Wednesday, January 22, 2014
"Every Town Has Its Legends..."
When I was an adolescent my brother and his buddy took me to a dollar theater for a screening of JAWS (they simply wanted to see my reaction to the head popping out of the boat hull) and since that day I've been a sucker for "nature run amok" cinema. Doesn't matter if it's land or sea, real or cryptozoological, I am all in when man's hubris, ecological tampering or misplaced curiosity comes back to bite us in the ass.
Thanks to the unquenchable thirst of outlets like SyFy Channel, Redbox, Netflix and Amazon, "when nature attacks" cinema is back with a vengeance. Whether it's a deep psychological exploration of an urban legend (2011's THE BARRENS in which Canada poorly apes the Garden State), a boobified remake of a trash classic (I'm looking at you PIRANHA 3D franchise), or a high-concept "you had me at the title" schlockfest like last summer's SHARKNADO (starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid!), nothing catches my eye quite like a cover that suggests I'll be watching some washed-up 80s pop star get eaten by a creature with the body of a crab and the head of a social worker.
Sam Qualiana's SNOW SHARK – in which an earthquake unleashes the long dormant titular creature from its icy tomb – barely attempts to disguise its ultra-high-concept ("JAWS In The Snow"). After a trio of university researchers disappear in 1999 – presumably eaten by the computer-generated-looking monster – we fast forward to the present day when another snow shark has reared its ugly head. After the monster makes a late-night snack of the local sheriff's son, things get personal and it's up to the cops, a trio of experts, and a cadre of armed hicks led by Mike (writer / director / director of photography / star) Qualiana to destroy the creature.
I have to give SNOW SHARK points for playing the ridiculous material totally straight. While the sight of the creature's dorsal fin cutting through the snow is occasionally guffaw-inducing, the flick never succumbs to the desire to wallow in parody (like the wretched, almost-unwatchable GUMS starring Brother Theodore) and never had me scrambling for the remote. And though he looks like he's late for his gig as a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator, C.J. Qualiana (the director's father) lends the proceedings a certain somber tone and gravitas as the widowed sheriff who has just lost his ne'er do well son to the creature.
Like MACHETE, MACHETE KILLS, THANKSKILLING 3 and other faux grindhouse concepts, SNOW SHARK is probably an idea that plays better as a two-minute trailer or short than a fleshed-out feature. There's perhaps a couple lead characters too many and despite its 79-minute running time I found my interest starting to wander during multiple viewings. But, like a cheap fast food meal grabbed during a long road trip, SNOW SHARK knows what it is and never raises your expectations too high, and there's something to be said for that.
The 27-year-old Qualiana -– who won the Filmmaker to Watch Award at the 2010 Buffalo Screams Horror Film Festival – is currently back in the writer/director/actor chair for the upcoming found footage monster flick THE LEGEND OF SIX FINGERS. Based on what he accomplished with SNOW SHARK I'll certainly give it a look.
SNOW SHARK is available from Amazon.