It’s been a difficult month for so many of us around the world. My contribution in all of this? Weekly reviews of terrible shark films because, of course, when things are tough, we can always rely on a shark to remind us of what’s really important. Staying inside, away from others, while the professionals get the job done. With only the occasional clueless politician thrown in for a touch of realism.
The Last Shark
A writer and shark hunter team up to stop a shark terrorizing a small beach town in spite of its oblivious mayor. But the events in this film were no way inspired by Jaws. Not even a little bit.
Though released in 1981, there’s no denying the groovy ’70s vibe featuring prominently here. No one embodies this more than our very daring, festively dressed windsurfer dude, the favorite to win big at this year’s local regatta. The event of the season for this small beachside town (unspecified), surely nothing can stand in the way of local tradition. Can it???
After golden boy of the windsurf kingdom goes missing, local writer Peter becomes concerned something is amiss. Stereotypical crusty Scottish sea captain Hammer (for real), locating one distinctly chomped surfboard, teams up with Peter to track down a shark of unusual size and avoid tragedy.
Unfortunately, like the mayor in that most classic of all shark films, Mayor Wells is determined to avoid the disruption of the regatta at all costs. Up for reelection and eager to score some points by defending a beloved tradition, Wells decides it will be good enough to put up some sharkproof netting and have a few people on the lookout.
Naturally, the regatta becomes a bloodbath as the shark picks off the windsurfers one by one. While the mayor is under pressure to locate the shark, Wells has no interest in doing so. And, honestly, this does seem to fall outside of the scope of mayoral duties? However, his son, along with buddies that include Peter’s daughter, decides to take it upon himself to heroically save the day. Armed with shotguns, their plan is to lure the shark with a hunk of janky old meat.
Meanwhile, Peter and Hammer’s scuba diving quest to hunt the shark ends less than successfully. Worse, Peter’s daughter Jenny encounters the shark, suffering serious injury. I guess this is the point where Peter mentally puts on sunglasses and says to himself, “Now it’s personal.”
At the same time, the mayor decides to take some personal responsibility and end the shark’s reign of terror. Taking his chopper out for a spin, Wells gets more than he bargained for. Sadly, so does the pilot when the shark takes down the entire fucking helicopter.
Throughout this whole ordeal, it should be noted, a TV crew is determined to capture all of the blood and guts on film. They even go so far as to hire a cowboy to take down the shark while the film is rolling. This, of course, backfires horribly when a bunch of youths, along with Peter’s wife, are standing on a boardwalk that the shark manages to detach. Can Peter save the day before the shark claims another victim?
2/5 Pink Panther Heads
A subtle tribute to Jaws this is not. It more closely resembles a hammy ripoff that falls painfully short of its source material. Most of the shark attacks just made me giggle rather than shake in terror; the regatta is perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious of this film’s moments of suspense. The theme song itself feels like such a ripoff too, to the extent that it’s merely distracting instead of tense.
There’s some catharsis in seeing the idiots die when Jaws didn’t grant us this joy. Especially since Mayor Vaughn has been making the rounds in meme form lately, it feels so soothing to see a recklessly stupid politician actually face consequences. Too bad there’s so little justice in our reality.
Unfortunately, everyone who isn’t a sleazebag is completely forgettable, so it’s difficult to root for our heroes here. In fact, the shark has a smart, vindictive streak that part of me very much admires. And one of our beachgoers at the regatta is casually waving a Confederate flag at one point??!?! Forgive me if this particular human elicits no sympathy from me. Also aggravating: the number of times a woman screams shrilly. Peter’s wife in particular is painfully helpless, and I was sort of hoping for her death at times.