Studio: Shout Factory
Director: Jim Wynorski
Writer: Jim Wynorski, William Dever
Producer: Steve Goldenberg
Stars: Dominique Swain, Cindy Lucas, John Callahan, Christine Nguyen, Amy Holt, Chris de Christopher, Skye McDonald, Corey Landis, Serafin Falcon, Oscar de la Rosa, Traci Lords
An underground explosion unleashes prehistoric sharks that terrorize a group of women’s prison escapees.
Like many, I enjoyed the first “Sharknado” (review here) when it originally aired alongside a surprising social media superstorm in 2013. Also like many, I burned out on the nutty shark movie fad almost immediately. As of this writing, I have yet to see any of the film’s sequels, much less the numerous knockoffs cashing in on the craze before everyone else realizes the novelty fun factor has long since peaked.
“3-Headed Shark Attack,” “90210 Shark Attack,” “Avalanche Sharks,” “Roboshark,” “Raiders of the Lost Shark,” and “Sharkenstein,” just to name a few. People are seemingly still watching these movies without totally rolling their eyes, although I’m normally not among them. (Yet with only 17 people contributing just $598 to a failed Kickstarter campaign for “Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre,” perhaps interest in silly shark horror isn’t as high as producers think.)
But having an inexplicable hankering to indulge in a throwback B-movie like those devoured in my youth, and Jim Wynorski of “Chopping Mall,” “976-Evil II,” and “Ghoulies IV” at the helm, I thought, why not give in to weakened willpower just this once? How could I resist a movie titled “Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre?” I couldn’t and I didn’t.
For some reason, five inmates from the Arkansas State Prison for Women are tasked with removing tree stumps from a random spot along a forested stream. For some other reason, one of the two guards escorting the ladies wears a tag identifying him as “V. Ghambari” even though his character’s name is Mike.
There’s a 50% chance such a goof is a continuity error in costuming, which has more than one outfitting issue throughout the film. The other 50% bets on a careless lapse in logic. After all, this is the kind of operation where protocol demands taking roll call when only five people are present and where tight tank tops with denim short shorts supplant orange jumpsuits as apparently standard prison issue.
Back to those tree stumps. In a minute, anyway. First, it’s time for a slow-motion cascade of water over cleavage as the ladies drop their shovels for a hydration break. It’s richly deserved, seeing as how they were determinedly digging into topsoil and leaves for a full thirty seconds beforehand.
Somewhere upstream, a pair of frackers unleashes a pair of poorly-digitized explosions, which in turns unleashes a prehistoric “sharkasaurus” previously trapped underground. This site also happens to be near the spot picked for the prisoner dig, of course. I might stop the summary right there under the pretense of presuming you can see where this setup is going, except “Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre” still has a few slow curveballs to pitch in order to round out its script.
Dominique Swain drops in as an inmate’s lover orchestrating a ludicrously limp escape plot that almost works, if only those mutated sharks cutting through swampland weren’t biting off limbs and swallowing people whole. A professor who looks like he would be more appropriately cast as a pizzeria proprietor also shows up suddenly with a handsome assistant in tow. This fills the exposition insertion and ridiculously quick romance requirements with one conveniently serendipitous inclusion.
It’s not as if the writing is all bad, although much of it is. Dialogue includes zingers like, “if any of you are thinking about pulling a Richard Kimble, don’t. The nearest 7-11 is 50 miles away and it’s not gonna be worth that Slurpee.” When a guard points the prisoners to a lunch of finger sandwiches, one inmate flips him off with the response, “here’s one without the bread.” Juvenile, yes. But if I had seen this movie on late night cable when I was 12, you’d better believe I’d be repeating that joke at school all next week.
Traci Lords and Corey Landis appear as detectives in a B plot that, conspicuously as well as somewhat hilariously, never intersects with the women inmates at all. It’s as though the final edit resulted in only a 65-minute runtime and someone wondered, “how can we pad this to full feature length?”
Lords and Landis nearly flirt with some worthwhile moments of comedic chemistry, though it is Landis’ gamey approach to an inconsequential character that makes the most of their time together. Lords often reads as though she is running her words through a passionless assembly line, particularly during a scene where she just flatly shouts over the sound of pouring rain.
Even by reduced standards for this sort of fare, can the movie be considered any “good?” Depends on your definition of the word “good.” Maybe it also depends on your definition of the word “be.” Or “the.”
For movies like “Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre,” a “Does It Really Matter?” or “What Do You Expect?” icon ought to be used instead of stars or a numerical rating system. Kills are offscreen, practical blood effects are poor, and the digital FX are worse, so gorehounds best look elsewhere for a fix. Mr. Skin fans may be just as disappointed to discover that all scantily-clad ladies remain clad. The script is best described as functional, or, as functional as is required to constitute a basic movie. Acting is, well, what do you expect?
Might one really watch this movie anticipating top-tier quality in any of the above categories anyway? Considering all of the elements in play, perhaps the best way to put it is, “Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre” is exactly the movie you probably think it will be. Mildly entertaining. Completely cheesy. Ultimately forgettable. It rates 50/100 because, well, does it really matter?
Review Score: 50