Trailer Park Shark (2017)

Rating: B-

Dir: Griff Furst
Star: Thomas Ian Nicholas, Lulu Jovovich, Dennis Haskins, Tara Reid

This may be the Citizen Kane of SyFy shark movies, simply from a technical level. There’s a lengthy early tracking shot, following hero Rob (Nicholas) as he goes around his home territory, the Soggy Meadows trailer park, which is surprisingly inventive and well-staged. If it may not quite be Brian De Palma, it’s a hundred times more inventive than the prosaic camerawork we usually see. That’s the most obvious example, yet there are enough elements here, in both style and content, to lift it well above the average for the genre.

The plot sees Deconnard (Haskins), the millionaire owner of the land on which Soggy Meadows is located, blow up the levees protecting the trailer park to flush the residents out for redevelopment. However, this just allows the giant shark which has been floating in the river, to rampage around the flooded trailers, on top of which the surviving residents are stranded. In this, it’s a bit like Bait, the Australian film about a shark prowling a flooded underground supermarket, whose occupants were forced to huddle on top of the shelves.

Here, however, there’s an additional “shocker”. This shark – for reasons never truly explained – is electrically charged, after an ill-advised attempt by Rob and his uncle to provide power to the park by tapping into a wind generator. As Rob puts it, “Electricity and water: they don’t mix well.” It sets the scene for numerous close calls, as Rob tries to rescue his girlfriend, Jolene (Jovovich – and, yes, that’s Milla’s niece), and the other residents of the park. This is from both the shark and the developer’s minions, who want to ensure the evidence of their crime Rob unwittingly captured is sunk along with the trailer park.

I’m tempted to read some kind of subtle political point being made here, about how Trump supporters are being screwed over by the man they elected. On the other hand, flooding might be too good for Soggy Meadows, which looks about as salubrious accomodations as the pikey camp from Snatch. I’d be more inclined to take off and nuke the site from orbit. Though as we get to know the inhabitants, we did gradually warm to their down-home charms, such as Billie Jean (Reid), who fishes other people’s property from the flood-waters, with an eye to resale. Of course, Reid is a veteran from a certain other series of meteorological shark films, explaining her skeptical line, “A shark, here? Weather didn’t say nothing about no tornado.”

As this suggests, it’s all nicely balanced between self-awareness and parody. The characters here appear to be aware of how ludicrous the situation is, yet roll up their sleeves and deal with it. Of course, this ends in Deconnard deciding, after his minions have failed (largely eaten, let’s be honest), that if you want a job done, you’d best do it yourself. Which leads to the discovery that a shark can still be lethal, even when it’s out of the water and dangling from a tree. Never say these films are not educational…