‘These maneaters really give a dam!’
Dam Sharks! is a 2016 made-for-television American action-horror film written and directed by James Kondelik and Jon Kondelik (All Hallows’ Eve 2: segment “M Is for Masochist”; Behind the Walls). It was produced by Anthony Fankhauser (2 Lava 2 Lantula!; Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs; Poseidon Rex) and Nick Simon (The Girl in the Photographs).
The movie stars Janelle Beaudry, Paige Lauren Billiot (Isle of the Dead), Ashton Bingham, Jessica Blackmore (The Sacred), Kabby Borders (They Found Hell), Jason Brillantes, Corey Martin Craig (Godzilla; Harry and the Succubus: short), Robert Craighead (2 Lava 2 Lantula!; The Babysitter Murders: short; The Return of the Living Dead), Matt Mercer (Contracted: Phase II; Contracted; Diary of a Serial Killer), Michelle DeMond, Andy Earle, Eric Paul Erickson, Francis Gonzalez, Saxon Jones, Will Leon, Jason London, Nicole Reddinger and Neka Zang.
The film premiered on the Syfy Channel on July 25th 2016 as part of their Sharknado Week.
A group of young corporate executives on a weekend bonding trip discover that the area is plagued by a shoal of voracious bull sharks that are attempting to construct a unique dam using human body parts! In an attempt to survive the sharks’ onslaught, the execs team up with a local wildlife officer…
“I’m sure that we’ve all wondered what would happen if a bunch of sharks suddenly showed up in a river. Well, Dam Sharks! provides us with an answer! Apparently, they would not only eat every human being that they came across but they would also use the leftover body parts to construct dams.
(Needless to say, by building their own dams, the sharks would also end up putting a lot of beavers out of work. If you’re wondering what happens when a beaver has nothing to constructive to devote itself to, I suggest checking out a film called Zombeavers.)
Now, if you’re asking yourself why a bunch of sharks would show up in a river and start building a dam out of human body parts … well, that means you’re not approaching this film from the right perspective. Why it’s happening really isn’t that important. Blame it on global warming, if you must. Blame it on the military. Blame it on a Big Evil Corporation. Blame it on whoever you want. The why is not important.
What’s important is that, in this film, it’s happening. Sharks are in the river and they’re making dams. As my favourite character, Carl the anti-government survivalist (played by Robert Craighead), put it whenever anyone spent too much time wondering why the sharks were in the river, “It’s a long story.”
In fact, it’s such a long story that the film doesn’t have time to dwell on it. Especially not when so many people are hanging out around that shark-infested river…
Like many Syfy films, Dam Sharks! borrows its structure from the disaster film genre. We meet various groups of people, we watch as they’re forced to deal with a sudden crisis (in this case, dam-building sharks), and we try to guess who will die and who will survive.
Now, of course, some of the people are obviously doomed. The guy in the boat who fishes with a gigantic hook that’s at the end of a chain? Oh, he’s so obviously dead. The hipsters trying to zipline over the river? No way they’re going to make it. The girl who strips down to her underwear so that she can dive off a rock? She’s not even going to reach the water before a shark gets her. That’s just the way it goes.
Some others, we’re not so sure about. Much like Atomic Shark, Dam Sharks! deserves a lot of credit for keeping the audience off-balance. There are a few characters who you assume will never die because they’re either too likeable or too funny. But, as we quickly learn, sharks don’t care if you’re funny or likeable. They just want to eat you and add your leg to the dam.
As I mentioned earlier, my favourite character was Carl. He disliked almost everyone and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it. However, Carl was also the only character who I personally would want to help me if I found myself being attacked by river sharks. He knew what he was doing. Carl spends most of the movie with Kate (Jessica Blackmore) and, working together, they are a shark’s worst nightmare. Good for them.
Of course, Carl and Kate aren’t the only ones on the river. Tanner (Jason London) is a callous CEO, the type of boss who thinks that he’s the next Steve Jobs and simply can’t understand why nobody likes him. Tanner has ordered several of his employees to spend the weekend at the river. Over the course of the day, they will play paintball, they will practice archery, and they will take a raft out onto the river. Since you really can’t blame sharks for acting like sharks, Tanner is the closest thing that Dam Sharks! has to an actual villain. Jason London, who was so good in Zombie Shark, is properly loathsome as the buffoonish Tanner.
As for Tanner’s employees, they’re a mixed bunch of characters. Some of them will survive the weekend. Quite a few of them most definitely will not. From the start, it’s obvious that Pullman (Matt Mercer) and Stella (Neka Zang) are the two that we’re supposed to care about the most. Both Mercer and Zang are well-selected for their roles.
When they sit on a rock and hide out from the paintball game, their conversation briefly makes Dam Sharks! about something deeper than just damn sharks. Mercer is especially effective when he talks about how little personal fulfilment he gets out of his job. You truly feel bad for him.
And really, the entire film is well-cast. From the stars to the most minor of characters, everyone gets a chance to make an impression. I have to give a special mention to Eric Paul Erickson, who turned the buffoonish Kenny into a rather sweet and likeable character.
Among the actors playing the rest of Tanner’s employees, Kabby Borders, Saxon James, and Francis Gonzalez are especially well-cast and likeable. Though the film itself encourages you not to take any of it too seriously, you still find yourself hoping that they all manage to survive.
If you’re a fan of Syfy movies, you’ll love Dam Sharks! And if you don’t like Syfy movies — well, that’s just a damn shame.
Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens
“Though not the most logical story out there, the unique and original story does make this feel quite creative enough to make for a solid series of positives that work really well here. The film does have a few minor flaws, in that the unique story doesn’t really make any sense … Along with the usual atrocious CGI, it’s what holds the film down.” GL84
“The film has a truly loopy concept, but has nowhere near the fun that the makers of Atomic Shark have with a similarly stupid idea. Both films never really fully explain exactly how their antagonists get into the state in which they are either ultra-radioactive or able to construct huge dams far upriver from their normal environs. Such concerns aren’t really necessary to a low-budget shark flick, but at least the creature in Atomic Shark still pretty much carries on like normal.” The Shark Film Office
“There are some shameless lifts from other (probably far better) movies. Still, there are a couple of surprises and sufficient fun to be found here: if you’re not predicting the casualties when three people are crossing a river on a tree-trunk, you’re not watching this the right way.” Film Blitz
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