Open on gorgeous swamplands of the Atchafalaya Basin in the summer. Lots of beautiful teens are at the beach the weekend before Gator Fest. That night an animal smuggling deal goes wrong and a large sea creature escapes into a swampy backwoods river. At the McDaniel’s “Gator Shack” restaurant, a local, Jackson is drunk, and gets mangled to bits. The town sheriff blames the carnage on the McDaniel’s “escaped” pack of gators and tries hauling them off to jail. Rachel McDaniel, head of the family, claims to have seen the fin of a shark! Rachel and her family, along with the help of a mysterious stranger, Charlie, take on the Swampshark and the law to clear their names, save Rachel’s kid sister Krystal and prevent the unwitting folks at the upcoming Gator Fest from being torn to shreds by a beast the likes of which no one has ever seen!
The Louisiana bayous are home to some pretty interesting animals. The climate there is perfect for beautiful birds, gigantic insects and a host of dangerous reptiles, the most famous of which is the alligator. Gator’s are the terror and pride of Cajun country, and it is agreed that they are the most powerful creatures of the area. But that’s only if there aren’t any sharks in the swamp with them!
Swamp Shark (2011) is a made for TV creature feature with a relatively goofy concept: Illegal animal smugglers bungle the transport of an ancient shark that had been found in a recently excavated underwater cavern. The shark escapes into the bayou waters, and proceeds to wreak serious havoc on some of the locals. Kristy Swanson (famous for playing the title lead in the film adaptation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) heads up the cast as Rachel Bouchard, owner of a popular local restaurant and gator farm. One morning, she is roused from her sleep to find her gators devoured and a lone fin protruding from the swamp waters. In the investigation that follows, Sherriff Watson (played by the deliciously evil Robert Davi) guffaws at the notion of a shark in the swamp. Watson is involved in the animal smuggling ring, but Rachel and the rest of Team Bouchard don’t find this out until much later. With the help of a mysterious stranger, the Bouchards set out on their own to attempt to capture and kill the beast that is terrorizing the swamp. Simultaneous to the hunt, Rachel’s younger sister ends up getting roped into a going to a pre-party for Gatorfest, a local celebration of gators for which all the young’ns in town end up getting drunk and horny (it’s a time honored tradition).
The shark itself ends up popping up from time to time, to generally good effect. The special effects are pretty standard for a SyFy channel movie, except instead of being all CGI, there seems to be a good mix of prop work which makes the shark feel a little more real than in films like Mega Shark v. Giant Octopus and Sharktopus. Also, its clear that this is no ordinary shark. As we establish through mid-movie exposition, in order to survive the water pressure in the underground cavern from whence it came, the shark would need to be have super strong skin. The result is a shark that has a thick, sickly green exoskeleton which makes it look like a shark with alligator skin.
The shark looks great, but unfortunately, due to the “for TV” nature of the film, it doesn’t get as much killing to do as many horror fans would like. Indeed, there aren’t that many moments where the title character gets to show off any real power, with the majority of kills involving panicked teens getting pulled underwater. In a film sub-sub-genre like low-medium budget creature features, over the top usually works better than subtle. In the second half of the film, there is one scene where the shark kills a policeman in a hilarious way, but that is pretty much it for awesome kills.
Swamp Shark definitely doesn’t succeed on every level, but where it is surprisingly solid is in the depiction of the bayou itself. Between the Cajun music and shots of real Bayou landmarks, the vibe of the area is captured in a surprisingly realistic way, which is an awesome surprise considering that most SyFy channel creature features often feel like they aren’t shot on location. This plus a fun cast and decent dialogue put enough points in the WIN column for this movie to be worth a look. It definitely seems to borrow its plot from the 2010 Hollywood surprise Piranha 3D, but it’s a formula that works and ends up being done in Swamp Shark in a way that is a little more family friendly. The ending comes very abruptly, but that just leaves you wanting more. Perhaps that means we can expect another installment in the “franchise,” even one where a shark fights an opponent such as Gatoroid. I for one hope to see such a film in the future. Until then, Swamp Shark is worth a look if you’re looking for silly swamp fun without too much gore.
Swamp Shark (2011)