The Asylum have a quota of shark shit movies to turn out every year – and in addition to campy entries in the Sharknado and many-headed Shark Attack franchises, they deliver the odd mostly humourless throwaway mockbuster. Planet of the Sharks was their riff on the Planet of the Apes franchise, and this latches onto the high profile of megalodons – who have had more than a few previous screen outings, including in the Asylum’s inactive MegaShark vs series – thanks to The Meg, which is the sort of expensive rubbish that shows up schlock like this for the cheap rubbish it is.
A Russian submarine is drilling into a Pacific cable to tap into allied secrets when it releases a megalodon from the ocean floor – the shark bites the sub, and the evil captain (Ego Mikitas) does the usual close the hatch on the screaming crew bit, reducing the Russian cast quotient to an affordable three (Aimee Stolte with a radical haircut, Dimitry Rozental with no hair). Floating above is a US Navy ship with too many chiefs – Commander Lynch (Caroline Harris) wants to use an experimental submersible to rescue the Russkis, Admiral King (guest star Michael Madsen) is against the dangerous mission, and Captain Streeper (Dominic Pace) overrules his mentor to give her the go-ahead … which, without a trace of irony, leads to the deaths of several of her crewmates (more are murdered by the people she rescues than eaten by the fish) and the loss of the submersible and the ship itself. No amount of saluting and flag-waving and speechifying about tradition is going to cover that one up, but the film solemnly plods on as if she were a hero not a nitwit – with the only wry smile going to Madsen coming back for the climax to stub a cigar out on the meg’s snout and sacrifice himself killing the thing (‘that’s some movie hero type shit’).
When the Asylum made American Warships, their ripoff of Battleship, they secured US Navy co-operation and must keep going back to that relationship since they’ve done several other pro-militarist gung ho monster movies. It’s interesting that this one harps on naval values and do or die gutsiness in a traditionally conservative way but still needs to include a line that suggests the unnamed current commander-in-chief is not only unworthy and feckless but possibly a Russian asset. When even Asylum movies are laying into Trump – who they once tried to hire to play a president in a Sharknado movie – it suggests that the political tide is turning. The rest of it is the usual nonsense – minimal characterisations, a surprisingly high babe quotient in the multi-ethnic crew, a lot of running around the ship popping off guns ineffectively to disguise how little shark action the film runs to, one gratuitous boat-swallowing gag, repeated underwater CGI shots of the snarling characterless big beast, a terrible CGI explosion, and a post-credits sting promising Megalodon II if enough of the audience close their eyes and really believe in Big CGI Prehistoric Sharks. Scripted by Koichi Petetsky (6-Headed Shark Attack), from a story by Thunder Levin (Sharknado); directed by James Thomas (Tomb Invader).
5-Headed Shark Attack (2017)
‘I want you to know that I know I’ve been a real jerk … but it was all for the aquarium.’
Unaccountably, the Asylum have chosen to prolong their third favourite shark-related franchise by following 2-Headed Shark Attack and 3-Headed Shark Attack not with the logical 4-Headed Shark Attack or even a prequel which might go by 1-Headed Shark Attack … and instead have the waters off Puerto Rico terrorised by a species that mostly looks like a fat four-fingered glove with teeth – indeed, a four-headed shark – until late in the day the tailt ransforms into an extra head which doesn’t exactly match the script’s description of a weird starfish-look creature. By now, it’s a wonder that these things even need screenwriters – credit is awarded Stephen Meier, Daniel Lawlor (twice) and Sean P. Hale, from a story by Jacob Cooney and Bill Hanstock – since the story progression, characters and set-pieces are all so firmly in place that even an extra head doesn’t count as a surprise.
We open, as usual, with bikini babes and photographers on a yacht, and a mass chomp-fest that takes out a whole party with one quadruple bite … then the authorities summon improbably lush-lipped bikini marine biologist Dr Angie Yost (Nikki Howard) from a struggling aquarium, show her photos of the anomaly, and turn the problem over to her. She heads out to sea on the boat of her crusty salt of an ex Red (Chris Bruno) while her unethical boss Thaddeus (Jeffrey Holsman) wants to bring the bastard in alive as an aquarium-saving attraction. As in so many of these films, a dangerous animal is hunted not by a skilled, well-armed crew but by a bunch of students in swimming costumes who moon about on the decks, witter on about global warming, come up with lunatic ideas like bullying the shark with recorded dolphin sounds, and get eaten before we’ve learned their names. Over and over, the shark fails to be killed – it eats a whale and upsets a party of whale-watching tourists and in a familiar stunt that harks all the way back to Jaws 2 leaps out of the water to bring down a rescue helicopter.
The first film in the series had Carmen Electra … the second starred Danny Trejo …but this is down to the guy (Bruno) who played the Tom Skerritt role in the TV series of The Dead Zone. Directed by Nico De Leon who is, on the evidence of this his first (and only?) credit, no Bobby A. Suarez. 6-Headed Shark Attack is imminent.
The Last Sharknado (The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time) (2018)
‘There it is – the first sharknado. I’m gonna need a bigger chainsaw.’
In the climax of this, series hero Fin Shepard (Ien Ziering) is struck by a flying kitchen sink … moments later, Tara Reid – playing his wife’s severed robot head stuck in the mouth of a big shark – announces that her next move will either fix time or destroy the universe, and he responds that ‘it’s time for a reboot’. Actually, it isn’t – but those of us who still remember the broken promise of Friday the 13th The Final Chapter will suspect that the ‘Last’ in the title will be revoked in a few years when everyone forgets that these films were never as much fun to watch as they wished they were.
This opens with Fin dumped back in prehistoric times, just as meteorites are wiping out the dinosaurs and causing the first sharknado – no-one actually says so, but this would be with megalodons instead of sharks – and a bunch of series regulars – April (Reid), Skye (Vivica A. Fox), Nova (Cassandra Scerbo) and Bryan (Judah Friedlander) – who all died earlier are resurrected with a timey-wimey excuse that even folks in the film don’t pay attention to and you shouldn’t either. Then, with a few Back to the Future jokes out of the way, it’s a trip through the hitherto-unmentioned great sharknados of history guest-starring Alaska (aka Alaska Thunderfuck) as Morgan le Fay, Neil de Grasse Tyson as Merlin and Marina Sirtis as a mediaveal baebe called Winter … Leslie Jordan, Darrell Hammond and Ben Stein as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, with jokes about the musical and a sharknado thwarted by a lightning-struck kite … Dee Snider and Jonathan Bennett as a Sheriff and Billy the Kid in the Old West … Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott as Fin’s parents (wasn’t David Hasselhoff his Dad before?) at a surfin’ beach party in presumably the AIP era 1960s … then a lot more Tara Reid in an alternate world where her robot head has cloned itself to make, ahem, Planet of the Aprils, and there’s zapping and plot a-plenty … a 1999 bit with Titanic and Spice Girls references … and a finale that sort of dovetails with the first film and ensures that original sharknado didn’t happen so we shouldn’t have bothered, or should we?
Still scripted by Thunder Levin (now assisted by Scotty Mullen) and directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, this does have a desperate feel even by Sharknado standards – a lot of the cameos are of people I’d have to look up online to identify and wouldn’t much care if I did (keywords – US reality TV losers), plus return shots for Bo Derek, Gary Busey and even the late John Heard. The effects are, if anything, sketchier than before and the gags are running thin. Half a mark for knowing the difference between a pterodactyl and a pteradon, though.