What I'm Watching: Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre
From the heights of Civil War to...this. The swampy, murky depths of Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre. And if your brain is scrambling to make sense of that first word, it's a portmanteau of Shark and Arkansas.
Now that we've gotten through the linguistic hurdles, let's get onto the plot, such as it is. A group of female convicts are being taken out into the middle of the swamp for their manual labour punishment, when gasp! Sharks attack!
...Yeah, so that happens.
During their work, one of the prisoners goes missing (eaten by a shark in the middle of the Arkansas swampland), and so the corrections officers in charge take them back. However, on the way back, the girlfriend of one of the cons stops the van with a sob story of a car accident...and quickly pulls a gun and takes over, leading the cons and their guard to an even more remote area in the middle of the middle of nowhere to hole up and make their escape a bit later.
Eventually they come face to face with the sharks burrowing under the ground *twitches* and have to hide out in a conveniently nearby cave. Because the cave walls are solid rock, the sharks should not be able to burrow into them! Look. The sharks should not be burrowing through the soft *dirt* either, but here we are!
The cast gets slowly picked off, until the survivors escape, after some misadventures along the way.
There is no getting around it. This idea is silly. No no, this idea is *silly*. But, it's no less silly than Sharknado. It might actually BE less silly that that thing. And while this movie does not reach the dizzying heights of glorious camp that Sharknado does, and it may have a budget so low to be laughable...this movie actually somehow works?
The cast may not be the greatest collection of actors, but they at LEAST put in average work, above many movies I've seen, and even have a few solid moments of pathos and charm. Every one of the prisoners has a distinct personality, and there's some good dialogue sprinkled here and there.
I *really* could've done without the Japanese woman constantly being called racial slurs like "Tokyo Rose" and "Chopsticks" and "Soy Sauce". Once MAYBE twice, would've been tolerable, but when they kept coming...and sure, their cons, they're terrible people, but it just got on my nerves after awhile. It could've been worse, but just seemed unnecessarily terrible.
The explanation for the sharks is as absurd as the plot itself; they come from an underground ocean, long since unseen, and released thanks to fracking. But hey, the explanation is just a means to an end, to get the sharks in the plot. Which, sadly, they weren't there THAT much.
And that's a problem. This movie needed more of the sharks. This really boils down to a prison escape movie, with some added sharkish complications. I wanted more of that. But it could've been anything. Snakes, mountain lions, bears, or even left out completely, and the plot wouldn't have been affected much, if at all. Now, the reactions to the fact there are ACTUAL SHARKS after them is great, and sells the idea, but it really needed more.
The movie is such a women's prison escape movie, that it even knows to make sure that this abandoned house in the middle of Wrightson Swamp (A reference to Bernie Wrightson, amazing comics artist and creator of Swamp Thing, so I give the movie points for that reference alone), should, NAY IT MUST, have a hot tub, because you just gotta have a scene where the girls get into bikinis and relax. You roll your eyes, but you knew this was coming, at the same time. It's THAT kind of movie.
The low budget CGI of fins crashing through the dirt is about all you get. We never really SEE the sharks, which would've been nice, with their limited role. I never thought this kind of movie would make me want MORE, but that's the long and short of it.
The low budget...not only does it hamper the effectiveness of the antagonists, but there's also a *hilarious* moment where the group switches into a rented van to be harder to find, and you stare and stare and realise...the striping on the van? Is made FROM PAINTER'S TAPE. I nearly lost my shit at the realisation.
The ending of the movie ended up being surprisingly charming though, and there was a lot of fun with the script. The movie never takes itself too seriously, and even knows to make the references it should be mentioning, like the land shark skits from SNL, and even a few nods to Roger Corman, the king of cheesy horror.
Sharkansas manages to succeed despite its limitations, and while it's no Sharknado, it does have a lot of charm, humour, and fun, and if you want something just plain silly and entertaining, this actually manages to fit the bill. I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed watching this, even though I knew it was a silly, low budget mess the entire time. I only wish we had more sharks!