideally, this kind of film should play as a gorier, goofier version of Jaws parodies such as Saturday Night Live's "Land Shark" skit or the Carol Burnett Show's "Jowls" skit. Instead, even the film's most outrageous kill scenes are shot without the slightest hint of dark humor or morbid inspiration. It makes me wonder what an experienced professional such as practical effects guru "Screaming Mad" George would have done with Ghost Shark.
Worst case of acid reflux ever.
Ghost Shark may not rank among the best of the Jaws ripoffs, but it's still more fun to watch than Jaws: The Revenge. To Jaws ripoff fans, that's got to mean something, right? If not, that's OK--Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws is already on its way.