Malibu Shark Attack – “The tsunami was just the beginning of the terror”

The Shark Week sojourn continues! Today, I will read your minds! Imagine a movie about people trapped by sharks in a flooded building with narrow passages. You’re thinking of Malibu Shark Attack, aren’t you. Am I amazing or what? Huh? What’s that? You were actually thinking of Deep Blue Sea? And you think Malibu Shark Attack is a complete rip-off? No, see, Malibu Shark Attack is actually a completely different movie. Deep Blue Sea starred genetically altered mako sharks as the bad guys; Malibu Shark Attack used “prehistoric” goblin sharks. See the difference? It’s completely new and original!

Deep Blue Sea

Entirely new concept

Malibu Shark Attack follows Yancey (Renee Bowen, At World’s End; Along the Way), Jason (Joel Amos Byrnes, The Professional Idiot; Daybreakers), Chavez (Warren Christie, Alphas; 10.5), Doug (Remi Broadway, The Marine; Scooby-Doo), and Jenny (Chelan Simmons, Ice Twisters; Final Destination 3) as they struggle to survive not just a tsunami that strands them far from land, but also the pack of killer sharks claiming the surrounding waters as their own. Naturally, the humans grab the best weapons available to kill the sharks – power tools!

Top left – Yancey; top right – Jason; middle left – Chavez and Jason; middle right – Doug; bottom left – Jenny; bottom right – Chet, a goblin shark

The basics first, as they’re easy to cover and I’ve let them slip the past day or two. The acting in this was clearly below-average for SyFy movies, though not the worst I’ve seen by any means. The CGI, on the other hand, was both below average and possibly among the worst they’ve used, though that’s a hard title to award to any one movie in particular. The dialogue was decent, and this movie was definitely a different approach to the killer shark motif, in that it was less about people hunting down killer sharks, and more about them just trying to survive (look at Shark Swarm or Dinoshark for contrast; or, ye know, don’t).

Keep thrashing like that! It always helps!

The plot, in a nutshell, is that Yancey, Chavez, and Doug all work as lifeguards at a beach near Malibu; Jenny is assigned their stretch of beach to clean for community service after she was caught shoplifting; and Jason is a developer building a large unsightly house right on the beachfront. (Oh, and Yancey and Chavez were really serious for a while, but now she’s seeing Jason, but she still likes Chavez, and he and Jason don’t get along at all, but somehow they have to all work together to survive the killer sharks.) Back to the plot – an undersea earthquake unleashes a pack of goblin sharks (because apparently, they somehow were trapped in an undersea cave, or something, but didn’t die of starvation for some reason, but nothing else got released with them, so I have no idea what they ate, but that’s not really the point; the point is that goblin sharks are still alive, not a supposedly extinct prehistoric species somehow trapped in an undersea cave), which start eating people around the beach, including a parasailer (again!) and almost Yancey. But before she can worry about the killer sharks she just saw eat a boatful of people, a tsunami approaches, and Yancey, Chavez, Doug and Jenny get trapped in the lifeguard hut, while Jason and his crew take shelter in the house they’re building. And of course, soon the sharks start finding ways to get their elusive prey. Enter the power tools.

And guns. They always use guns in these movies…

I’d like to start by talking about the tsunami for a moment, which is described by the movie as being worse than the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. For those of you who don’t remember or are too lazy to follow that link, the earthquake that caused that tsunami is the third largest earthquake ever (recorded, at least). The tsunamis that followed caused hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars of damage (my estimate, based on the info I can find), and killed between 227,000 and 280,000 people. The movie also says that the tsunami in the movie had waves up to 100 feet high (possible) and washed away houses inland (definitely); but somehow, our intrepid lifeguard heroes survive the force of the wave in a shack on stilts, and our construction crew survives in a house with no walls. There’s a disconnect there, to my mind, that apparently went overlooked.

Sturdier than most houses, I guess

Anyway, everything gets flooded, allowing the sharks access to the hut and the house. Goblin sharks are typically found on the ocean floor (say, 650 feet down or so), although they have been seen swimming in shallower waters. They grow from 8 to 11 feet long, depending on gender, and their known diet includes deep sea rock fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. They hunt by sensing electromagnetic discharges from prey (many sharks use this to aid in tracking down their next meal). And probably the coolest thing about them – they have a jaw that can be extended to capture prey (see pictures below and a video here). As that video shows, they probably wouldn’t be so good at biting a person in half, though I have no idea at all how old or how large the shark in that clip is.

Now you see it…

…now you don’t!

Now, I can’t substantiate my claims here as much as I could for previous shark movies simply because goblin sharks aren’t terribly well-studied yet, compared to, say, the great white. So if you’ll allow me, I’ll speculate for a while.

Goblin sharks live on the bottom of the ocean (though they are not bottom feeders). They have been known to be tenacious enough when attacking to leave teeth behind in submarine cables. Which makes me wonder at multiple occurrences in the movie. First, despite having limited eye-sight, they still manage to repeatedly attack the same place in the floor of the lifeguard hut, eventually breaking through. When the survivors plug the hole, the sharks start going to work on the struts holding the hut up. One of them also manages to jump out of the water and eat a guy standing on the edge of pier. My issue here is where would a shark that’s spent its whole evolutionary history chasing down bottom-dwelling prey learn how to jump, let alone attack the weak points of a structure or the same place over and over? It just doesn’t make much sense.

Natural hunting tactics for the bottom-dwelling goblin shark

Moreover, later in the movie, Jason rescues the group in the hut and they all end up back in the unfinished house. But no matter how far away from exits the people get, the sharks seem to know without hesitation that they’re in there, and keep going after them without being deterred. While the persistence is in line with the anecdote above, all predators (and herbivores, for that matter) need to balance calories gained from a meal with calories expended acquiring that meal. It doesn’t do much good to eat if you use more energy catching your food than you get from eating it (assuming the intention isn’t to lose weight). This makes me think that, after a while, the sharks would just give up and go look for food elsewhere.

“Later, bitchaz!”

I don’t have much else to say about it, but I did mention power tools above. Somehow, despite phones being down throughout all of California (or at least the southern coast), the unfinished, at this point flooded, house still has electricity. Or maybe the tools are all gas-powered, I don’t really know. Either way, Chavez picks up a chainsaw, and I couldn’t help but think back to all the great chainsaw moments in horror movies. So I offer you one of my favorite chainsaw-esque moments. Pretty gory, but a classic.

And of course, the best one of all

And that’ll do it for Malibu Shark Attack. Stay tuned for the next installment; the remainder of the week will be movies you can really sink your teeth into.

Posted on August 15, 2012, in B-movies, Movies, SyFy Channel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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