Casper Van Dien
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Shark Attack (1999)
27th Oct 07
Casper Van Dien saves some people from stock footage.
Hollywood can be a cruel, cruel place. One minute you’re one of the square-jawed, all-American heroes of Paul Verhoeven’s big budget satirical splatter epic Starship Troopers and a prominent supporting player in Tim Burton’s elegant homage to Mario Bava and Hammer Horror, Sleepy Hollow. Next your fragile acting talents are looking vulnerable when you’re cast as the low-rent hero of straight to video genre fare like Python (that’s the one where a 125 foot snake re-enacts the Psycho shower scene and a would-be victim fights it off with shampoo bottles) and Shark Attack. Such was the fate awaiting poor Casper Van Dien, above-the-title star of the first, and least, of Nu Image’s trilogy-long contribution to the over-crowded “video premiere” shark sub-genre.
The main problem with Shark Attack is that it doesn’t really do what it says on the tin. Listen up, Nu Image, we tune into a movie called Shark Attack to see lots of people-chewing shark-munching action, NOT to see Casper saving kids and bikini-clad women from being munched on, or to indulge him in his pubescent James Bond fantasises as he dives purposefully into shark infested waters and hangs off helicopters.
The shark scenes are depressingly few and far between though, to be fair, those are some great looking sharks - certainly more convincing than those CGI maneaters in Deep Blue Sea. Though, wait a minute…isn’t that just stock footage from some Discovery Channel “When Sharks Attack” special cunningly edited into an otherwise shark-less movie?! Damn you, Nu Image!
Everyone likes Ernie Hudson, one-time Ghostbuster and the only cheery aspect of The Crow. He is still in reasonably gainful employment, appearing here as a prominent businessman in a coastal town where the economy is sinking in proportion to the number of shark attacks. The fish in the area have died off so, with a key food source depleted and the local sharks head to the beaches in search of nibbles.
Marine biologist Van Dien, always in the right place at the right time, bless him, figures out that, in the vein of Deep Blue Sea, scientist Bentley Mitchum has been experimenting on the sharks in the hope of finding a cure for cancer. This, of course, begs the question : why not try carrying these experiments out on less dangerous creatures like, for instance, hamsters, puppies or Julie Walters?! Mitchum’s meddling with Mother Nature succeeds only in accelerating the sharks’ metabolism and overloading their brains to the point where they permanently think they’re hungry. When Casper gets wind of his misguided ambitions, the best line of the movie is delivered with 50’s sci-fi style gusto : “You call yourself a scientist, but you’re a psychopath!”.
Like a lot of Nu Image movies, Shark Attack isn’t very good but it’s oddly hard to truly dislike. There is an admittedly naff sub-plot featuring a saccharine sickly kid whom Mitchum has been using as a guinea-pig, but the movie manages to entertain without being very exciting. The budget stretches to a few explosions and car/boat chases, with machete wielding human villains and a love interest (Jennifer McShane) who wears lab coats over her bikini filling out the longeurs in between shark footage. And give it some bonus points for a twist in which the usually cuddly and nice Mr Hudson is revealed as a callous, megalomanical bastard. What next, Harold Ramis as a Bond villain?
Versions Available all over the place very cheaply. Hey, check this trailer out.
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