Last night, SyFy’s Shark Week continued with the premiere of Dam Sharks!
I watched it with my friends, the Snarkalecs, and we had a damn good time. Seriously, Dam Sharks is damn fun, damn entertaining, damn good, damn funny, damn gory, and pretty damn enjoyable. I’m damn glad we watched it, dammit!
I’m sure that we’ve all wondered what would happen if a bunch of sharks suddenly showed up in a river. Well, Dam Sharks provides us with an answer! Apparently, they would not only eat every human being that they came across but they would also use the left-over body parts to construct dams.
(Needless to say, by building their own dams, the sharks would also end up putting a lot of beavers out of work. If you’re wondering what happens when a beaver has nothing to constructive to devote itself to, I suggest checking out a film called Zombeavers.)
Now, if you’re asking yourself why a bunch of sharks would show up in a river and start building a dam out of human body parts … well, that means you’re not approaching this film correctly. Why it’s happening really isn’t that important. Blame it on global warming, if you must. Blame it on the military. Blame it on Big Evil Corporation. Blame it on whoever you want. The why is not important. What important is that, in this film, it’s happening. Sharks are in the river and they’re making dams. As my favorite character, Carl the anti-government survivalist (played by Robert Craighead), put it whenever anyone spent too much time wondering why the sharks were in the river, “It’s a long story.”
In fact, it’s such a long story that the film doesn’t have time to dwell on it. Especially not when so many people are hanging out around that shark-infested river…
Like many SyFy films, Dam Sharks borrows its structure from the disaster film genre. We meet various groups of people, we watch as they’re forced to deal with a sudden crisis (in this case, dam-building sharks), and we try to guess who will die and who will survive.
Now, of course, some of the people are obviously doomed. The guy in the boat who fishes with a gigantic hook that’s at the end of a chain? Oh, he’s so obviously dead. The hipsters trying to zipline over the river? No way they’re going to make it. The girl who strips down to her underwear so that she can dive off a rock? She’s not even going to reach the water before a shark gets her. That’s just the way it goes.
But others, we’re not so sure about. Much like Atomic Shark, Dam Sharks deserves a lot of credit for keeping the audience off-balance. There are a few characters who you assume will never die because they’re either too likeable or too funny. But, as we quickly learn, sharks don’t care if you’re funny or likable. They just want to eat you and add your leg to the dam.
As I mentioned earlier, my favorite character was Carl. He disliked almost everyone and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it. However, Carl was also the only character who I personally would want to help me if I found myself being attacked by river sharks. He knew what he was doing. Carl spends most of the movie with Kate (Jessica Blackmore) and, working together, they are a shark’s worst nightmare. Good for them.
Of course, Carl and Kate aren’t the only ones on the river. Tanner (Jason London) is a callous CEO, the type of boss who thinks that he’s the next Steve Jobs and simply can’t understand why nobody likes him. Tanner has ordered several of his employees to spend the weekend at the river. Over the course of the day, they will play paintball, they will practice archery, and they will take a raft out onto the river. Since you really can’t blame sharks for acting like sharks, Tanner is the closest thing that Dam Sharks has to an actual villain. Jason London, who was so good in Zombie Shark, is properly loathsome as the buffoonish Tanner.
As for Tanner’s employees, they’re a mixed bunch of characters. Some of them will survive the weekend. Quite a few of them most definitely will not. From the start, it’s obvious that Pullman (Matt Mercer) and Stella (Neka Zang) are the two that we’re supposed to care about the most. Both Mercer and Zang are well-selected for their roles. When they sit on a rock and hide out from the paintball game, their conversation briefly makes Dam Sharks about something deeper than just damn sharks. Mercer is especially effective when he talks about how little personal fulfillment he gets out of his job. You truly feel bad for him.
But really, the entire film is well-cast. From the stars to the most minor of characters, everyone gets a chance to make an impression. I have to give special mention to Eric Paul Erickson, who turned the buffoonish Kenny into a rather sweet and likable character. Among the actors playing the rest of Tanner’s employees, Kabby Borders, Saxon James, and Francis Gonzalez are especially well-cast and likable. Though the film itself encourages you not to take any of it too seriously, you still find yourself hoping that they all manage to survive.
If you’re a fan of SyFy movies, you’ll love Dam Sharks! And if you don’t like SyFy movies — well, that’s just a damn shame.
(In an earlier version of this post, I accidentally misidentified both the character of Kate and the actress who played her. I apologize for the error! — LMB)