It may have taken days — weeks, even — for your pulse to stop pounding after watching Sharknado, the Twitter-friendly weather documentary that featured Tara Reid as a pile of wet rags. The latest Syfy Original Movie, Ghost Shark, may not have had the Internet buzz of its Asylum-produced cousin leading up to its premiere last night, but I’m here to tell you that Ghost Shark is roughly 100,000 times better. If Sharknado (which aired last night as a lead-in to Ghost Shark) got anything wrong — I said if — it was that sea tornados full of sharks, while dangerous, require rampaging weather systems to cause any real trouble. Ghost Shark jumps over that hurdle by allowing its titular phantasm to show up anytime and anywhere there’s moisture. Top that, strong winds.
Anyway, Ghost Shark stars Ruthie from 7th Heaven (Mackenzie Rosman) and Bull from Night Court (Richard Moll) — it’s that kind of movie. But dare I say that, unlike Sharknado, this thing was competently filmed? And while Ghost Shark is somewhat knowing in its humor, it’s never groan-inducingly so, and at least those moments are coupled with watchable filmmaking. (There’s nothing worse than attempted camp by people who don’t know how to point a camera, you know?) And despite some truly ridiculous gore, there’s a more innocent spirit to this movie than its more famous cousin; Ghost Shark plays sort of like an extended episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, which is obviously a compliment. [Sprinkles sand over a campfire.]
Anyway, because you lead a busy life and your time on this earth is precious, as we are all just hurtling toward the grave, please enjoy this brief tour through Syfy’s biggest movie event of the week!
Ghost Shark begins with the stirring prologue of a bearded redneck and his loudmouth daughter enjoying a late-night fishing trip where, instead of wrangling a giant marlin or whatever, they hook a great white shark. They proceed to do what any seasoned fishermen would do: They fire a gun at it, splash hot sauce in its mouth, and then throw a live grenade into its gaping maw. The grenade explodes, but the shark uses its last dying breaths (gill squirts?) to swim into an enchanted sea cave where tons of symbols start glowing until — ta-da! — the shark becomes a ghost. Typical ghost genesis, really. But then! But then the shark returns to the boat and interrupts the daughter’s selfie session by eating her and then her dad — and the boat captain for good measure. Why? Because Ghost Shark is mad.
So after that truly thrilling teaser, we meet the central gang of teens that are surely going to be terrorized by the Ghost Shark for the next hour and change. They are a classic horror-movie circle of friends, in that they are all wildly incompatible and actively despise each other. In addition to Ruthie, there’s a very mean, busty blonde girl; a morbidly obese balding guy; a street-smart rich kid; and a guy who I think is supposed to be a hunk but looks like a sleep-deprived Giovanni Ribisi in a fright wig. Anyway, then this happens:
Also, Ruthie finds out her dad died — he was the captain in the earlier scene — but isn’t super sad about it. And although this movie is structured like a slasher film, they all pretty much see the Ghost Shark right away, and there’s no real mystery about what they’re dealing with. It’s a Ghost Shark. Obviously.
So, after their friend is bitten in half at the beach, the kids decide to have their pool party as planned — only now it’ll be a memorial pool party. That’s when a tattooed jerk knocks over the back fence and attempts to do a cannonball.
To make it crystal clear what just happenened: A glowing shark jumps out of the pool, murders a teen, and carries his body (but not the head!) right up into the sky. Plus, after everybody scrambles out of the pool, the morbidly obese guy gets eaten, too. So, yeah, it’s just a very bad memorial pool party all around. Despite all of the eyewitnesses, the rich kid’s father, who is not only the owner of the house with the pool and the town’s mayor but a mayor with gold teeth, arrives to yell at everybody. Naturally, he doesn’t even believe his own son. The mayor’s working theory about how two teenagers had come to be torn apart in his backyard? You guessed it — bath salts. All of the partygoers had done bath salts, in his opinion.
Of course, just when the mayor decides to keep these deaths a secret so as not to hurt his reelection chances, as voters do not like when murders occur in a mayor’s backyard during an election year, lots of people around town foolishly expose themselves to water — like this kid …
… and this poor girl working at a bikini car wash.
The sheriff sums up the gruesome car-wash death poetically: “The car was hot-waxed with the entrails of the woman washing it!” Awesome! Anyway, this movie ends up getting A LOT of mileage out of building tension by showing us wet things. A plumber fixing a pipe is shredded to bits, and Ruthie’s younger sister gets swallowed while taking a bath, but then I guess Ghost Shark doesn’t like how she tastes and immediately spits her out onto the tile — at which point Ruthie and her friends decide not to take the girl to the hospital for stitches and instead just bandage up her leg with paper towels and an array of fashion belts. It’s not explained why they make that decision, but I have to assume it was this filmmaker’s commentary on the current state of the American health-care system.
Most horror movies have that scene where the main girl goes and looks up old newspaper articles on microfiche or whatever, but in this movie she just goes to a museum and listens to a docent talk about magical caves and a town curse and a grimoire and tons of other dumb stuff. Then the rich kid throws a still-burning cigarette butt into an indoor trash can and suddenly sprinklers are going off. The docent is immediately eaten.
But don’t worry: When everybody tries to flee, the rich kid slips and totally gets eaten, too.
Justice, Ghost Shark–style! Anyway, now that his son has been bitten in half, the mayor suddenly has reason to believe that perhaps the Ghost Shark is real and something to be taken seriously. But if there are any doubts left in the mayor’s heart, they are erased when his assistant drinks a sip of glowing water and this happens right there in mixed company:
That’s right — Ghost Shark is not only a supernatural murderer, he is also a weird creep. Get out of our bodies, Ghost Shark! By the way, the mayoral assistant does not survive his wounds.
Later, some of the teens are trying to flee wetness, and Ghost Shark crashes into their Bronco, totaling it. Then, while running around in the streets, the teens find themselves cornered by five wrench-wielding street urchins. Fortunately Ghost Shark is a big fan of karma and decides to eat the top halves of two of these rascal-villains. Live and learn, half-pints!
So, at this point, the mayor decides to get revenge for the death of his son and goes out to the ocean to look for Ghost Shark, despite the fact that it has been well established that Ghost Shark is a land-based phenomenon. That really is sort of Ghost Shark’s main thing at this point: showing up in places that are decidedly not the ocean. Anyway, rather than simply chilling out in his living room while pointing a rifle at a saucer of water, the mayor gets on a boat, watches his bestie the sheriff get eaten, and then runs below deck to reload his rifle while sitting on a toilet. This does not prove to be a smart tactic.
Okay, so then Ruthie joins forces with Bull from Night Court, and they decide that the only way to kill Ghost Shark is to locate the shark’s corpse in that haunted cave, remove a harpoon from said corpse, and then use that harpoon to stab the ghost version of the dead shark. It is perfectly logical, and the plan is, of course, executed flawlessly.
See ya later, you bite-y abomination! Except, whoops! It turns out ghosts can’t be killed by harpoons after all, as Bull from Night Court learns the hard way.
So it’s back to the drawing board for these people.
By the way, Bull from Night Court lives in a lighthouse and is interested in this particular Ghost Shark because, one time, he and his wife got drunk and went to look for trinkets in the enchanted cave, and he ended up getting mad at her and drowning her, and she became a ghost — but not an angry ghost, he knew, because she hadn’t haunted him personally, which meant that she was pretty cool with having been murdered, because she knows how alcohol can change a person. This reveal does not make any sense whatsoever or prove in any way relevant to the plot, but it is insane.
Then it starts to rain, which, when you are a Ghost Shark, has to be the highlight of your day: Ghost Shark can basically turn up anywhere now.
If you are emotionally invested in Ruthie’s theoretically hunky love interest, don’t worry: Ghost Shark cannot quite reach into this shed and eat him or Ruthie’s sister. Both survive. As does Ruthie, who steals a ton of explosives from a construction site and blows up the enchanted cave, thus dispatching Ghost Shark for good. (I would have included a GIF of that moment, but it seemed like maybe the producers ran out of money by the time that part comes up.) Farewell, Ghost Shark! You were justified in your revenge, but perhaps overly callous in your methods.
Guys, if I’m being completely honest, Ghost Shark is not a very good movie. It is, however, excellent. Please, though, one request: Despite the horrifying concepts and imagery found in this film, please do not stop bathing or drinking water. Do not let the Ghost Sharks win. Not today. And to you fishermen out there, please do not fire a gun or throw hot sauce and grenades into the open mouths of great white sharks. This is just a simple request from me to you to stop getting us into these kinds of situations. Thank you sincerely.