Director Jerry Dugan’s new film, written by David Anderson and Gabe Burnstein is one of those deals where you really don’t know what to expect. While the title sounds just too much like the hundredth attempt to cash in on the cult and myth created by ‘Jaws’, Dolph Lundgren as the lead actor disperses most of the doubt whether it is really worth going to see it. But whether you expect a satisfying new take on shark horror, or a Dolph with his usual strong screen presence, ‘Shark Lake’ falls short. For us it is, much like one of the main themes in the film, a missed opportunity. Come on inside to find out more.
Fiercely protective single-mom Meredith Hendricks happens to also be the best cop in her quiet town on Lake Tahoe. When a black-market exotic species dealer named Clint, is paroled from prison, something he let loose begins to make its presence known. Swimmers and land-lovers alike begin to become part of the food chain at an unbelievable rate. Meredith and the new man in her life, a biologist named Peter, begin to investigate these brutal attacks and discover that they’re not just hunting one eating machine, but a whole family of them. After a documentary crew is devoured when they don’t take the threat seriously, it’s up to Meredith, Peter, and the unlikely hero, Clint, to stop the most dangerous thing on the planet: A mother protecting its young. Not everyone will make it out alive, but those who do will never forget this summer at Shark Lake.
The premise of the film is not as absurd as it may seem. Sharks in a sweet water lake are possible and the film delivers the scientifically sound explanation, as well as a valid reason for them being there despite any connection of the lake with the ocean. The story itself is full of potential for the drama between the characters alone but the script fails miserably at utilizing it. Instead, ‘Shark Lake’ wastes just too much of our time on clichés we have seen a million times, camera perspectives that could have been taken out of a 1970s killer-of-the-sea flick and stereotypical tourist portrayals. This is probably also the reason why ‘Shark Lake’ takes so long to find its rhythm and fall into a flow. The first half seems almost episodical with harsh changes in the storyline and location, lacking any attempt of a subtle connection in the editing suite.
We almost feel pity for the entire cast because they all deserve a script that lets them dive into their characters deeper, more intensely than “Shark Lake’. Dolph Lundgren’s character Clint, while imagined along the same lines, is a mere shadow of the actor’s previous portrayals of a tragic hero. His inner conflict remains largely undeveloped and the drama between Clint and Meredith Hendricks, played by Sara Malakul Lane is never exploited before it comes to its all too sudden conclusion.
As far as the horror aspect of ‘Shark Lake’ is concerned, the film fails to build real suspension as much as it fails to build drama in the story. There are gallons of blood in the water and the sharks enjoy more than one plentiful lunch, yet the special effects remind us of the early days of SyFy channels monster films. In short: classic stop motion is more convincing. The only element where the film manages to convince are the aerial shots of Lake Tahoe which are breathtakingly beautiful.
Unless you are really bored and are looking for some mild entertainment, we think ‘Shark Lake’ is not worth your 90 minutes of time when it hits the big screen nationwide today. It is simply too shallow and lacks any of the bite of its titular killer. If you have an appetite for good shark horror, dig up some ‘Jaws’ instead. Dolph Lundgren fans are better advised to watch one of his previous movies, even if its going to be the fiftieth time it will provide more thrills and pack more punch than this one.
Review by Carsten Berg