The Shark Film Office: Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy (2005)

Director: Michael Oblowitz
Nu Image/First Look, 1:32, color
Cast Notables: Jeffrey Combs; William Forsythe; Hunter Tylo
Cinema 4 Rating: 3
Appearance: Mutant. As described in the film, a Giant Hammerhead crossed with a human being that, incidentally, used to bang Hunter Tylo's character (but before the whole shark business, because that could prove weird and messy.)

I kept hoping a bucket would appear out of nowhere in Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy.

Not to catch the vomit that any discerning viewer would spew without pause upon attempting to watch this execrable exercise in shark terror. And not to catch any of the massive doses of arterial spray that douse the screen frequently within the film’s labored attempt to update The Most Dangerous Game by making the hunter a screamingly mad scientist whose weapon of choice is a mutant giant hammerhead shark-human being hybrid.

No, the bucket is not for either of those reasons. The bucket is only for water.

I wanted a bucket with water to appear to see if the characters would react to it with the same fear that they apply to any body of water within the film: with the constant fear, reasoned or not, that somewhere inside that liquid there would be some form of shark ready to attack them. Inland, ocean, laboratory tank… it doesn’t matter. The thought of water seems to drive certain characters in this film into screeching fits.

Due to this, I wanted the ragtag group of victims to turn a corner of a shed at some point… and there they discover a seemingly normal, unthreatening bucket of water, sitting beside the shed in exactly the way that a seemingly normal, unthreatening bucket of water would. Doughy leading man William Forsythe, still able to wrangle action parts despite his span, would slip on a wet leaf, and his gun would fall into the bucket. “My God!,” leading lady Hunter Tylo would blubber through the mass of her wasp-stung lips. “Our only weapon! We have to retrieve it!” Then, much bickering would ensue, and it would finally be decided somehow through the machinations of ill-logic that the most expendable character (perhaps a she… it's usually a she in these things, probably the bimbo still running through the jungle on her four-inch spike heels, tripping every three feet) would be best suited to grab the gun out of the bucket. She would slowly work her hand towards the rim of the bucket, and the eerie, squealing music would slowly build, and she would get her hand even closer, and there would be a close-up of her face as she grimaces and starts to cry in fear, her hand shaking ever more as she starts to dip her fingers into the water…

…and, of course, she would get eaten by the giant hammerhead shark-human hybrid thing roaming about the island and infesting every single drop of water around the place. Without any explanation for how the giant hammerhead shark-human hybrid thing managed to cram itself into the relatively tiny bucket, he would leap from its bottom and devour the entire top half of her body, leaving her detached groin and legs to flail about for a split-second before collapsing to the ground. Forsythe, however, would recover the gun from the bucket during the attack, keeping his wits about him as usual, fire off a couple of useless shots, and then manage to corral the rest of his party while the giant hammerhead shark-human hybrid thing zipped off to leap out of another body of water. Perhaps a drinking glass this time…

The characters’ constant fear is completely justified. There is a hardly a scene in this film where the water, in any form, doesn’t have some threat from sharky menace attached to it. On an island that seems about as huge as all of Hawaii put together, no matter where the characters are, and no matter how split up they get throughout the film, that hybrid thing always seems to be around. And even in the early scenes where two playful swimmers decide to stupidly jump into waters filled with a seeming score of real hammerheads, they get eaten by the hybrid thing instead. A girl slips on a slope beside some water, and the recognizable triple-fin back of the hybrid thing breaks the surface. One villainous lackey lays their hand beside a lab tank, and the hybrid thing takes off a finger. It just goes on and on like this for what seems like days on end.

I am not going to deride the scientific thought behind the creation of this creature nor its justification for existence. Mad scientists are, by definition, mad, and they don’t really need reasons why. They just provide the monster, and usually that is good enough. This film does have a terrific mad thrashing about in it, though the portrayal is a tad bit lower, though still just as relentlessly hammy, than Jeffrey Combs’ brilliant initial cinematic success as the committed Herbert West in Re-Animator. I kept thinking that Hammerhead would have actually worked far better in black-and-white, with Combs’ look and performance being almost perfect for an old Universal-style (or at least, Monogram) horror flick. Scratch the gore, of course, and make the hybrid thing a little more sympathetic – there is little or no attempt here to do so, and that is a major failing in the film, especially given that the human part of the hybrid thing is Combs’ character’s son.

Combs does have one great speech in the film, and if more of the dialogue were this hotly spat, it could have been a lowbrow classic. When questioned as to why he doesn't just use sharks that lay eggs, he replies without hesitation, in an almost staccato delivery, "Easier? Maybe. The giant Hammerhead isn't like other sharks. It's the pinnacle of shark evolution. Nurtures its young in placenta. What's a Great White? It's a machine - swims and eats. Doesn't think, like the Sphyrna mokarran. The Sphyrna is far more advanced. Much more capable of being genetically integrated with the human race." Sure... of course. You have to buy these things if you are going to get anywhere in a film like this.

If there is anything to like, outside of Combs and the usual reasons one watches these films -- monsters on a rampage, itself almost a reflexive action; you like them almost in spite of themselves, and if you don't, you don't -- the leads are fairly committed. Forsythe remains focused on the task at hand -- ignoring the fact that he is in Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy -- and continues to move at an action-movie pace despite his closer physical resemblance to the island itself. He is an underused actor, usually far better than the material he has been primarily trapped in since the early '90s, but I suppose he fills his niche. As for Hunter Tylo, longtime actress on The Bold and the Beautiful, her amazing body -- though not of work -- makes her at least one of the more comely specimens of the modern duck-billed woman. Lisa Rinna, your reign may be in doubt.

The shark himself, much like the giant-ass lips of Tylo and Rinna, is a preposterous mess, as hybrids tend to be, and he would be scary in a dream-like fashion if he weren't so damn funny. I think that Combs' scientist character was incorrect though in describing him as a cross between a giant hammerhead and a human (outside of the fact that the largest of the hammerhead shark species, Sphyrna mokarran, is actually named the Great Hammerhead). No, after watching attack after attack, filled with ridiculous close-ups of the supposedly frightening creature's visage (which somewhat reminds me of Sloth from The Goonies), I am now led to believe there is some Muppet DNA in the mix as well. It could very well lead to a very bloody day on Sesame Street. Elmo, watch your ass.

Of course, Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy the film crawled out of the Boaz Davidson cesspool, he of the Shark Attack films and numerous side attempts at bad shark-filled menace ad nauseum. To qualify that, I must state that I don't believe he has actually made any attempts at good shark-filled menace. He has now made the leap, however, after stocking Sci-Fi Channel for the next six decades with cheap "nature run amok" epics, to the big leagues. It is a telling thing, though, that one of those films sporting his name as executive producer -- 88 Minutes starring Al Pacino -- is almost universally being derided as one of the worst films of the decade, if not Pacino's career. I have not seen the film, so I cannot judge (except to say that Al's hair is crazy hilarious...)

But it is interesting to note, that after a career built on dozens of horrible but cheap, mostly straight-to-video flicks, Boaz Davidson only attracts the true ire of the critics when he ventures into theatrical release territory. Most of them are haughty enough, and too busy, to allow themselves the luxury of soaking in the hot, stinking bath that is his oeuvre. Now, with his name on other mostly savaged films like the remake of The Wicker Man and De Palma's The Black Dahlia, not to mention the upcoming Conan the Barbarian series restart, those critics can now wallow along with the rest of us in the product that emanates from his highly undemanding pigsty. You can defend him and say "Aw, he's just a producer! You can't put all of the blame on him..." Well, yes I can, because after all, on Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, he can't use that escape clause. He co-wrote the damnable thing.

And now I want to drown him in that bucket full of water. I knew it had to be sitting out there for a reason.


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