Frenzy (2018)

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Another day, another low budget shark movie. Hey, at least this one tries to be serious, at least this one doesn’t simply slap two scary or amusing things together and get the local drunk to write the script. “Hey Bruce, I have a pitch for ya – ‘SpiderShark’ – has anyone made that yet? Or wait, ‘WereShark – it only comes out when the full moon is high’ – we could probably put together a script for those in a weekend, with names like those they write themselves!” These are precisely the sorts of conversations which go on in Production meetings – I should know, I’m an idiot.

So yes, Frenzy tries to be serious, but in doing so it makes many, many of the things which happen seem all the more ridiculous. Why do the plane’s wing spontaneously drop off? Why doesn’t the dude just gently land the plane when he was gliding about 50 foot above the very calm water? Why do the sharks travel in a pack of three? Why do they attack like that? Why do they look like that? Why can’t the shark rip the dinghy to shreds in two seconds but yet easily knocks two idiots out of a large boat? Why do the two idiots suddenly abort their rescue attempt to attack the sharks? Why did the sister jump in the water when the other sister was probably safe? How the hell did the sister do that counting backwards stunt when the shark was heading straight for her and how did the shark not simply adjust itself and get her anyway? How the hell did that boulder trick work? Why didn’t the shark simply swim further under water away from the fire? Why didn’t they cut the rope from the wooden raft and paddle over to the boat? Why can’t they use a radio? Why don’t they try to climb onto the mushroom shaped island? Why didn’t they throw the ‘distraction rocks’ further than three foot from the raft? Why am I watching this?

To summarize as briefly as possible, a group of friends travel the world making vlogs about the exotic places they visit, and they’re exactly the sort of people you wouldn’t want as friends – always smiley, happy, and gawping about how amazing their lives are. But look – is there… is there something going on between the sister’s boyfriend and the other sister? Ooh, intriguing. No wait, that’s not what I meant – I meant oooh, we haven’t seen that device before, and oooh it’s completely irrelevant anyway and goes absolute nowhere. They are travelling to an off the beaten track excuse for an island – more like a tumor slumped in the middle of the ocean. You can guess what happens next.

The main character is played by Aubrey Reynolds, who looks like someone I can’t quite place. It’s annoying. She does as well as she possibly can. Her, and everyone else in the cast I don’t recognise from anything else and based on the performances here I don’t think that will change in the future. In fairness, they aren’t given a lot to work with. It’s weird how so many films get the ‘I’m trapped in water and surrounded by sharks’ idea so wrong. I can’t be that hard to do it, right? Still, it’s a movie to half-watch with friends, only paying attention when something stupid happens or when the sharks arrive. In the pantheon of shark movies, it’s not the worst but it languishes with all the hundreds of others in the murky depths of mediocrity.

Let me know what you think of Frenzy in the comments!

Bait

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Why do we do it? Or more specifically, why do I do it? You can count the number of good, truly good shark movies on one hand and yet I watch as many of the bad ones as I can, knowing full well they are going to be bad. Is it my inherent love for the mysterious creatures? Is it because most shark movies are horror movies and an excuse to watch annoying people get chomped to pieces? Is it the hope that maybe one day someone will make another truly good one? I think it’s all of those things – I’ve always loved sharks and horror movies, and I always hope that another good one will appear. Reading the synopsis of shark movies, and knowing the companies and money involved before hand is a valid way of anticipating if the film will be good, but as I’ve said, that won’t put me off; it may not be good, but it could still be entertaining.

Bait has the following synopsis:

‘A freak tsunami traps a group of people in a submerged grocery store. As they try to escape, they are hunted by white sharks that are hungry for meat’

Aren’t most tsunamis freak events? Also, that kind of makes it sound as if the grocery store was already submerged. I assume they mean Great White Sharks too, and the fact that they’re hungry for meat goes without saying. If I was trapped in a grocery store, you’d better believe I’d be looting it to the bone. And I wouldn’t be starting with the meat, no, I’d be filling my face with sweets and crisps first – all that top shelf stuff (matron). Plus, that synopsis makes me think of two other movies I’d like to see – one set in a world where all shops are underwater, like The Jetsons but with water instead of space. So.. Spongebob, I guess. Secondly, a movie about a freakshow tsunami – a giant supafly wave which does funky dances and wears an afro.

All in all, I don’t mind the idea for this – it has potential, merging survival horror with loose disaster movie and siege movie tropes. I imagine John Carpenter having a go at this – it’s basically Assault On Precinct 13 but with sharks instead of gangstas and crap instead of goodness. Honestly, it’s not all that bad. In terms of being a cheap B movie, it’s perfectly watchable and gives enough attention to its characters that we have a passing interest in their fates, if not care. The acting is a notch above what you would expect from these things, with famous faces like Sharni Vinson and Julian McMahon providing the ‘oh, I know that guy’ moments. The film also spends time building up to the main scenario, introducing various characters and conflicts before releasing the sharks. It begins with a tragic event as lifeguard Josh watches his friend Rory be killed by a shark during a rescue. Rory was brother to Tina, Tina was engaged to Josh. Flashforward a year and Josh and Tina have split up, with Josh now working in a supermarket. Tina shows up with her new boyfriend – uh oh. Worse, a couple of criminals show up too in a botched armed robbery – oh no. Worse still, a tsunami drops, trapping the staff, shoppers, and criminals together – oopsy. Then to spice things up further, some sharks have been washed in by the tsunami, and I have a feeling they like the taste of young pretty flesh.

At times it feels like there are too many characters, each with their own crap. There are security guards, criminals, managers, shoplifters, couples galore, dogs, and some are revealed to be intertwined and some are revealed to be dicks. There are a couple of ‘twists’ though I pissed off my wife by calling them out long before they were revealed, as I always do. I won’t spoil them here, but they seemed fairly obvious even to me. There was a great moment where it looked like the dog was killed, only for a later cop-out. Hey, I love dogs but I love it just as much when people who moan about dogs being killed in movies (which almost never happens) are frightened that the dogs will be hurt. The dog here especially is more than deserving of being gobbled. But as mentioned, there is a lot going on, characters trying to resolve their differences all while working together (or not) to try to survive and escape. Certain characters are split off from the main group, some have selfish motives, others are fish fodder.

The gore and kills are as you would expect – a lot of improbable shark action and even more improbable attempts to hunt and kill the sharks. The CG isn’t great but it’s still a level or twelve above Sharknado – you’ll get a laugh out of it but can still suspend your disbelieve enough to not let it get in the way of the story. The film is actually known as Bait 3D – so you know you’re going to get some of those scenes to make the 3D stand out. Naturally I watched in 2D, so these scenes added to the ridicule. In terms of pacing and action, the film rattles along nicely and while it hits all of the expected notes, it does so in a fun way. I was never bored even though I’ve seen it all before. It’s much better than the ‘so bad it’s good’ shark movies, but still a way behind Jaws and… Jaws 2. Thanks to an interesting premise, a decent cast of recognizable faces, and actual attention to building story and character (somewhat), Bait is a film for anyone who enjoys shark movies or animal attack movies in general.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Bait!

Dark Tide

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Well. Well, that was a piece of shit, wasn’t it? I’m not usually interested in criticizing a film when it’s bad or ripping it to shreds for comedy purposes, but when I’ve already stated that I watch a lot of bad, deliberately bad shark movies, and a lot of low budget, made for TV shark movies with the worst CG this side of me and Microsoft Paint, to say this is worse than those should be everything you need to know.

Halle Berry stars as Kate, a shark whisperer who likes to free dive with Great Whites. Fair enough. I don’t think she’s necessarily miscast and I usually like her, but she has no business being in this film beyond being as a vanity project for her and her husband and co-star Olivier Martinez. Note – I had no idea they were married or together or anything until my wife told me. Note – Olivier Martinez has never been good in anything. Ever. Some other people are in it – doesn’t matter. They are married in the movie and are making self-involved ‘movies’ about swimming with sharks, which involves jumping into the ocean and tugging on their fins. I… I sense something might be about to go wrong. Yes, Quarrel is gobbled by a shark and we flash-forward 12 months to see that Kate is… continuing like nothing ever happened. She doesn’t make the movies anymore and she doesn’t see her husband, but she’s still out on the water, now giving tours which isn’t bringing in much money. Her husband appears on the scene again with an offer to take some billionaire out on a special tour so he can swim with the sharks like she used to. I… I sense something might be about to go wrong…

This movie cost $25 million. Here are some things which could have been done with $25 million instead of making this movie:

Donate to Shark Preservation charities

Donate to me

Go to Space with you and all your friends

Buy your own island (and shoot your own shitty movies there)

Hire a hundred teachers

Buy 25 MRI machines

But 10 CAT machines

Give a hell of a lot of starving people a hell of a lot of food and water

Give a hell of a lot of homeless people a hell of a lot of shelter

I don’t know… a bunch of monkeys to play with.

Yet they decided to go ahead and make Dark Tide. I honestly have no idea why or how this was released in its current state. Filmed in 2010 it flapped around until a limited release in 2012 – clearly no-one (rightly) had any clue what to do with it and decided just to chuck it out there and maybe get a few bucks back on their investment. It is a completely incoherent mess. Halle Berry’s character, we assume is supposed to be traumatized by the death of her friend, yet spends the whole movie smiling and joking like she’s parading down a red carpet. She has spent a year away from swimming with sharks, but dives on in with zero hesitation or post traumatic stress. The wife of the guy who was killed at the start – far from blaming the sheer stupidity of her husband and Berry’s character, she just shrugs it off like ‘meh, he lived his life like he wanted – being eaten’. Berry is meant to be estranged from her husband, has removed his number from her phone, and hasn’t seen him in a year, yet spends the entire film flirting with and fondling him like they’re horny teens on their first date; even though he’s a complete dick the entire time. Later she finally comes to her senses and decides that no, they’re not going to take their clearly falling to pieces ship into the most shark invested part of the world and let some asshole swim outside a cage with sharks, only for the husband to slap her around about, to which SHE apologizes for, and then goes ahead and takes them to dive with the sharks.

Oh, we’re not finished folks. There’s a scene – a completely irrelevant scene early in the movie which… I have not idea why it exists. It sets up a bunch of shady characters who seem to be going poaching? They’re in a dodgy van, they go to a stretch of water, then go diving for oysters, or abalone, or doubloons or something. Right, so these are bad guys and they’re going to show up later and attack Berry’s boat or Berry will have to save them from being eaten. Nope, we see them swim around the water for a minute and then… nothing? They are never seen again, there is no mention of them again, they aren’t attacked? No idea. The dead guy’s wife is apparently psychic, calling the coastguard to tell them that she ‘knows something has gone wrong’ on Berry’s boat and to get a search party out there. It’s okay, she isn’t seen again either. There’s a 10 minute stretch where Berry takes a random family out on a trip – so these guys are going to get attacked and eaten? Nope, she just takes them out, comes back, and then takes out the next group who do get attacked. It’s almost like they filmed the first family and decided they weren’t interesting enough to spend the rest of the film with, but we’ve filmed the scenes so we may as well keep them in the movie.

Oh yeah, the boat keeps breaking – in the character’s own words beyond repair – then is suddenly fixed and working in the next scene. This happens more than once. Every character without fail has zero motivation for anything that happens or anything they do, everybody apparently hates everyone else yet spend most of their time joking and giggling. Berry’s character can hold her breath… forever? She’s down in that water as day turns to night, comes up for a quick puff, and then heads down again for a few hours. There’s a storm coming and their boat is already broken but why the hell shouldn’t they keep going for an hour and a half into the storm and further from shore to get to the sharks. Hell, it’s not like they could go home and come back the next day. They go out to an area which has literally hundreds of seals swimming around after telling us that sharks can’t resists seals. Then they get on the boat and say there are no sharks around so they tie a carboard seal to the back of the boat, drive forward a few yards, and lo and behold a shark attacks the fake seal? Eh? Why would it go for thi, and not one of the other thousand or so real seals around it? But wait – actually, it was a real seal the shark attacked because they put the cardboard on back on the boat, intact. So the fake one is used to attract sharks in an area full of real seals and make them attack the real ones? But wait – the footage of the shark attacking the seal is actually a fairly famous real-life clip of a shark attack that they edited into the movie. Believe me, I’m only scratching the surface here? Not a single moment passes in this movie without something entirely implausible, nonsensical, ridiculous, or pointless happening, completely without explanation.

As I said, it’s not like me to go harping on about a film’s shortcomings as I know how much effort and collaboration, and work goes into making a film to the extent that it’s almost a miracle anything ever gets made. But seriously, how did this ever see the light of day? Director John Stockwell seems to have a fetish for bikini clad women or deep blue seas, having also unleashed Blue Crush, Into The Blue, and the as yet to be imagined Blue Smurfs Have A Blue Old Time Playing The Blues In Blue Blue Sea (Part Blue). The film has a couple of things going for it – good underwater photography in places, and the use of actual sharks. Why bother choosing this over something on the Discovery Channel then? For the chumps being chomped of course, but unfortunately we only get that once in the opening five minutes, and briefly in the final ten. Everything else in between is completely bewildering. Anyway, I’ve watched quite a few shark movies recently but this is the first I just had to write about and publish immediately (having watched it last night). More shark movie reviews to come, and as not great as those movies were, I’d easily recommend those over this.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Dark Tide, especially if you’re one of those weirdos who actually enjoyed it.

USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage

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This should have been called USS Indianapolis: Men Of Cloneage, amirite! Coz they all look the same! Seriously, some of the flaws of this movie could have been avoided if they had simply cast some actors with more distinct faces. Throughout the movie I couldn’t tell who was who, which one wanted to marry the blonde, which one was the thief, which one just got eaten etc. In all seriousness, this is a powerful story, one of my favourite true stories of all time actually, and it deserves to be told well. Unfortunately this film doesn’t deliver – its low budget is very noticeable and negative, the performances are forgettable, and too much of the movie is spent attempting to introduce the characters so that we are invested and affected by what comes later – though these early scenes are horribly and confusingly edited in such a way that it simply becomes frustrating and we lose interest. I found myself sadly thinking, just get to the sharks already.

A bit of a personal backstory. When I was young, one of my favourite books was Maneaters by Rupert Matthews. It’s a collection of true stories based on horrific encounters between people and animals – bear and tiger attacks, snakes, sharks etc. One of the stories was about the USS Indianapolis, and that story makes up the bulk of this film. In 1945, the US Military has crafted a couple of atomic bombs and would like nothing more than to drop them on Japan. The A-Team were several decades away, so they decided to send some of the bomb parts via battleship to The Philippines – a mission so secret only the top brass knew about it. The unlucky ship going on this mission was the ship of the title, knowingly being sent into enemy territory without an escort to defend them from submarine attacks which they could not foresee or withstand. They successfully completed their mission, but on the return journey the Indianapolis was spotted by a Japanese sub who torpedoed the hell out of it. Within minutes the ship was in the water. I can’t recall the numbers, but there were over 1100 men on board, and around 900 went into the water. Stranded, cold, and bleeding, with barely any life rafts and thousands of miles of ocean all around them, things were looking bleak. And then the sharks came. And came. And came.

If you don’t think you know the story, you’ve probably heard it famously delivered by Quint in Jaws, thanks to John Milius, Robert Shaw, and Howard Sackler. Yes, Quint tells Brody and Hooper about where one of his scars came from – after he went into the ocean when the Japanese struck. It’s one of the most famous moments in Jaws, chillingly delivered. One of the first stories I ever wrote featured a character haunted by his involvement and memories of the event. I saw Mission Of The Shark when I was young – a TV movie starring Richard Thomas and Stacey Keach, also based on the event and it was then that I learned about the court case aftermath and the dubious plots. Maneaters you see, only focused on the immediate human event – one man’s recollections of what is was like to be trapped, surrounded, and feeling hope ebb away. It’s then that I thought ‘why doesn’t someone famous and powerful actually make a good movie about this?’ When I first heard about Men Of Courage I hoped that movie had finally come, but as reports about the movie, then previews, then reviews came, my hope ebbed too.

The second half of the film is considerably stronger than the first. I was worried it was going to go downhill due to horrible shark effects, but in most cases the sharks are very good. Am I right in saying some were real too? There were some moments which appeared to be ridiculous and not how sharks would actually behave, but on the whole it was fine. The problem is that this section of the movie felt too short. It was low on tension, there wasn’t much emotion, and by that point I didn’t care about most of the characters or differentiate between them. The movie is basically in three large parts, or five smaller chapters – Meeting the team, the mission, the sharks, the court case, the end. I appreciate the attempts to introduce the characters, but as mentioned it simply doesn’t work. Cage’s Captain is really the only character we care for as he is the focal point throughout the five chapters. Cage’s performance is either restrained or flat – it essentially could have been anyone. I appreciate that when making a film like this, you can’t possibly focus on everyone, but you can give us a subset of characters and get us emotionally invested from the outset – make them likable, or real at the very least. Make them stand out, with their own lives, past, fears, and flaws. I’m repeating myself, but the film tries and fails.

To its credit, the film does also show things from the opposing side. We meet several of the Japanese crew and see them as humans forced into a position no-one would ever want to be in. The film neither shies away from pointing the finger of blame squarely at those who actually were to blame. Even though the film essentially ends on a downer, we get some real life footage of the rescue and brief moments from the remaining survivors and other archive footage to re-iterate the courage of those involved. A little over 300 men survived the ordeal.

There was one fantastic moment late in the shark section where the music swells and the camera swings around some of the survivors in long shots to give an eagle eye view of the vastness of their struggle – we see some in rafts, some dead and floating away, some exhausted and gripping on to what they can, and some simply drifting among the ever present shark fins, past caring that they could be the next to succumb. That’s what I want to see – the real struggle, the real pain, and by virtue of surviving, the real courage.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of USS Indianapolis: Men Of Courage. Did you enjoy it more than you expected to, or was it another poor attempt at telling a tragic tale?