Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shark Attack in the Mediterranean (2004)

Directed by: Jorgo Papavassiliou

Written by: Jorg Alberts, Roland Heep, Frank Koopman, Don Schubert
Starring: Ralf Moeller, Julia Bennet, Gregor Bloeb

When I pushed PLAY on Netflix Instant, and the titles came up in German, with an overly enthusiastic narrator hollering, "Shark Alarm, Mallorca!" over them, which is a completely different title than the one the movie's listed under, I knew I was in for a treat.  What we have here is apparently a made for German TV (which would explain why our only hint of nudity is a modest flash of side-boob - but I thought European TV was more permissive?) movie that cashes in on the Charcarodon megalodon craze in the direct to video market in the first half of the decade, started by Steve Alten's MEG novels and the ever-present hum of rumors that they will be turned into big-budget Hollywood flicks.

I'm sure I'm not the only one out there deeply disappointed that this hasn't happened yet, but the glut of DTV movies that can't afford licensing fees but taking advantage of the fact that no one owns a license on an extinct fish has made me just as happy as it has all of you.  And maybe a few of you weren't aware of the existence of this and just can't do enough to sate your megalodon cravings, and now you've got one more fix til we can all band together, all ten of us, and see one of these things in the theater.

Sven Hansen is a helicopter pilot who lost his wife to a giant shark several years ago.  He lives with his daughter now in Mallorca, helping the coast guard and doing whatever a helicopter pilot can do to make ends meet in a tiny tourist community.  That is, until he's hired to fly a new scientist, Julia Bennet, in to the island to study at the Oceanographic Institute, or whatever passes for it in German TV movies.  When a series of mutilations ("This was no boating accident!") and monster sightings start to demolish the tourist trade, he and Bennet discover that the head scientist at the institute has cloned and lost control of a megalodon in her search for a cancer cure, and that it's grown to full size in the waters around the island and is now eating the tourists and fishermen.

While this flick was made to jump on a bandwagon very specific to the first part of the 21st century, it seems like seems like it would have been more at home in the late 70's.  The dubbing is ridiculous, the acting is so bad it shows through the dub, the leaps in logic and pseudo-science would have done the worst Italian exploitation programmer proud.  Yet, for all the jaw-droppingly unbelievable dialog (the actors make about a 50/50 split pronouncing the shark's name correctly, and calling it a MEG-uhl-ODIN, not only from scene to scene but within the same goddamn sentence!) and terrible acting, the FX team responsible for the sharks displays an understanding of lighting effects and an appreciation for minor details like the way gill slits move during an attack that make the not-entirely-anatomically correct creatures look incredibly realistic for how cheap they must have been.  That doesn't chance the fact that they sped them up to the point that they move more like dolphins than sharks, but the Sciy-Fiy Chyannel could take a few notes from these guys on how to make cheap digital critters look better than Sega Genesis graphics.

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