By Susan Snyder
There is a small subgenre swimming among the perilous depths of sharksploitation movies that revolves around what I like to call the “paranormals”. I don’t recall ever noticing one of these until 2013 when a little known gem was released that made my toes curl with surprise and delight. That masterpiece, folks, is Ghost Shark.
Ghost Shark can materialize into any water, no matter the amount, and the deaths are outrageous and loads of fun. I don’t want to give it all away here but I will just give you some key words to remember. Slip-n-slide, water cooler, sprinklers. There is one scene involving a bikini car wash during which I came close to peeing myself with glee. I shall entice you with this line from the Sheriff as he comments on a vehicle being “hot waxed with the entrails of the woman washing it!”
This unearthly phenomenon became such an underground hit with antisocial and borderline-psycho people like me that it spawned a sequel called Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws. From the first scenes, we discover that Ghost Shark numero dos can live in water, ice, steam and even beer. But now, Ghost Shark doesn’t rip people apart in a magnificent spray of gore like the first movie. Ghost Shark now turns his victims’ eyes red and drowns them. Goddamn Ghost Shark. You have lost your edge. The first movie earned its stripes with some very innovative kills. As boring as GS2’s kills are, they did try to come up with some interesting ways for Ghost Shark to appear (and then boringly drown someone). Examples include a popsicle, steam from an iron, lube, soup, an ice chest and of course, a toilet. Sounds way funner than it is, folks.
Stick with the original film. Trust me. If you remember one thing I have ever told you, folks, it is this: watch the original Ghost Shark. Watch it right now. I’ll wait. Watch it often and with great and mighty fervor. Why am I being so pushy about this? Because all the paranormal shark movies that came after suck various girths of exhaust pipes. Hard.
Allow me to explain.
In Avalanche Sharks, the sharks glow and are all bumpy and icy. This movie is so deeply confused that it offers us three different origin stories. One is about an alien race of intelligent sharks. Another is about Great Whites finding their way into an arctic lake and getting possessed by a spirit. The last is about native people being slaughtered and the shaman invoking a vengeance spirit. Maybe the real story is a mix of all three but for fucks’ sake . . . this film is only 88 minutes long (praise Satan) so no one has time to sort out all this shit. What all three stories have in common though is Skookum! Skookum is the spirit of the mountain that somehow controls these ghostly sharks.
Sounds lame? You’re darn tootin’ it’s lame! They even use a slide whistle to indicate a shark attack is about to happen. A slide whistle.
Meanwhile over in Ouija Shark, an awkward teen couple is eating crackers in the woods, only to be attacked by a buck-toothed sharky apparition who gives chase at a glacial jogging pace and growls a lot. I should point out that the kills in this movie basically equate to the victim disappearing into thin air. But in this scene, we see a little gore. I think someone off screen throws a bucket of Kool-aid at a tree. Savage.
My favorite scene is when one of the girls gets stoned by the pool and offers Ouija Shark a hit. We really get a good look at him. Of course, the teeth are wrong but he’s really kind of adorable. Adorable enough to sit through the whole movie? If you are medicated and/or self-loathing enough, yes.
Now, I apologize in advance but I am about to get a little hot under the collar about this next movie, Shark Exorcist. A nun is on the lam for torturing and killing a bunch of kids. We see her walking slowly through a cemetery to the water’s edge. She is confronted about her crimes by an angry woman. The nun stabs her and lays her in the water. She offers her victim as a sacrifice to Lord Satan to bring her an avenger! Then we see the shark, eyes-a-glow, animated by a first year film student who maybe took three classes of CGI 101. Hey, that’s okay. I understood this was a low budget going in. I can forgive that when we are talking about a Satanic psychotic nun invoking a Satanic psychotic shark! Yay!
Doesn’t this sound like a dream? Well, strap in for a ride on the ennui train, kids. It stinks.
Everyone seems to be getting attacked before the shark gets anywhere near them. Never do you actually see the shark inflicting any bodily damage. That would be way too advanced for these filmmakers. The first victim, Ally, is attacked and I swear I cut myself shaving worse this morning. She becomes the land lubbing minion of the devil shark. She seduces hapless victims into the water, disappears under the surface and they get eaten. Does she become the shark? Does she just summon it? We never find out and trust me, you won’t care. It is a damn shame because it starts off pretty awesome with a great premise.
Shark Exorcist may be the most disappointing 71 minutes of my entire life. I realize what that might say about my life but nonetheless. I insist that you save yourselves from enduring the atrocity of viewing this movie. Go do something better like self-waxing your bikini line or setting yourselves on fire.
Ghost Shark was the first and best of the paranormal sharksploitation films. It set the benchmark for what a spectral shark should be . . . glowing, transparent and able to inflict carnage in new and unique ways. Slip-n-slide, folks. Slip-n-slide. Enough said.
Susan Snyder is a writer of horror short fiction and poetry. Broken Nails, her debut poetry collection, was released in July 2020. The short story “Param” which appeared in the Trigger Warning: Body Horror anthology from Madness Heart Press was nominated for a 2020 Splatterpunk award. Her work can be seen in the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase and multiple magazines and anthologies. Susan writes a weekly shark movie review blog called Sharksploitation Sunday