We brave the waters of Shark Lake…
Lake County has a problem, which is that swimmers, fishermen, hang-gliders, and stupid beach-partying teens keep getting chomped on by some sort of mysterious predator. What could it be? The Sheriff’s Department is convinced that it’s a bear; presumably, it must be some new strain of aquatic bear that has the mouth shape and dental profile of a bull shark, as well as fins instead of arms and, you know, a tail, scales, fish biology, the habits of a shark, all of that sort of thing. Well, luckily there’s one competent cop in the county, single mother Meredith Hernandez, played by model and B-movie regular Sara Lane, who has prior in Sharktopus. Hernandez’s daughter is played by “And Introducing Lily Brooks O’Briant”, a rôle for which the producers would have sort Chloë Grace Moretz, had the film been made ten years ago. O’Briant’s father is that great hulk Dolph Lundgren, alienated from his daughter by a mother who, somewhat reasonably, thinks his career choice of trader in illegal animals makes him unfit to take care of her. Well, Hernandez meets a marine biologist who eventually manages to persuade her that they’re dealing with a bull shark which the unscrupulous father of her daughter – told you so – dumped in the lake five years ago and which has only recently acquired a taste for human beings. They rush out to finally reclaim their lake from its squaline occupation, but will they be able to? And how will Lundgren find his inevitable redemption in the eyes of his daughter?
If you want to find out, then I’m not going to tell you. You’ll just have to sit through the movie, like I did, and try to remember its positive qualities whenever you see actual shark action onscreen. Do you remember how, back in the innocent 70s, Steven Spielberg unleashed a monster in the form of Jaws, a classic horror-thriller whose often unbearable tension came largely as a result of the monster remaining mostly offscreen, a trick repeated in other similarly effective movies such as Alien, Predator and Jurassic Park? Stop me if you’ve heard this already, but ironically the film’s great stroke of genius came about accidentally after the mechanical shark, Bruce, was found to look a bit shit on camera, and ironically the film’s resultant success led to a litter of other movie sharks, devouring elements of their father in terms of iconography but failing to thereby gain its knowledge. Today devotees of the SyFy channel regularly sit through hours of flimsy CGI that recalls some Windows 95 screensaver. The screensavers are out in full force in this one, and no-one’s courteous enough to give the mouse a quick wiggle and spare us.
So, since it’s hard to get any monster-movie jollies from the pic, you’ll have to find something else to appreciate about it, and I can tell you what you’ll find. The cinematography is lovely and, particularly in its frequent helicopter shots, suggests something far higher-budgeted. Lundgren, no longer the terrifying machine-man he was at his career-peak in Rocky IV, nonetheless lends a very slight sense of gravitas, more through mountainous physicality than any acting ability. Lane and O’Briant both work hard to make up for his deficiency, although the star turn is television actor Miles Doleac as a pompous, sleazy shark-hunter who hosts a BBC reality show, Fish Fried. Us Brits will be thinking that that sounds much more like an ITV, Channel 4 or Five production than a BBC one, but that’s a minor quibble when he provides the film with its only real comic relief. His character is almost the exact opposite of Robert Shaw’s grizzled, Ahab-like seaman in Jaws, a neat inversion and a tip of the hat to the subgenre’s granddaddy – though recent shark pictures have tended to owe more to second- or third-generation imitations like Piranha, Aliens, Jurassic Park, Deep Blue Sea and the Piranha remake. Bet you never realised sharks reproduced mostly through incest!
Shark Lake is released on DVD on the 1st August, will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!