Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2015)

Rating: C+

Dir: Jim Wynorski
Star: Dominique Swain, Christine Nguyen, John Callahan, Traci Lords

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water… Fracking extraction (look! An environmental statement!) cracks open a prehistoric underground sea, releasing a pack of sharks into the Arkansas swamps. In which, by coincidence, are also roaming a posse of escaped female convicts, busted out of their work furlough by Honey (Swain), girlfriend of one of the inmates. The escapees, along with a hostage prison-guard (Callahan), are trapped in a house by the sharks, for it turns out that these sharks are just as capable of moving through the wet soil as water. Yes, folks: what we have here is as much cheerful Tremors knock-off, as it draws inspiration from the myriad of shark movies which have preceded it.

Anyway, the group have to make their way through the cave system conveniently situated a panicked sprint from the house, hoping to negotiate it before becoming so much shark chum, or being recaptured by the police officer on their trail (Lords). Getting a bonus point for not just including, but correctly placing the apostrophe in its title, the main issue here is one of heightened expectations created by the title, promising a cavalcade of both sex and violence on which the movie utterly skimps. This is PG-rated, getting no more extreme than Swain fervently intoning, “Crap on a cracker!” It appears this is actually a TV movie, although seems to be coming out on DVD first, and you had better include that fact in your expectations when viewing, and adjust accordingly.

The violence happens off-shot (budgetary reasons likely playing a part) and you can forget entirely about Wynorski’s trademark nudity, despite occasional teases like a hot-tub scene, and the presence of several actresses who’d likely have been open to the possibility. Not Lords, of course, even as she is re-uniting with the man who gave her that first “legit” role in Not of This Earth [as an aside, Chris noted the irony of seeing the woman who basically was Lolita, in a film with the woman who played Lolita, though the two have no scenes together; indeed, I suspect Lords may not have met anyone else in the cast, save her cop partner!]. However, despite its tameness and low aspirations, this remained entertaining nonsense.

For this manages to hit a decent line between taking itself too seriously and not seriously enough. It looks pretty damn good, even if Florida is standing in for “actual” Arkansas, and Wynorski seems to have wangled actual access to a cave system (albeit a suspiciously well-lit one…), which enhances production values considerably. The effects are, to my surprise, not terrible, and although the dialogue and performances have hardly any of the crackle or wit Tremors had, they just about function adequately as a means of bridging the caps between shark attacks. All told, if not as gloriously trashy as a film with this title should be, it’s probably also a good deal better than a film with this title could be.