2013 | 87 min
If you’ve ever seen competitive downhill skiing you know about the slalom. Skiers race down the hill while going in between a series of poles. The point is not to engage the poles, but to go around them. In Ghost Shark there are a bunch of good ideas and they are the poles in a slalom race. The filmmakers work hard to speed past all these good ideas without letting them affect their result.
Griff Furst’s film opens with a shark poaching a fish off some anglers’ line and the anglers avenging their lost catch by shooting the shark several times with a large pistol, a speargun and, finally, throwing a grenade in its mouth. The shark survives the grenade attack long enough to swim about a half-mile into a cursed cave where it dies. Some cave magic happens and from that point on it’s Shark’s Ghost vs. The People of Smallport.
The actual story isn’t worth going into much but we can hit some of the major points by lamenting what it could have been.
- A shark needlessly killed is the hero avenging the violences against it? No, it’s still the bad guy.
- The mass deaths via shark attack during the Middle Passage leave the sharks haunting the slavers’ descendents? Nope.
- The violences inherent to settler colonialism that left, in this instance, also the early colonists who cursed the cave also dead haunt today’s settlers in the form of a shark? Nope. The early colonizers’ deaths are just a sad thing.
- A man who murdered his wife and is never accountable haunts the town with his misogynist violence and sees a shark ghost everywhere? No, he’s just a sad drunk.
All of those would be much more interesting than what actually happens and could give a thin story depth. And the story actually touches three of the four but just breezes past them. Apart from the mediocre special effects the film is competently short and not boring visually. The performances are as good as the script allows apart from Richard Moll who overacts pretty badly at times. The big problem is that the film studiously avoids exploring any of the ideas or characters it presents (plus the one better one I added above lol). So nothing is ever fully developed and it just kind of goes through the motions of being a movie. Maybe I’m asking too much of a film about a ghost shark. But at least it could’ve been fun.