Mississippi River Sharks (2017)

Rating: C+

Dir: Misty Talley
Star: Cassie Steele, Dean West, Tahj Vaughans, Jason London

This goes to show that bad special effects – I would even venture to suggest the phrase “piss-poor” is appropriate – do not necessarily rob a film of all entertainment potential. Make no mistake: these are very bad. The screenshot above illustrates both the woeful quality and the poorly considered use to which they are put, suggesting that sharks can not only hurl themselves out of the water, they can also bore clean through whoever gets in the way. Even by the low standards of plausibility we’ve come to expect out of these movies – and, don’t forget, it is a genre whose pinnacle involves the sharknado – this is hard to swallow. They might as well just have made the victim wear a T-shirt with a picture of a shark’s head on the front, it would have been no less convincing.

And, yet, it proved rather more enjoyable than 5-Headed Shark Attack, with characters you don’t mind spending time with, and a sense of its own idiocy that defrays much criticism. It’s set in a small town on the Mississippi river, which is hosting a fishing contest. The special guest at the event is actor Jason London (playing a meta-version of himself), beloved by many for his starring role in the “Shark Bite” franchise of movies. In titles like “Shark Bite 5: Shark of the Covenant,” he sports an eye-patch and blows away the fish, while reciting his catch-phrase, “One fish, two fish, red fish… DEAD fish.” Naturally, when the shark hits the fan, he turns out to be nothing like his on-screen persona, and about as useful as a chocolate fish-hook.

Instead, it’s left to the locals to figure out how to counter the bull-shark threat. I’m afraid I’m going to have to remain extremely vague on things like character and even actor names – the end credits of this whizzed by in a tiny window, at about 8x fast-forward speed, while SyFy trumpeted a future program over the vast majority of the screen. There’s basically three heroes. One is a girl who has returned from studying science at college to help out at her father’s hardware store: this is important, as a source of weapons and material for pipe bombs –  because science, duh. The other two are guys with a tow-truck, which is useful for hauling nets full of digital bull sharks onto the town bridge.

One is black, and there’s an inter-racial romance angle between him and the girl, which is oddly progressive for this kinda film. I have to say, given this is Mississippi and the volume of stereotypically redneck locals here, the thought did cross my mind that predatory fish might not be the biggest threat to this character’s survival… Otherwise, the film ambles its way through the expected story-lines, yet demonstrates a tongue-in-cheek awareness of shortcomings – both its own and the genre’s in general – that leads me to give it a pass. The self-referential concept of the “Shark Bite” franchise is genius, and credit London in particular for being willing to poke fun at himself.