Three friends travel to Katzman Cove for a boating trip only to find the town terrorised by an abominable Nazi super shark.
“Throughout the ages, one legend has survived the span of time. Never dying, never stopping and always terrifying…” and so Sharkenstein unfolds. After teasing digitally scratched, black and white snippets of a stammering Frankenstein’s monster, the Third Reich raid a WW2 medical compound run by a mad scientist/ Colonel Sanders lookalike, in attempt to steal the research of the legendary Dr. Frankenstein. As one of Sharkenstein’s key characters points out, there have been a wide variety of adaptations and iterations of Mary Shelly’s classic novel over the years. Most recently, I, Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein and Bernard Rose’s Frankenstein have graced our silver screens while Universal have scheduled a re-jig starring Javier Barden as the monster. Meanwhile, shark movies also seem to be knocked out in abundance. With The Shallows due to arrive in UK cinemas next month, the Sharknado franchise readies its fourth instalment while Dolph Lundgren’s Shark Lake and Shark Exorcist are both due to arrive for home viewing. With both subgenre elements in full bloom, now seems the perfect time to meld the horror behemoths into a colossal crossbreed/ cinematic stink-bomb.
From the director of Bigfoot Vs Zombies, Jurassic Prey and Amityville Death House (we’re in safe hands) comes Sharkenstein: a purposely botched yet colourful concoction that’s a cosmos away from the genius of Jaws yet better than its sequels and all the Sharknados. But before you start prowling the streaming sites or tracking down the Blu-ray, beware: as you can probably guess, Sharkenstein is an iridescent slap of cinematic crud and a far cry from fine art. Or is it? Many modern b-movies make a point of trying to be terrible because they know there are people out there who simply love bad cinema. But while it’s irrefutably easier to make a bad movie than a good one, it can’t be easy to intentionally make a movie that is so bad it’s genuinely funny: utilising the lack of budget to mine comedy while adorning the hammy aspects that made the old Ed Wood or Roger Corman “classics” so lovingly admired by some film fanatics. With this in mind, the act of melding a self-mocking pastiche with a serious horror movie and making it work, is closer to a fine art than one might imagine, especially when considering the countless productions that have attempted this and failed miserably.
Irony is so ingrained in pop culture at the moment, most characters in mainstream films act like they know they are in a movie by constantly self-referencing/ deprecating/ mocking. In some cases they break the fourth wall to directly acknowledge the film they are in and the franchise it’s a part of. On the surface, Sharkenstein is indubitably turgid but it manages to deliver some seemingly, genuinely, ironically claptrap performances that are possibly crafted to be worse than the actor’s capabilities (unless I’m reading too much into it and they are just actually rubbish). Cruddy but funny special effects soil the screen as though conjured by the brain-damaged lovechild of Ray Harryhausen and Monty Python. Fuzzy CG clouds of blood dissipate under water, accompanied by carrot crunching sound effects as divers get masticated and hilariously creaky dialogue tickles the humdrum narrative. The shark shimmies awkwardly like a glob of haunted sputum, a grey bogie gone bad with studs, nuts and bolts or a CG streak smeared across a fish phlegm. The monster doesn’t look remotely tangible, just a shark shaped smudge while some of the close up shots appear to be filmed through a fish tank. After getting struck by lightening, the fish swiftly mutates into a land traipsing super-beast with arms (and biceps), picking up a cow and then raping a retired porn star. Another memorable scene sees a fisherman’s whole body being bitten off, leaving nothing but his feet on the dock.
Director Mark Polonia has spent no expense, capturing Sharkenstein on, what appears to be obsolete, analogue camcorders (not true, just looks that way) then doctoring it using cheap digital software for that synthetic cinematic lustre. The characters are plastic, repeatedly sprouting crap dialogue with astounding conviction. A Harbour patrolman/ husky hero who hides behind a ginger beard and dark sunglasses emits such ear worms as: “Eat shit Frankenstein! This is for you!” before giving the fish the finger, only to later secrete “What a grotesque mockery of man and fish”. Meanwhile, a power-mad German scientist called Klaus controls the shark’s mind from a dilapidated cabin and wants to start a “legion of indestructible shark warriors” using the preserved/ reanimated heart and mind of Frankenstein’s monster. “Are you ready for your first assignment?” Klaus asks the shark before sending it off to chomp on a bunch of diving lawman. “How would you feel if you woke up in a shark’s body?” Klaus asks another character as though it was something that everybody should consider at least once in their life. In terms of budget, there is no denying Sharkenstein makes Sharknado look like a film by Terrence Malick but, despite its intentional and unintentional defects (crew reflected in character’s sunglasses etc), this is still more entertaining than Knight of Cups.
Words: Daniel Goodwin (@privateutopias)