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SHARK ATTACK (director: Bob Misiorowski; screenwriters: Scott Devine/William Hooke; cinematographer: Lawrence Sher; editor: Gerard Jakuhowicz; music: George Colbert; cast: Casper Van Dien (Steven McKray), Jenny McShane (Corinne DeSantis), Ernie Hudson (Laurence Rhodes), Bentley Mitchum (Dr. Miles Craven), Tony Caprari (Mani), Chris Olley (Police Chief), Jacob Makgoba (Machete Policeman), Mark DeSantis (Cordell McQueen), Simo Mogwaza (Tanka); Runtime: 100; Trimark; 1999)
“I didn’t expect to see a Jaws, but at least the story should have been better acted.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Despite its low-budget constraints this “B” film thriller is still beautifully shot on location in Port Alfred, South Africa, but in the film the port goes by the fictional name of Port Amanzi. The cinematography of the sharks in action is the only thing bearable about this conventional thriller.

A marine biologist stationed in Florida, Steven McKray (Casper Van Dien), receives an email from his close scientist friend Mark DeSantis in South Africa about the strange recent outbreak of frequent bloody shark attacks and Steven goes there to help him find out the cause. When he gets to that depressed fishing village, Mark’s attractive grieving sister Corinne (Jenny McShane) tells him Mark was eaten by a shark.

At the scientific research center where Mark was working under Dr. Miles Craven (Bentley Mitchum), Steven becomes suspicious when Miles tries to avoid him and gives him a phony excuse for the sudden appearance of so many aggressively hungry sharks — saying its because of the ‘red tide.’

The local fishermen are going out of business because of this influx of attacking sharks, which coincides with the time the science research team came. The fishermen hate the Americans and the scientists, blaming them for the mess. Meanwhile local financier Laurence Rhodes (Ernie Hudson) is suspiciously gobbling up all the fishing businesses and properties in town, and in a mean-spirited way is forcing the fishermen to foreclose to him.

The fishermen are antagonistic to Steven because he’s a scientist, and in one bar the hunk scientist is so unwelcome that he has to fight his way out of it. But he makes some amends when he saves a fisherman’s daughter from being attacked by a shark.

One of the stock characters is the zany Mani (Caprari), a fisherman now forced into becoming a taxi driver. He’s hired by Steven and the two hit it off, as Mani goes beyond the call of duty and watches Steven’s back from all the enemies that are after him.

Steven finds ‘thumpers’ underwater; they are sounds used to attract sharks. He is puzzled why they are placed near these waters, as the idea is to keep the sharks away and not draw them into the port.

When Steven goes on a shark dive with Corinne, he discovers the sharks have steroids and that infects their brain so that they are always hungry and ready to attack. Miles apparently benefits from his experiments on these sharks by creating a vaccine to cure cancer. In his unethical experiments he vaccinates a young boy cancer victim with a hormone taken from the infected sharks who survive cancer, even though the drug has not been approved as a medicine. Miles dreams of becoming rich and famous, but the drug only has a temporary effect and soon the boy gets very sick.

The film becomes a murder investigation, as Steven is now positive the sharks were chemically-altered and that someone wants the fishermen out of the way. He’s surrounded by corrupt police, unethical scientists, scheming businessmen, angry fishermen, and hostile natives. But Steven and Corinne take solace in their tepid love and team up with Mani to fight all the bad guys, until they get to the bottom of who can benefit the most by these sharks going on a human feeding frenzy.

It was dull going. The dialogue was woeful, the acting was horrid (the supporting cast haltingly speak in untrue foreign accents), the script was weak, and the direction was inadequate. I didn’t expect to see a Jaws, but at least the story should have been better acted. If you’re looking for some comedy, there’s a dreadfully sick scene or two of a cackling policeman throwing a scientist to the sharks. But this was not funny, it was sick. The film will not reach the box-office success of the also poorly done Deep Blue Sea, but will probably find a spot on late night cable and could appeal to those who are not that discerning and like to watch sharks attacking people.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”