July 2, 2019 Nightmare Shark (Movie Review)
Starring Tony Amendola (Stargate SG-1 series, Dexter series) and Rachele Brooke Smith (Entourage series, Class Act mini-series), Griff Furst’s (Starve 2014, Cold Moon 2016) Nightmare Shark explores what happens when previous survivors of shark attacks find themselves hunted again in their dreams…
Out on DVD on Tuesday, July 2nd through ITN Studios, Nightmare Shark often feels like it is a film that is punching far above its weight, with its schlocky B-movie title at natural odds with the relatively-well-done-but-somewhat-pedestrian content actually contained within it. In some ways, it is actually a very confusing film – it sometimes does seem like it wants to lean into B-movie Horror, it sometimes seems like it wants to prove itself as something more worthy of prestige, and ultimately it makes for a tonally discordant film if nothing else.
While it can absolutely be worth it to try this very technique, stitching together contrasting styles into a film that seems to lean into differing styles as it progresses, it does tend to be a risky proposition. When done wrong, it can make for a film that’s a disjointed tonal mess. When done right, it can make for a film that feels fresh, innovative and new. Most will probably think it doesn’t lean too hard in either direction: it’s neither a spectacular failure or a triumphant win. The mishmash of styles here is simply… slightly off, in a manner that does not seem to add anything substantive.
In fact, “competent but pedestrian” is a critical phrase that could be broadly applied to this film as a whole. It often feels like it’s punching above its weight because it does not devolve into B-movie hysterics or visual cheese, but it also does not do much that hasn’t grown largely ineffective due to the law of diminishing returns. It can sometimes feel unfair to judge a film for being too similar, whether visually or otherwise, to the films that obviously influenced it, but as established patterns eventually become so established that they end up becoming cliches they do in fact lose their impact, and that is certainly something that can be felt in the end result. At the end of the day, every film is about the impact it ultimately has on whoever is watching it.
All of that having been said however, Nightmare Shark is still a very enjoyable Horror film. It manages to take itself seriously without lapsing into melodrama, and even if the cinematography is relatively conventional it is always clear and functional. Somewhat interesting, at a few times even – just not usually so. In fact, by virtue of the cinematography, the film is actually a pleasant surprise in the performance department – by eschewing more inventive cinematography, the experience at times feels like it’s something of a back-to-basics Horror Thriller that thrives on foregrounding the performances first.
Much of Nightmare Shark is visually focused on said performances, with a lot of shots unspooling in mid-shots and close-ups that don’t try to constantly distract the audience with flashy tricks. Instead, the pace of the editing is also frequently slowed, and scenes are allowed to focus first and foremost on the characters. Naturally, this would not be much good without adequate performances, but the performers do an admirable job of emulating the energy of the rest of the production here. They all do good, believable work with flashes of inspiration… which, when the rest of the film is put together quite well, is really all a flick like this needs to be stand head and shoulders over much of its competition.
There are some legitimately strong performances in Nightmare Shark, and they more than make up for some unoriginal production choices. Finally, on the issue of performances, any film that brings the instant gravitas of Tony Amendola on board has done itself a favor, and it’s something more films like this should be rewarded for. For all these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Nightmare Shark 3 out of 5 stars.