Land Shark (2020)

Rating: B

Dir: Cheng Siyu
Star: Luo Liqun, Xi Meili, Tang Xin. Yang Yong

The title and poster likely render any written review almost superfluous. You have probably already decided whether or not this is of interest, based on those two elements alone. The movie exists, and is enough. I’m probably not going to change your mind, regardless of whether I proclaim this the pinnacle of cinematic achievement, or a butterball turkey of the highest order. On that basis, I could just save time and Lorem ipsum my way to the required word-count. However, I still have thoughts. For example, if ever I build an underwater research establishment, I will be sure not to include large, panoramic windows, which genetically engineered sharks can potentially ram, and thereby enter the facility. Just sayin’…

The first chunk of this resembles Deep Blue Sea. Qian Youyi (Yang) is funding research into sharks’ ability to suppress cancer, and his scientists have been tampering with their subject’s DNA. What could possibly go wrong? Well, I refer you to the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Led by chief shark wrangler, Song Yi (Luo), and researcher Ye Xin (Xi), the survivors have to make their way up to the surface and safet… Oh, wait. As the title doesn’t so much suggest, as proudly proclaim, solid ground is no guarantee of protection from shark attack. For it turns out the DNA added to the fish was from earthworms, giving it the ability to swim through the dirt, breathe air, and a skin impenetrable to bullets. Like worms, ah, possess.

After chasing the survivors for a bit, the monster opts for a brief city break, rampaging through the nearby urban landscape, like some kind of fish-flavoured Godzilla (top). While the effects leave something to be desired, the loopy concept scales its no-holds barred peak and is easily enough to counterbalance the technical shortcomings. I really wish there’d been more of it rampaging through the streets. But all too soon, it heads back to the rural environment, to take on Qian and his mercenaries. We get a number of “It’s behind me, isn’t it?” moments; for considering its size, the land shark is remarkably light on its, ah, fins. But eventually, Song determines its weak spot, apparently being as knowledgeable about earthworms as sharks. Lucky, that.

We’ve seen some silly concepts over the course of this series, from flesh-eating bees to cybernetic rosches. This may be the silliest, yet again illustrates that the Chinese do not appear to do camp or self-awareness in their monster movies. There’s no hint of Sharknado tongue in cheekness to be found. Contrast this to the similarly themed, Western take, Sand Sharks. Even when deadpan, it still offers a knowing wink to the audience in lines such as, “We’re stuck between a rock and a shark place.” None of that malarkey here, and the results may be all the better for it. At the very least, such an approach is a useful distraction from any questionable technical elements, and helps this succeed, albeit on its own terms.

This review is part of our February 2022 feature, When Chinese Animals Attack.