The middle part of 2011 is proving to be a good period for the SyFy channel and their originals. Earlier this year SyFy’s 51 (see review here) and BEHEMOTH (see review here) were promising, but both failed in their respective executions. BEHEMOTH promised a huge, planet-destroying creature but simply gave us a lazy, Lovecraftian-influenced beast whose ass was attached to a mountain. But then last weeks ICE ROAD TERROR really surprised me with how fast-paced, gory, and fun it was (see review here), and now SWAMP SHARK, premiering on Saturday, June 25th at 9pm (ET/PT), once again proves that when the boys and girls over at SyFy really wanna make an entertaining flick, they can do it.
SWAMP SHARK stars the original BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, Kristy Swanson as Rachel Broussard, the owner of the Gator Shack restaurant located right next to the swamplands of the Atchafalaya Basin. She runs the restaurant with her younger sister Krystal (Sophie Sinise, Gary Sinise’s daughter) and her older brother Jason “Swamp Thing” (Jeff Chase). Everything’s going really well as the town prepares for their yearly big event, Gator Fest, until crooked sheriff Watson (Robert Davi), who sells illegal exotic animals (??!!!?) accidentally releases a shark into the swamps. Yeah I know; it’s a silly and completely absurd set up, but it actually fits the entire campy world created in SWAMP SHARK. Swanson is one of the first people to spot the shark and instead of balling up into a panicking, hysterical woman, she grabs her hunting rifle, a boat, and anyone else who believes her and goes out to hunt down the swamp shark. I loved Swanson’s character and since her best known film is the original BUFFY, it would’ve been hard seeing her as anything other than an ass kicking hottie.
And what self-respecting SyFy Original would forget to include some kind of 1980‘s pop culture reference? Not too worry; SWAMP SHARK has Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs as a red neck deputy. I would’ve like to have seen him in a bigger role, but his role is pretty fun.
One of the people Swanson recruits to hunt the shark down is Charlie (D.B. Sweeney; where the hell’s he been?), a mysterious man hanging around the town. Their first hunting party doesn’t, as you can imagine, go very well and they loose their boat and are forced to regroup. But in the meantime the town is preparing for Gator Fest and the shark has really gotten a taste for human flesh. Of course we get tons of nods to the granddaddy of shark films (and arguably all “giant creature” flicks), JAWS, but everything in SWAMP SHARK is done with such a fun spirit that you just sit back and go along for the ride. Davi’s sheriff Watson is so sleazy that you can’t help but smile every time he’s on screen. The man knows there’s a shark in the swamp (because he’s the one that accidentally released it) but does nothing to try and fix the situation. He doesn’t send out a hunting party and he doesn’t prevent people from swimming in the swamp even after the dead bodies start piling up (in pieces). I loved Davi’s character and it’s nice to see he still “has it”!!
And maybe I’m just getting completely desensitized to bad CGI, but I thought the shark looked pretty damn good!! SyFy actually exhibits some restraint and doesn’t show off the beast at every opportunity. We see flashes of it here and there and get teased way more than SyFy usually does. Of course there’s the standard, “must have” scene of the shark jumping out the water to kill someone. This is the best look we get of the shark (until the final reel) and it was actually pretty cool looking. The body count could’ve been higher for my tastes, but the killings we do get were well-filmed. Director Griff Furst (who also directed last year’s flaccid SyFy flick LAKE PLACID 3), takes his time here and sets up some pretty suspenseful kill scenes. And if you’re like me you’ll wonder why the two twenty-somethings, who wanted some privacy to have sex, took a canoe out into the swamp not 20 feet away from their friends. Sex in a canoe? Hey why not!!
And just like in ICE ROAD TERROR, we get a little more blood than the usual SyFy Original. We get to see a lot of post-attack, ripped apart torsos and appendages, and we’re privy to a lot of blood spraying all over various cast members. Yeah people, this one is pretty fun. Maybe it’s because Summer’s here? Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for a fun “beast attacks” flick? Or maybe it’s just because the people over at SyFy are putting in some time and effort into their scripts!! But writers Charles Bolon, Jennifer Iwen, and Eric Miller give us a fun, light-hearted, and fast-paced script that despite the holes in logic keep you interested up to the end. And just wait until you see how they finally kill the shark!! I thought we were gonna get a very JAWS-like ending, but the writers took a hard left turn and gave us something original, fun, and very bloody. Nice job.
A great cast who’re obviously having a really fun time, a solid script with some originality in it, and some well-crafted death scenes make SWAMP SHARK a really entertaining and fun summer flick. SyFy has renewed my love of the “attacking beasties” summer flick and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next!! Catch SWAMP SHARK this Saturday, June 25th at 9pm (ET/PT) on SyFy. Seriously!!
Director: Griff Furst
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer