Read that title aloud.
Spring. Break. Shark. Attack.
It has a nice alliterative sound, a sleek look, and a “Captain Obvious” clarity only topped by “Snakes on a Plane”. Most movie titles play coy with their subjects. “The Silence of the Lambs”, for example. Now what could that be about? A mute shepherd in the Scottish highlands?
“Spring Break Shark Attack” tells you exactly what you will be subjected to for about an hour and a half: “Scantily clad young men and women looking for fun in the sun encounter sharks which attack. Much mayhem ensues.” I can assure you that there is nothing missing in that description. I can also assure you that it’s the best shark picture since “Jaws” (meaning that it is better than “Deep Blue Sea”) and a worthy contender to the best of the 70’s New World Pictures.
Roger Corman’s drive-in assembly line created a niche for genre spin offs during that great decade, offering eager young writers and directors the opportunity to do something interesting with market tested titles and subjects. Corman gave Jonathan Demme his chance with the women-in-prison genre and Demme delivered something truly offbeat and yet marketable with “Caged Heat”. When it came time to make a drive-in twist on “Jaws”, he gave New World trailer editor Joe Dante his chance with “Piranha”. Which is, of course, another kind of fish, and appropriately for Corman, much smaller in size.
These days, no one is interested in making these kinds of films any good. They are either simply boring or made by filmmakers who feel as though the genre itself required an apology. “Spring Break Shark Attack” does not try to apologize for itself, does not attempt to make any socially redeeming point regarding environmental waste; it simply wants to be entertaining. That it achieves this often forgotten goal with more success than many films with more profound subjects is not something that should be taken lightly. I say all this with a straight face because we should not feel guilty about our pleasures. If John Sayles wrote “Piranha” without remorse, then we can surely watch it without guilt. Filet mignon is great for one night, but a Big Mac may be just the thing on another.
“Spring Break Shark Attack” is clearly the Big Mac version of “Jaws”, and its makers have no doubt they are topping it with cheese — they seem to completely understand that they are stranded with an absurd premise, a time slot to fill on CBS’ Sunday Night Movie schedule, and are damned committed to making the best damn Spring Break Shark Attack movie ever. The “Citizen Kane” of such movies for television, if you will. I applaud this kind of commitment.
To increase the complexity of their work, they have created a genre splice, once again seen clearly in the title: “Spring Break”/”Shark Attack”. The movie begins as your run of the mill Spring Break party melodrama featuring young ladies trying to find love but instead being preyed upon by muscle bound jerks who slip them roofies when they least expect it. This piece of plot actually looks as if it will bore you with its “Who-Slipped-The-Roofie” mystery but instead cuts it off at the pass so we can thankfully move on to the second genre, the “shark attack” picture.
There really isn’t, and should not be a “shark attack” genre, since no film or TV show will ever top “Jaws” due to the simple fact that there’s no real precedent for it. Since there is no history of movies or books about killer sharks like there are about vampires, mummies, or werewolves, we have to assume that all “Shark Attack” movies are really just ripping off “Jaws”. “Spring Break Shark Attack” knows this as well and does not care.
Here we have an attractive young cast featuring Shannon Lucio, Riley Smith, and Justin Baldoni performing in some lost episode of “The O.C.” oddly mixed with the older supporting cast of Kathy Baker and Bryan Brown. The director somehow gets both Baker and Brown to show up on set without cynicism and play their roles without shame. Brown finds himself cast as the movie’s greedy “Scooby-Doo” villain, responsible for drawing an army of tiger sharks to the shore in order to close down a rival resort. These CGI sharks arrive just in time for a full scale bikini lunch and it’s up to Lucio and Smith to save the day, just like it was for Richard Carlson and Barbara Rush in the old Jack Arnold films which this movie resembles in structure.
Amid the sound and fury of most television, director Paul Shapiro and writer James LaRosa deserve credit for simply having sly fun with a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing more than what it promises. Honestly, when was the last time you watched a movie that delivered exactly what it promised?
CBS seems to have mysterious ambitions to compete with the Sci-Fi Channel with their own slate of Sunday Night B-pictures. This is a great start. However, no matter how effective “Spring Break Shark Attack” is as an exploitation title, the Sci-Fi Channel still has them beat hands down with the unforgettable “Mansquito”.
Now, what could that be about?
Paul Shapiro (director) / James LaRosa (screenplay)
CAST: Shannon Lucio …. Danielle Harrison
Riley Smith …. Shane Jones
Justin Baldoni …. J.T.
Bianca Lishansky …. Karen
Genevieve Howard …. Alicia
Warren McAslan …. Max
Kathy Baker …. Mary Jones
Bryan Brown …. Joel Gately