Doll Shark (2022)

Rating: C

Dir: Anthony Polonia, Mark Polonia
Star: Danielle Donahue, River Dalton, Kevin Coolidge, Kasey Cox

The Polonias have a certain reputation, shall we say. It’s not undeserved: I’ve seen Sharkenstein. And in the three years since that review, 2021-23, the IMDb says Mark directed at least twenty features. That’s roughly one every seven weeks. But I sense they’re not all equal. I feel I’ve developed a sense for assessing the entertainment quality through their trailers. Cocaine Shark? Nah, I’m good, thanks. But Doll Shark? Yeah, sold. Partly due to the catchy sea-shanty which backed the trailer, partly because any time I’m in a toy store, I always find myself feigning attack by whatever plush animals are for sale. The idea of, basically, a movie about that, felt silly enough to work.

It’s the story of Kirby (Dalton), a kid whose separated, shark hunter father sends him a toy… along with a tooth from a “devil fish” he had just slain, which had killed a number of people. Naturally, this causes the cuddle buddy intermittently to become evil, animated and capable of moving about on land. The mechanics of this are left vague: “So, it can walk?” commented Chris sardonically. Yes, and rattle a doorknob too, apparently. Anyway, babysitter Lyla (Donahue) dopes Kirby up, so she can invite her friends over for a party. It does not end well, but fortunately, Dad has had a sense his son might be in danger, and shows up, ready to battle the plush monstrosity. 

As much as a horror movie, this is a scattergun parody of pop culture, covering everything from podcasts through YouTubers, to annoying and repetitive songs for children about sharks (I’m sure you know exactly what I mean there). There are also a non-trivial number of lines copied word for word from Jaws, which may be stretching the “satire” exemption for copyright, just a tad. Some of this works, some of it falls flat: a few aspects feel like they were in the movie simply to act as Kickstarter rewards. However, they are necessary to push the running-time to feature length, eventually wheezing its way across the finish line there at 76 minutes, even with all the extraneous side-dishes.

The attacks are more or less at the same level as the ones I stage in the OdySea Aquarium gift shop. I did like the look of the demonic plush (top) – I suspect it may be the work of veteran effects guy Brett Piper. Though to be honest, it does not look particularly sharklike. I guess Doll Piranha probably wouldn’t have sold as well. There’s a certain authenticity here, in that the houses appear likely to be actual residences, and the actors seem real people, rather than classically trained thespians. Lyla is one scary babysitter, who perpetually seems about to sell Kirby for meth. Mind you, Kirby’s mom is a negligent lush: quite how she got custody escapes me. That such child protective concerns stick in my mind are likely relevant. I certainly wouldn’t call this good, yet I was amused to an almost adequate degree. Perhaps that’s just me though.