Tuesday, October 29, 2013

SyFy vs The Mynd: Ghost Shark (2013)

A series of ridiculous incidents and the vagaries of cliché redneck-ism result in a shark getting first slaughtered, then revived as a ghost by the magical cave close to a small Southern US coastal town. First, the newly born ghost shark eats the people who killed it, munches through their boat captain, the father of the film's mid-20s teenage heroine Ava (Mackenzie Rosman), and then proceeds to install its very own reign of terror.

The local mid-20s teenagers, led by Ava's no-nonsense stylings, very quickly accept the existence of a translucent shark that can manifest itself through even the tiniest bit of water (cue scenes of people dragged into toilets, and a very enthusiastic actor getting eaten from the inside after drinking the wrong cup of water). Alas, the authorities, represented by the mayor (Lucky Johnson) and the Sheriff (Thomas Francis Murphy) are no help at all. At first they don't believe the teens, and then they try to hush the situation up to (repeat after me) "avoid a panic".

So it falls to Ava and her fastly shrinking cohort of incompetent sidekicks to solve the town's ghost shark problem. The question is just how. Alcoholic grumpy lighthouse keeper Finch (a Richard Moll who can't get enough of that tasty scenery) seems to know something about ghosts and the town's dark secrets, but will he help? And why am I asking this?

If you can cope with the utterly ludicrous basic idea and the broad strokes its characters are drawn with, Griff Furst's Ghost Shark is a whole lot of fun. Furst is one of the more individual directors of SyFy originals, and when working in this function produces either films I pretty much adore - like the glorious Swamp Shark - or loathe - like the dreaded Arachnoquake, depending on the balance between ridiculous/awesome set-up, horror film fun, and "irony".

Thankfully, Ghost Shark is more like Swamp Shark, taking its stupid basic idea and playing it half straight, or at least straight enough not to feel the need to break every scene of curious carnage up by winking and nudging. This doesn't mean there's no irony or humour in the film. Ghost Shark does after all feature more than one toilet related death as well as a scene that sees bikini clad women scrubbing a car getting ghost-sharked; it just doesn't feel the need to film these scenes as comedic set pieces, which actually makes them much funnier and much more fun as they would be if Furst pointed their craziness (and comparable stupidity) out any further. Also, a lot of the film's jokes are actually funny.

Furst does show a lot of imagination in his treatment of the shark's water-related super powers, rescuing his film from becoming just another shark movie. Sure, gravity and logic, and ghost shark power consistency have to sit the film out, but I sure didn't miss them while watching. In fact, what Furst's approach to the murder and mayhem remind me of most are the first Nightmare on Elm Street movies; the bathtub attack even looks to me like a conscious homage to Freddy's first escapade.

Add to that the enjoyable and regular nature of the carnage, Furst's good grip on pacing (the "never a boring scene" approach to filmmaking) and Mackenzie Rosman's classically likeable final girl, and you have yourself a very fun film.

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