Malibu Shark Attack
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Malibu Shark Attack

There is a considerable amount of derision targeting the plethora of quick and cheap horror flicks. They show up in the bargain bin of the local video outlet and some find a venue for distribution as one of the growing number of ‘Saturday Night Specials’. Little flicks filling the programming void on SyFy network on the niche network that has become synonymous with bad movies. The thing is although some are truly awful they do contain a certain amount of entertainment value albeit to a varying degree. In the case of the flick under examination here, ‘Malibu Shark Attack’, admittedly it resides on the far left of the bell curve with the lesser examples. I’ve mentioned several times a pet theory of mine regarding the entertainment potential of movies such as these. Generally they fall into a specific category commonly referred to as creature features or simply monster movies. There is an exceptionally broad rang of quality to these movies with this film typical of the low end an films of such financial success and critical acclaim as the still viable ‘Alien’ franchise. Fundamentally they are all about a group of people struggling to survive the onslaught of a deadly, unstoppable monster. Many of us grew up enjoying the shallow end of this pool with the movies shown during Saturday afternoon matinees. A few were so bad that the zipper on the back of the monster suit was clearly visible as well as the occasional rip in a seam or overly worn a tattered fabric. At that age it didn’t matter, it was part of the fun. Keep in mind that this was many decades before video games, cable television and 3D movies. These cheesy flicks were pretty much all there was to pass the time. Now, watching a movie like this there is a touch of nostalgia that only someone born before the era of precise computer generated special effects can fully appreciate. When you come down to it there is very little difference between a poorly made monsters costumes an amateurish computer effects. There is nothing wrong with lowering your expectations wanting little more from a flick than a bit of mindless fun. So gather some friends over, order a pizza and chill a case of beer and forget the realism of a blockbuster movie and try on old school cheap creature feature.

This movie attempted the rare feat of pulling off a one flick double feature. As the title makes amply clear the location is the beautiful beach in southern California known as Malibu. It will also not be a surprise to find out that this peaceful ocean front community will soon be besieged by a swarm of killer sharks. Okay, been there, done it; we have all seen this kind of monster movie and known of these movies will ever approach the grandeur of the apex of these aquatic thrillers, ‘Jaws’. In an attempt to compensate the filmmaker decided to mix in liberal amounts of another popular type of popcorn flick, the disaster movie. not only the perfectly toned and sun tanned citizens of Malibu have to deal with some truly ugly type of shark thought extinct for millions of years there is a massive tsunami barreling toward the beachfront community. There is precedence for such two for the price of one deadly menace but the combination is rare enough to afford it some modicum of novelty.

Heather (Peta Wilson) is the head-lifeguard at the Malibu beach, considered as a position of some responsibility. Working with her is her former boyfriend, Chavez (Warren Christie) as well as other life guards Doug (Remi Broadway) and Barb (Sonya Salomaa). This is the traditional composition for a monster movie. The ex boyfriend provides a dynamic where there is a turbulent back story that must be put aside in order to survive the crisis. The other two offers plot potential for extraneous relationships and if need be characters that can be introduced to the audience and later sacrificed to maintain the requisite level of action and looming danger. Even though the film is generally a predicable flick it can be fun if you open yourself up to the absurdity of the premise. Think of it as ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’, the home game.

The basic tenants of the monster movie are blended with those of the disaster flick but separating the necessary elements instead of trying to blindly combine them. While an underwater seismic event is always good for a tidal wave here it also releases the long gone creature, the Goblin shark. It is so named because it looks like a genetic mash up of Batman’s Joker and the start of the Discovery Channel’s shark week. Once this common thread is established the danger bifurcates. The Goblin shack is as tenacious and viscous as it is ugly. It is moving in on the beach just as the residents are evacuating to high ground. This introduces the well used writer’s tools of the ticking time bomb, as the countdown to the wave breaking on the beach approaches and the dual edge sword of Damocles, with the shark and the wave serving to constrain the possible survival strategies. With the team of life guards in the role of heroes the potential victim pool is focused on a group of contractors working on a nearby luxurious home. This permits the growing concern of the audience to be concentrated on a specific group of people rather than the public at large. It also contains Heather’s current boyfriend, Colin (Jeffery Gannon). This is more of a disaster movie trope, featuring a subset of people that have work together to make it through certain doom. It also infuses a potential romantic triangle which is frequently found in both types of movies. So you have people warding off sharks while others can look out the window to watch the huge wall of water rapidly approach. Talk about a rock and hard place. Specific to a SyFy Saturday night special you need some actors known in the genre. Peta Wilson is best known for the television spy thriller in the lead role of ‘La Femme Nikita’. Jenny, designated damsel in distress, is portrayed by Chelan Simmons, formerly a best friend in the Sci-Fi series, ‘Kyle XY’.

Posted 06/13/12

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