Fresh, sort of, from SyFy Originals courtesy of Roger Corman's New Horizons pictures is another in the long line of fun giant monster flicks to make the direct to cable then to BluRay journey courtesy of Anchor Bay. Dinoshark, for all the subtelty of the title, is about a prehistoric monster known as a Pliosaur that, once released from an iceburg in Alaska, makes it way to eat beachgoers in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Heading off the monster action is charter fishing/snorkeling boat captain Trace McGraw (Eric Balfour), sexy marine biologist and amateur waterpolo coach Carol Brubaker (Iva Hasberger) and a CGI Pliosaur.
Dinoshark follows the very standard formula for these films, the monster appears, the hero crosses paths with the scientist, the evidence that the monster is actually around isn't believed, then the hero and scientist must act alone to save the rest of mankind.
Because it's a New Horizon's picture, Dinoshark offers plenty of CGI monster action, lots of people get eaten (we even get some well done gore that probably didn't make it to the TV cut), the exact same beachgoer music in ALL of the Corman Puerto Vallarta movies, and all of the second unit shots that appear not only in Dinoshark, but also in Dinocroc vs Supergator and Sharktopus.
That said, while, for example, Sharktopus leant towards over the top insane with regard to storytelling (Eric Roberts – cough cough –) and never managed to not be fun and certainly never boring, and Dinocrock vs. Supergator was not self referential but still extremely fun and action packed, Dinoshark is paced more like a more traditional monster movie so there are great swaths of nothing going on in between some good CGI monster bits. Typically this is where the hero and scientist girl would fall in love, or there would be some love triangle, or some earthly villain who messes up the plan to stop the monster. But none of those things are in this threadbare script. Dinoshark is ultra-straight-forward storytelling.
Once Dinoshark gets to the middle of the second act it's pretty much the same film as Sharktopus minus the evil corporate angle, an angle, mind you, that the film DESPERATELY needs.
Kevin O'Neill directs well here on his second feature for New Horizons, while this was made for TV it never forces all of the action to the dead center of the screen. If he had better actors for the principle parts there would be more to praise, but he's saddled with two extreme duds who react to the presence of the Jurassic monster with all the enthusiasm of someone finding a medium sized lump of toe jam in their flip flop. Even when they witness the brutal killings of dozens they fail to show any emotion at all. But that's a consideration of the CGI monster stuff these days anyway. We can't expect our F-grade actors to imagine a CGI Pliosaur, and we can't expect them to be afraid of one that isn't really there.
Part of the problem is the cast, Eric Balfour never brings any sort of believability to his role as a local boy done good (or at least one come back to seek his fortune) and Iva Hasburger is as convincing a marine biologist as she is a water polo coach. Second, the script by longtime Corman collaborator Frances Doel lacks any sort of romantic or sexual tension between the leads, and that's critical for making me give a shit whether or not they can kill an armored Pliosaur before it eats anymore Mexican jet skiers and surfers. Here, because it's sanitized for TV, there's not even a hint of attraction between the two.
The rest of the cast are unknowns unless you watch enough of these things to start recognizing faces and voices, which I did when the lovely and talented Liz Boughn, who was one of the stars of Sharktopus, appears in a throwaway scene here before she's eaten. But she is such a fun actress to watch that even her short time here, and the memories of her insane reporter character in Sharktopus brought a smile to my face.
The special computer effects are on par with everything that New Horizons is putting out lately, so the monsters are creative, generally well composited into the scenes, and have plenty of unique screen time to interact with (eat) non-speaking cast members. Like Dinocroc and the others, Dinoshark never fails to impress with the monster stuff. And, as if trying to make me happy, the monster is green and tan and not gray. In fact, ALL of the New Horizons monsters are colorful and creative. Kudos for that! Someone send a memo to the producers of Behemoth.
The Blu-ray from Anchor Bay comes with a nice commentary track with Producers Roger and Julie Corman and trailers for, I think, every film ever released by a Corman owned company. I swear I was chapter skipping for like five minutes before I got to the Dinoshark main menu. The Blu-Ray mastering is crisp and excellent, one of the best aspects of the Puerto Villarta films is that they all have tremendous pop and color and Blu-Ray makes that so much the better. All of the action takes place during the day too, which enhances just how good this film looks on a big HDTV.
So while Dinoshark lacks most of the fun of the other SyFy Originals from the New Horizons slate, it's paired well with pretty much any of their other offerings as a double feature.