With no-budget movies you really need to search through the dross for the diamonds. Having a small, or even no budget at all, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Look at The Blair Witch Project. Look at A Ghost Waits or The VelociPastor.
Hell, look at Mad Max or Halloween! These films had tiny budgets, but they were bolstered by strong storytelling and strong characters. Cocaine Shark has none of these things. No budget, no decent script, no strong characters. You know what it else it doesn’t have? FUCKING COCAINE. The title is a perfect example of a mockbuster a la The Asylum, trying to ride the coattails of the far superior Cocaine Bear.
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The film’s synopsis describes it thusly: “A mafia drug lord has unleashed a new, highly addictive stimulant on the streets called HT25, derived from sharks held captive in a secret lab, and which causes monstrous side effects. After an explosion and leak at the lab, an army of mutated, bloodthirsty sharks and other creatures are set loose on the world as a small band of people try to stop the carnage.” I’m going to give this synopsis maybe a 3 out of 5 in terms of how accurate it is to what goes on in the film. There’s not really a lot of “unleashing” going on, nor is there an “army” of sharks, mutated or otherwise.
The first four minutes of the film really do tell you everything you need to know. One unnamed character (hereafter referred to as baseball cap guy) holds another unnamed character (hereafter referred to as schmuck #1) at gunpoint to discuss stealing another character’s (hereafter referred to as the boss) drugs.
Schmuck #1 spills the beans, illustrated through some lovely use of stock footage, and is then taken through to the boss’s laboratory in which we find a tank containing “the greatest killing machine in the world”. This is, in fact, a stop-motion hybrid of shark and crab which is imaginatively titled… Crabshark! Phew. Don’t strain yourselves coming up with interesting names, guys. Anyway, Schmuck #1 is fed to the crabshark, and we roll the title card.
To say that the acting is bad in this scene would be doing a disservice to bad acting. Schmuck #1 delivers each line with the pitch and cadence of a child reciting their multiplication tables. Neither of them seem to know where to look, there’s no effort given to establish where we are or really much of anything beyond ‘these people bad’. We then cut to a bearded man tied to a hospital bed. Who is he? Why is he tied to the bed? Why did he cost them “a lot of money”?
WHO CARES?! It’s time for another scene transition (this time to four weeks earlier) and another character who tells us about this film’s McGuffin – HT25, a narcotic apparently made from “the glands of sharks” which also features “nanobot technology”. Because sure. Why not? What does it do? Well, it’s an LSD-esque drug that makes you trip out and imagine you’re a shark! Is this something the market is calling for? I guess so! People sure do seem willing to kill for it, even if it has “monstrous side-effects”.
My favourite part of the movie is where the cop is supposedly meeting an informant who will help him infiltrate the gang that is trying to control the drug trade. It’s set up as if they’re in the same room talking to each other, except that it’s so blatantly obvious that they’re in two totally different locations. The buildings they enter don’t look even vaguely similar, one shot shows a room with yellow pipes and white walls, while the other has no pipes and bare concrete walls.
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I know I’ve not really spent a lot of time going into the plot of this film or the characters, and that’s for one simple reason. This film is not good. In fact, it’s bad, and I don’t mean in the ‘so bad it’s good’, it’s just straight up bad and you should go and watch something else.
Don’t let the title deceive you and lure you into watching it. This film is a mess. Scenes follow each other with no real coherence, there’s no smooth transition to let you establish where you are in the world or the story, stock footage is randomly inserted hither and thither, regardless of whether or not it’s specifically relevant to the scene, and characters frequently stare blankly off into space and insert long, awkward pauses into their dialogue. This film did not entertain me, but it also didn’t make me angry. The credits rolled and I was left feeling absolutely nothing.
Cocaine Shark is out now on VOD and releases on DVD on 11th July in the USA.