For Syfy, this summer has been the Summer of Sharknado, with that particular original movie doing bang-up social media business, if not chewing up the ratings right away. There have since been a few re-airs of Sharknado that have picked up viewership, and a third re-air will take place this Thursday, Aug. 22, just ahead of the premiere of the network’s latest shark-themed original movie — Ghost Shark.
As with Sharknado, Ghost Shark is about exactly what its self-explanatory title says it is about. The monstrous antagonist is, indeed, a ghost, and a shark. Specifically, it’s the ghost of a great white shark that was tortured and killed by angry charter fishermen aboard a boat captained by heroine Ava’s (Mackenzie Rosman) father. As it is dying, the shark makes its way into a secluded cave that apparently has mystical powers, for, after death, the shark suddenly is able to live on in the form of a translucent, glowing-blue spirit (which reminded me of the “Demon Shark” from the old Scooby-Doo show) — returning to the boat and killing all aboard, including Ava’s father.
From there, the ghost shark makes its way around the small coastal area, nabbing victims at an increasingly alarming pace. Naturally, there is an attack sequence set at a beach, but thanks to Ghost Shark’s supernatural powers, it is able to make its way into literally any place that has even the slightest bit of water. Given that, we see often hilarious attacks via swimming pools, puddles, fire hydrants, bathtubs, bikini car washes, Slip ‘n Slides, sprinklers, water coolers, toilets and even a scene where the ghost shark attacks as part of falling rain. To paraphrase the tagline for Jaws 2 — just when you thought it was safe to go near the water!
(And speaking of Jaws, while all shark-attack movies owe some debt to that 1975 Spielberg classic, Ghost Shark goes beyond mere references and homages, to the point of ripping off not only scenes, but even lines, such as “Smile ya son of a bitch!” and “You’ll ignore this until it swims up and bites you in the ass!”)
Adding to the craziness is Richard Moll as drunken lighthouse keeper Finch, who knows a thing or two about that mysterious cave, and how the ghost shark may be stopped. It’s common now for Syfy to use nostalgic TV stars like Moll in their films, so it’s not too surprising to see the former Night Court star here. Moll generally plays it straight and seriously, as his character helps Ava and friends try to stop the ghost shark while hiding a dark secret of his own.
As it did with Sharknado, Syfy gets some credit for trying to do something different with the now at least 38-year-old shark-attack film genre, realizing that most viewers will no longer just sit still for action centered at a beach, or out at sea. The execution leaves a bit to be desired, though, as, until near the end, the ghost shark is kind of hard to make out when it appears. And the attack sequences, while set in creative locations (a shark attack in a sheriff’s office, etc.) don’t offer many thrills (though there are some gross-outs, for fans of that).
In all, I don’t think Ghost Shark will have the Twitter impact that Sharknado had (mainly because its title is a bit pedestrian and not hilarious enough for people to snark at even if not watching it, and I believe Sharknado‘s biggest appeal was its name), though viewers may likely tune in to see if Syfy has caught lightning in a bottle again. With Sharknado as a lead-in, anything is possible. But Ghost Shark is about as insubstantial as its title character, so you may have to wait until next summer’s Sharknado 2 for anything else approaching pop-culture icon status in terms of a Syfy shark movie.
That’s not to say Syfy won’t keep trying with other genres — this fall the network will be moving away from sharks and back to crocs and gators, with a couple of September titles including Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators, and Robocroc.
Ghost Shark premieres Aug. 22 at 9pm ET/PT on Syfy. It will be preceded by a re-air of Sharknado at 7pm ET/PT.