This curious but ultimately pointless and flat semi parody of “Jaws”, “Piranha” and “Blood Beach” tends to leave the impression that its only lasting joke is the one being played on the hapless viewer. It’s actually quite hard to pin-point exactly what the aim of this movie ever was. Is it a b-movie creature feature piss take of the sort that’s recently come to (largely unwanted) prominence in the wake of “Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus”? If so, why spend so much time snidely referencing “Jaws”, when there’s little this low budget non-entity can do to better what is still a classic of the genre. Is it, then, simply intended as a respectful tribute to that glut of post-Jaws 1980s water-based terror pics? After all, the original “Piranha” still has its fans and even the once despised “Blood Beach” has attained some degree of misplaced nostalgia value recently. But if that was the original intention then the increasingly absurd cartoonish lead characters and the screenplay’s reliance on bad sand-based puns throughout, appears both unnecessary and glib. The fact that the science-and-common-sense-defying titular mutant sharks have clearly been artificially concocted in a production meeting purely as a means of enabling some sort of reference during the course of the movie to every sand-based monster flick of recent memory, in the end saddles the proceedings with such a witless premise that screenwriters Cameron Larson and Jo Benkis must have felt compelled to ladle on the bad jokes just to make sure everyone was aware that none of this is meant to be taken in the least bit seriously. Yet, even then, the humour remains patchy and uneven; large parts of the film are played almost straight while others seem to be aiming for a ludicrously exaggerated comic effect, such as the scene in which a particularly idiotic and unsympathetic character tries to reassure a victim, who has just been bitten clean in half by one of the beach dwelling sharks, that ‘she’s gonna be okay’ -- while all the while gingerly trying to prod bits of trailing gut and intestine back into her severed torso.
The film is actually pretty bloodless apart from one neat decapitation effect and the aforementioned scene near the end; the rest of the gore os rubbery-looking. Mainly it serves as a showcase for a clutch of former American soap, reality or TV stars (although unless you live in the states you won’t know any of them), who between each of them, demonstrate a confusing array of performance styles made up of both intentionally deadpan and unintentionally wooden varieties, sandwiched between those who are just hamming it up for ‘laughs’. For a full synopsis I refer you to the plot of “Jaws”: the film makes no attempt to conceal the fact that “Jaws” is its ultimate reference point, even remounting all the same famous scenes from that movie with barely an ironic wink.
The only difference this time is that rather than a Great White terrorising a Florida beach community, here we have the prospect of mad mutant sand sharks doing likewise … by which, I don’t mean sand sharks as in tiger sharks, but actual ‘sand’ sharks -- as in sharks that ‘swim’ in sand. Even more specifically, sharks that don’t so much burrow or tunnel through sand, but which have implausibly evolved the ability to slice through resort beaches like they were made of butter, their dorsal fins all the while protruding in the traditional manner. The resort town unlucky enough to suffer this irrational outbreak of impossible nonsense also has a dopey Mayor with a wayward son called Jimmy Green (Corin Nemic) who has come back to his home town after getting himself in trouble with the mob, and is now in need of quick and easy cash. This leads him to the idea of mounting a big beach party event in the style of The Burning Man festival, although this one is intended more for drunk students on spring break.
Father and son are both particularly keen on the event going ahead; the former because it promises to regenerate the town’s failing economy and the latter because he wants to pay off some dubious debts. However, a large spanner is thrown in the works when two bikers go missing on the sand in circumstances that nominally suggest a shark attack -- except for the fact that the only remains of the two joy-riders that were found materialised too far up the beach for sharks to be a factor in their deaths. Eventually the truth is revealed to the brother and sister cop duo put in charge of patrolling the area (Rob Aguire and Vanessa Lee Evigan) and keeping holidaymakers safe while the local store owners and businesses fret over the prospect of closed beaches in peak season and the mayor and Jimmy plot to do everything in their power to ignore and downplay the threat, even after witnessing a massive CGI shark springing out of the sand and gobbling up the electrician who is wiring up the sound system for Jimmy’s beach event.
Even though his own father eventually also gets munched, Jimmy persuades himself that once the one mutant shark has been dealt with everything can go back to normal and the event can go ahead as planned. Wrong! As Jimmy and his equally ruthless team of assistants (Julie Berman & Amanda Gore) prepare to preside over the biggest event the town has seen in years, a local marine biologist sporting the extraordinary name Sandy Powers (and bizarrely cast with Brooke - daughter of Hulk - Hogan in the role) determines from analysis of a tooth recovered from the dead creature that it was only a relative new-born, and that the parent shark must also still be in the area. Cue massive beach slaughter! As it turns out, the buxom blonde scientist with a penchant for low-cut tops (a particularly decorative advantage when leaning over microscope slides) is also quite wrong … there is actually a whole school of sand-based, sharp-toothed shark monsters still out there on the loose, and Jimmy’s thumping sound system is drawing them all towards the unsuspecting revelers!
Director Mark Atkins actually does a proficient enough job in setting the scene for the swathes of cartoony CGI sharks that soon being to clutter the screen. But even if you’re prepared to suspend disbelief and accept sharks that can literally swim through beaches, sifting the weight of several tons of sand in a split second and without suffocating to death, the entire basis of the flimsy plot is even then somewhat undone when it becomes apparent that the big beach festival (the event that is meant to revive the economy of the town and is so necessary for financial wellbeing that it drives Jimmy to ignore beach slaughter on a massive scale and then cause the deaths of several people closest to him) ends up consisting of no more than perhaps a dozen people, who are shown vaguely bopping about on the beach to a non-descript bed of club music on the soundtrack!
The humour gets more and more broad in an increasingly futile attempt to compensate for the lameness of it all, and the nadir of silliness is finally reached when we’re presented with a giant shark that swims through a beachside cliff. The “Jaws” homage goes into overdrive for the final act, of course, as a salty old seadog (Robert Pike Daniel) sporting a presumably deliberately bad Irish accent, turns up to save the day in tribute to Robert Shaw, and a shark predictably gets to explode after having a gas canister jammed into its mouth. Yet this kind of tribute ends up feeling more like lazy plagiarism, exercised for want of any real imagination rather than the true homage it probably intends itself to be. The film does pull off one unexpected coup by killing off a main character in a particularly gruesome manner, but other than that the whole thing drifts by in a haze of insignificance, the sheer repetition of the supposedly ‘surprise’ shark attacks becoming wearisome long before the ridiculous denouement.
“Sand Sharks” comes to DVD in the UK courtesy of Chelsea Films. A bare bones release aside from inclusion of a theatrical trailer, the transfer and 5.1 audio English audio are perfectly adequate. Subtitles for the hard of hearing are included.