Jaws is the best film ever made. Because of this, everyone and their cousins were inspired to make a shark movie. Some were either courageous enough or stupid enough to actually get their shark movies made. There are A LOT of shark movies. In spite of all my poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’, I am going to watch them all. I don’t know what will be left of me afterwards.
The Flick: Ghost Shark (2013)
The Chum: Mackenzie Rosman, Dave Randolph-Mayhem Davis, Sloane Coe, Jaren Mitchell, Lucky Johnson and Richard Goddamn Moll (actors), Griff Furst (director)
Species of Shark: Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) that turns into a ghost shark (Carscaredon carscareias)
The Meat of the Movie: It’s a little late for Halloween, I know, but a Fin Flick about a spectral shark is appropriate for any time of the year. To be honest, it’s always Halloween in my head. I actually thought it was going to take me a lot longer before I dove into the putrid depths of SyFy (pronounce it sif-fee until they change it back) shark movies, but since this was recommended by Chewer longshot08, I figured I’d give it a look-see.
My life is now divided into two parts: before Ghost Shark and after Ghost Shark.
This transformative milestone kicks off with a shot of a dorsal fin slowly approaching a boat. Not even ten seconds have passed and we have the promise of shark shenanigans. Though our dermal denticled friend is still corporeal at this point, I applaud Ghost Shark for coming out of the gate with what we came to see. On board the vessel is a father and daughter trying to land an amberjack (I deduced this was a type of fish because they are using a fishing pole) before midnight in order to win some contest with a $30,000 cash prize. The dad is a Duck Dynasty reject and his daughter is doing her absolute best to channel her spirit animal, the howler monkey. She succeeds.
Just as Papa Smurf’s Alabama-born cousin is about to reel in his championship catch, the star of the show chomps it in half. This sends Bayou Santa Claus into a fit of Hulkamania, and he decides to straight up murder one of creation’s most perfect creatures. Not content with shooting it in the eye with an arrow, he adds injury to injury by (I can’t make this shit up) pouring hot sauce on its face. It’s official: this shark is now the underdog hero of the film. The neanderthals cap it off by throwing a grenade into the shark’s mouth (because two free hand grenades come with every purchase of a tackle box at Furious Freddy’s Fanatic Fishing Emporium), which somehow doesn’t Jaws 3 the bejesus out of its head. Just so I can hate these characters even more, Howler Monkey says, “Smile you son of a bitch!’ just before lobbing the grenade. Come on, Ghost Shark. You’re better than that.
Or maybe it’s not, since this film is littered with the usual Jaws yoinks that these films like to pass off as homage, when in reality it only reminds you that you could instead be watching The Best Film Ever Made (rank not subject to debate, regardless of our Supreme Leader’s eventual decision). The only bit of pilfering that actually manages to be charming is the shark itself, which is an obvious attempt at replicating the same model from Spielberg’s film. You know, the one whose face looks like the sharkified version of the Zuni fetish doll from Trilogy of Terror.
Anywhohow, turns out that Not Yet Ghost Shark manages to swim over to some nearby cave with Adobe After Effects symbols inside of it, and this causes the film’s title to take effect. So, basically, this is the somewhat Pet Sematary of Jaws ripoffs. This is a plus in my book.
After getting chastised by the boat’s captain, our father and daughter duo of Larry the Cable Guy fans get Ghost Sharked. Captain Gets About Three or Four Lines of Dialogue is stunned, and it’s in this moment that he stares down at a bucket of water on the boat. The bucket radiates with an otherworldly glow, and the Cap is Ghost Sharked (offscreen. Boo.) while Howler Monkey’s camcorder records the carnage. It’s just like the opening of Jaws 2, but not good and with Ghost Shark!
Once the lazy opening credits are through establishing nothing other than our setting (Beachtown Beach, USA for all intents and purposes), we get to meet our cast of chums. Hooray, they are all ambiguous twentysomethings acting like teenagers. That’s never annoying. We’ve got interchangeable pretty girls (the blonde bimbo, the beautiful brain and her “act older than I am” younger sister), the Stay Puft Gamergater, a mongoloid Donald Glover, and Blaise. I couldn’t come up with anything more awful than what the screenwriter gave this character for a name. His face and acting skills are like Play-Doh that your little brother sat on and flattened. Burnt wheat toast with no butter is more stimulating and engaging than Blaise.
As these affronts to thespians everywhere do their party thing, we meet the film’s Crazy Ralph, the widowed lighthouse keeper, Finch. Finch is played by one of the best B-movie actors of all time, Richard Moll. Though his most popular role was probably Bull the bailiff on Night Court, Chewers would know him as the best part of films like The Sword and the Sorcerer and Ragewar a.k.a. The Dungeonmaster. Personally, Moll will always be Harvey Dent in my mind. In Ghost Shark, Moll’s character is a drunkard with a seaside shrine to a fifty-five year old Chloe Sevigny in his lighthouse living quarters.
Back on the beach, we find out that Brainy and her sis are the daughters of the recently deceased Captain One Scene, as they see his boat floating off in the distance and decide to swim out to it. They find Howler Monkey’s camcorder and their dad’s bloodied hat. Meanwhile, more exciting stuff is happening closer to shore. Bimbo is doing an Alex Kintner impression when she’s bolted into the air by Ghost Shark. As she swims for safety, mongoloid Donald Glover (his name is Cameron. I guess I’ll call him that) comes on his jet ski to help her out, thinking she’s screaming because she lost her bikini. A noble man this Cameron is. She yanks Cameron off of his jet ski and guns it towards dry land. Unfortunate for her (but fortunate for us), Ghost Shark is a fan of Fin Flicks and read my Shark Night 3D entry. Ghost Shark perfectly emulates the Best Meal from that movie, leaving Bimbo as half the woman she used to be.
The movie then cuts to black, and that’s when I remember that this was a made-for-TV affair, and I mentally prepare for such other abrupt blackouts to occur. These annoy me more than needle scratches in comedy trailers.
Everyone back on the beach is moping around, being all sad about a character we’ve known for maybe ten minutes at best, when the town sheriff shows up. This guy is The Mad Hatter wearing Tommy Lee Jones’ skin for a Halloween costume.
The sheriff questions our incredibly-emotionally-stable-for-seeing-a-Ghost-Shark group of survivors, and just can’t accept the description everyone has been giving him. Richard Moll manifests himself to put the idea of ghosts into our characters’ noggins (and tease some “town secrets” backstory for later), and the mayor stops by to establish that he’s Cameron’s dad. The mayor is played by raspy-voiced actor Lucky Johnson, and he is possibly my favorite person in this film. Of course he’s doing the typical Larry Vaughn thing by telling his son not to mention any shark, but my favorite thing is that he’s a mayor with a gold grill on his bottom row of teeth. More political candidates need to have grills. I trust a man in a suit more if he has a grill.
The gang heads over to the police station to watch the footage Sister A and Sister B found on their dad’s boat. Sister A uses all the stealth skills she learned playing Syphon Filter 2 back in 2000 to insert a flash drive into the sheriff’s computer and steal the footage using TECHNOLOGY SKILLS. Then, the best scene in the film (that doesn’t involve Richard Moll or Ghost Shark) occurs. Cameron gets all bummed out because he forgot that he’s hosting a pool party and everyone is going to be there ohmygod! Sister A has the appropriate reaction of, “Are you being an actual human being right now?” Cameron then doubles down on his awfulness by suggesting that they turn the pool party into a memorial for their fallen comrade. A pool party memorial. His eventual death is now cemented, and I await it anxiously.
On their drive back home, The Sisters pass by a badly ADR-ed Richard Moll and ask him if he knows anything about Ghost Shark. The Moll slams his fist on the hood of their car, and marches off to try and get Albert Pyun to reconsider bringing him back for the third Sword and the Sorcerer film, How Xusia Got His Groove Back.
We then go to the memorial pool party where Blaise is diddling about on his phone, when he notices a familiar glow in the pool. After getting chastised by Stay Puft Gamergater about not having fun, Blaise heads over to The Sisters’ house to watch the camcorder footage and attempt to be a romantic lead. He succeeds at one of these endeavors. Back at the party, a couple of dudebros are repeatedly calling each other “ass clown” as if it’s the most heinous slur you could ever hurl at someone. Tattooed Dudebro pushes Polo Shirt Dudebro through a fence and then defiantly dives into the pool, only to have Ghost Shark shoot into the sky and Ghost eat him. Everyone stares into the sky, and then Tattooed Dudebro’s head lands perfectly on top of someone’s champagne bottle.
For a guy that just got Ghost Shark-ed, that head looks incredibly serene.
Everyone flips out, but Stay Puft Gamergater just can’t get out of the pool fast enough. Cameron tries to pull him out, but is too late. I love that as Cameron is pulled into the pool himself, he doesn’t immediately get out of the water like any rational person. No, he sits on the bottom of the pool and grabs at his hair, lamenting his recently Ghost Shark-ed buddy.
All the kids convene at Cameron’s house as the cops pull a mannequin head out of the pool (oh, I guess that’s supposed to be Tattooed Dudebro’s head) and Mayor Dad asks Cameron if he and his friends were on bath salts and started eating each other. The sheriff says he doesn’t want to hear any more Ghost Shark nonsense, and Sister A deflates more of my love for this movie by quoting Matt Hooper, saying that this is going to “swim up and bite you in the ass.” *sigh*. The mayor kicks everyone out, but then Deputy Hendricks (his name is actually Hendricks. God damn it, Ghost Shark) shows the mayor and the sheriff a cell phone video of Tattooed Dudebro getting Ghost Shark-ed. I had to do some research on this, but I found out that the deputy is actually the anally-birthed love-child of Larry Drake and Garry Shandling (Larry was the one who carried him to term).
Now comes the sequence that makes Ghost Shark worthy of your time. We’re shown a series of unconnected events taking place (a plumber fixing a sink, some kids setting up a Slip ‘n Slide, and a doofy kid taking a car to one of those “girls in bikinis” car washes) while knowingly suspenseful music plays. Yes, they are all Ghost Shark-ed in rapid succession. The plumber is sucked into the pipes, one of the kids playing on the Slip ‘n Slide slides right into Ghost Shark’s eager maw (gif provided below), and the car washers are yanked around and pulled down into their soapy water buckets. The kid inside the car turns the wipers on to wipe off the bloodied windshield, and then he starts crying. His sobs are like nitrous oxide to me.
The kids decide to go visit The Moll because plot momentum, who proves that not even an actor of his caliber can play convincingly drunk, but he sure can yell like the best of them. He clues the kids into the power of the pet ceme… er, the magic cave. Meanwhile, Sister B is preparing to take a bath. Good thing she doesn’t notice the glowing fin directly behind her. She gets yanked around a bit, but Ghost Shark spits her out for some unknown reason. Ghost Shark works in mysterious ways. Amazingly, the other three kids teleport to Sister B’s bathroom just in time to save her. They do a Google search on “creepy lighthouse keeper” and find that The Moll’s wife drowned near the magic cave. They then use free association to decide they need to go to the local maritime museum. Cameron also says out loud (in case you haven’t figured it out yet) that Ghost Shark shows up anywhere that there’s water. There has to be some limitation on this rule, since most of the human body is made up of water. Wouldn’t Ghost Shark be ripping through people left and right if that were the case? I wonder if we’ll get to see that at all…
Our intrepid lead characters get to the maritime museum and get a history lesson from a guy that has definitely cried himself to sleep at night because of all the roles he’s lost to Christopher Walken.
He tells them about a story about some shady stuff that the community’s ancestors did, and it somehow involves the magic cave having the power to turn people into ghosts. Much like Cameron telling us about the shark’s water manifesting powers, this is all stuff we’ve already put together. Your audience is smarter than you give them credit for, Ghost Shark. You know who isn’t smart? Cameron. He tosses a still lit cigarette into a trashcan, causing a little fire. That sets off the sprinklers in the building, and Ghost Shark appears to de-arm Walken-lite while he’s picking up a lighthouse model that fell over. I hope that’s what they put on his tombstone: “He died trying to save a toy lighthouse.” Ghost Shark’s appetite isn’t quite sated, and it finally takes out Cameron.
Don’t worry, Cameron. I’m sure they’ll throw you a memorial pool party.
Back at the sheriff’s station, the mayor is trying to get a handle on the reports coming in of people witnessing a Ghost Shark-ing. Some guy (I think he’s the mayor’s PR person) steps out of the office and goes to get a cup of water from the water cooler. The water in the cup starts glowing. Yes. Yes. YES.
After taking a sip, he starts convulsing. Blood shoots from his mouth. He makes it into the sheriff’s office just in time to give the sheriff and the mayor something they’re going to remember for a long time. Ghost Shark rips this guy from the inside out, and I start clapping so loudly and continuously that my neighbors call in a noise complaint.
I think what I find even more gut-busting than the actual death is the reaction the sheriff and mayor have.
That is some Lovecraft-ian, brain-melting, lose-all-sense-of-reality stuff they’ve just seen, but they both look like they’re watching Chris Klein’s performance in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.
Sister A goes to find The Moll since he has some spell book that will take care of Ghost Shark. At the same time, Blaise and Sister B are driving… somewhere and run into a group of kids playing with an open fire hydrant. Blaise tries to use some of his trademarked charm on them, but he’s mentally bested by a ten year old that steals the award for “Best Actor in a Movie with a Ghost Shark In It.” Yes, I’m counting Richard Moll. This kid is great. He talks tough and even flexes his muscles to scare off Blaise and Sister B.
Like all great young actors, he is cut down in his prime when Ghost Shark shows up and slices him and his friend in half. This movie has unapologetic kid deaths. Touchdown, Ghost Shark.
The sheriff tells the mayor about Cameron’s death, so they hijack The Sisters’ dead dad’s boat to go hunting for the beast. Is this really necessary? Couldn’t they just walk back inside the police station and hang out by the water cooler? Anyway, the sheriff isn’t terribly happy with the mayor’s course of action. Thankfully, he doesn’t have very long to be unhappy because Ghost Shark Ghost Sharks him pretty quickly. What’s great is that he’s getting dragged around in the water while the mayor tries to shoot Ghost Shark. The mayor actually shoots the sheriff in the back, delivering the killing blow. You could argue that it was a mercy kill, but the way it plays out, it’s a total accident and the mayor doesn’t even care. These are the foolish little reasons I’m loving this flick. Well, the mayor goes below decks for some reason and sits down on the toilet. I bet you can guess where this is going.
Sister A finds The Moll inside the pet ceme… dammit, magic cave and they read goofy sounding Latin from the spell book The Moll stole from the maritime museum. Turns out they need to kill Ghost Shark with the object that originally killed it. They take the crossbow bolt out of Ghost Shark’s corpse, lure it to the shore, and stab it in its Ghostface, causing it to shake mid-air (this is the worst the effects ever look in this pretty cheesy looking film) and explode. Everyone prematurely celebrates as The Moll reaches down to pick up the bolt, and gets his fingers chomped off. Ooookay. Looks like we’ve got twenty more minutes of movie left.
They regroup back at The Moll’s underground cave and decide that it’s the cave they need to destroy. The Moll is totally against this idea because it means his wife’s ghost will go away forever. …Huh? Turns out that The Moll accidentally killed his wife when they were fighting one time, and it all took place inside the magic cave. Why haven’t we seen Ghost Wife at all? This makes almost no sense, but it does provide us with proof that there is a benevolent force in this world, and its medium of representation is Richard Moll’s face.
We’re graced with another glorious visage when The Moll rows out to The Sisters’ dead dad’s boat and discovers the corpse of the mayor stuffed inside a toilet.
The Moll goes back to his place and tries to figure out a way to defeat Ghost Shark without blowing up the magic cave, when the spell book flies from his hands and knocks over his wife’s urn. Her face appears in the dust, smiles and then goes away. I’m beyond comprehending any attempt this film undergoes in regards to plot. Let’s just get to some final Ghost Shark-ing.
The whole group sets up dynamite in the cave, and it just happens to start raining. Yes, that means Ghost Shark can now divebomb from the sky. This is how The Moll meets his end. It sounds cooler than it actually looks, considering some of the wackier and bloodier kills we’ve gotten up to this point. If I’m being completely honest, the finale of Ghost Shark is probably the weakest part of the whole film when it comes to actual Ghost Shark-ing. There’s some near misses, Blaise and Sister B get trapped in a shed with Ghost Shark just inches away from them, and Sister A detonates the bombs just before Ghost Shark has a chance to Ghost Shark her. Blaise and Sister B think she’s died in the blast, but she pulls the old Hooper Surprise and pops out of the water. Everyone dives into the water and starts swimming around (they must be really confident that they succeeded), and just so the movie can leave me on a groan, Blaise quotes Matt Hooper by asking, “What day is it today?” You were right there at the finish line, Ghost Shark. You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?
Another fun credits grab shows up with John Williams being listed as the camera loader. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
After this article is finished, I hope I never have to write the words “Ghost Shark” ever again.
Best Meal: This might be the first time I am legitimately conflicted as to which kill should be titled the Best Meal. There are a lot of great deaths in this film, but if I had to pick only one, it’s the guy getting split in half from the inside. It’s a better effect than some of the more fun kills, and I did rewind it twice because I found it so enjoyable.
How the Shark Gets Sushi-ed: Technically, our shark gets sushi-ed three times. When it was flesh and blood, it’s shot in the eye with a crossbow bolt and then grenaded for good measure. Later, our heroine stabs Ghost Shark with the bolt, exploding its ectoplasmic form. Apparently, this didn’t actually kill it, so our heroes blow up the cave that holds Ghost Shark’s physical remains, finally sending it to the big fishbowl in the sky.
The Mindless Eating Machine: A fairly decent (but somewhat dinky) puppet recreation of the original “Bruce” model from Jaws that gets aided by some CGI to give it that ooky spooky glow/transparency and have it fly around everywhere. There’s a few CGI shark bits too, like Ghost Shark’s corpse in the cave.
Shark Stupidity: It’s all right there in the film’s title, man. Don’t make me recount the entire movie again. I will add that Ghost Shark falls victim to some Jaws: The Revenge growling, but I chalk that up to ghost powers.
Hilarity Factor: For a film like this, it’s not as non-stop as you’d expect. There’s all the prerequisite silliness inherent in the concept, and there’s a few snippets of bad line readings or stunted performances, but it’s not going to switch you onto Hyena Mode like Up from the Depths did for me. Still, you’ll laugh more than enough during the running time.
Sink or Swim?: I think I should take this moment to reiterate that this is a curved grading scale. Of course Ghost Shark is not a good movie. But for a shark movie, and a SyFy produced one at that, it’s a definite Swim. I find it nearly impossible to get into these detrimentally self-aware joke movies (Sharknado lovers, dread my eventual article on that film), so the fact that I found myself coasting along comfortably with Ghost Shark means it must have been doing something right. The stupid premise allows for some gratifying tongue-in-cheek deaths, and the movie doesn’t drag as much as a lot of these films tend to do. I fear I may have spoiled myself when it comes to SyFy shark flicks, because I know there’s some Cenobite-level torture coming down the road on that front. All in all, Ghost Shark is fine. If nothing else, it gives the world more Richard Moll faces to appreciate. Have one on your way out.
Next Time: Fire is the Devil Fish‘s only friend.
previous Fin Flicks