The problem with Ghost Shark is that it isn't significantly better than Sharknado. While SyFy Channel previously aired a couple of sub-Corman sharksploitation films, including 2-Headed Shark Attack and Malibu Shark Attack, Ghost Shark is too competent to be truly awful. Admittedly, the film's high-concept is what viewers will really judge the film by, and Ghost Shark's premise is pretty lofty. After being murdered by drunk hicks with a camcorder, an undead shark wreaks havoc on a small resort town. Good news: If you're drunk and/or high enough to want to waste two hours on a movie called Ghost Shark, don't worry, it's tolerably mediocre! The bad news: Ghost Shark is it is not the next Sharknado.
That bad news is actually more good news, but for bad reasons. Despite the pre-Shark Week hysteria that led to Sharknado's big ratings, Sharknado is, as numerous dejected people-we'd-like-to-think-are-hipsters (“I was into Jaws: The Revenge before it was cool!”) will attest, unbearably incompetent. There's too much Beverly Hills, 90210 star Ian Ziering committing various unconvincing acts of heroism (He saves a whole bus-ful of children! He saves senior citizens from a public pool! He even saves his character's ex-wife!) in front of a green screen, and not enough shark-related freak weather event action. Sharknado unsurprisingly has terrible dialogue—after killing a shark, one character observes, “Looks like it's their time of the month!”—shitty acting, miserable CGI, and action scenes that are so poorly filmed that you probably don't even want to look them up on YouTube, not even the scene where Ziering flies into the mouth of a shark with a chainsaw, and hacks his way out. This is the kind of movie that's so bad that it will punish you if you think, “It's gonna be so bad it's good!”
By contrast, Ghost Shark is mostly just a dumb Jaws ripoff with some very goofy, and mostly unexplored twists. As it's established in the film's first few minutes, a shark dies, and becomes a ghost. After that, Finch (Richard Moll), an unemployed public nuisance,* runs around the small town of Harmony complaining of a ghost shark. Nobody heeds Finch's drunken warnings until a group of teenagers see a “translucent” shark kill one of their best friends. Ava (Mackenzie Rosman, or 7th Heaven's Ruthie Camden) is the most vocal of the bunch, but Deputy Hendricks (Tim Taylor) doesn't believe her, even if Ava says nothing about a ghost (at first, Finch is the only one beating the ghost shark drum). Still, dead or not, Harmony's residents now know a shark is on the loose, and that scares Mayor Glen (Lucky Johnson), who needs the killer to be stopped so that he can be re-elected. But as Ava and her friends Blaise (Dave Davis) and Cameron (Jaren Mitchell) soon find out, Finch is not completely crazy, and the shark in question (“One eye, and a hole in its fin!”) can attack anyone near a source of water.
That last point is actually the source of a handful of moronically funny scenes. These sequences are the highlights of Ghost Shark, especially the one where a man implodes after downing a cup of water from his office's cooler. This scene is appreciably dopey because, at some point, the writers knew there was no way such a gag was its own punchline. After the guy blows up, two surviving onlookers just gawp at his corpse, and the scene ends. Admittedly, the film's writers weren't smart enough to make the preponderance of scenes where Ava searches for answers compelling. But the few-and-far-between scenes that rely on insipid plot twists (What kind of town has a grimoire in its local museum?), and lowest common denominator-friendly sight gags are actually ok. The film is, in other words, smart enough in parts to make you disappointed it's not more consistently goofy. In another memorably idiotic scene, bikini-clad girls are murdered while they hand-wash a barely pubescent nerd's car down. An especially perky girl gets sucked into a bucket head-first, causing the braces-addled geek to cry. His sobs of anguish are funny, and for the right reasons.
But this scene only proves how boring Ghost Shark normally is. We spend so much time with Ava and her friends that you have to remind yourself what's the name of the movie you're watching (“Kid Detectives?” “Blaise's Shark Hunt?” “James Jaws Jr.?”). No member of Ava's search party is charming. For example, there's Cameron, the most well-developed character of the group. Cameron's dad is Mayor Glen, which is the source of canned tension in one scene (“Are you worried about me, or your next election?!”). But for the most part, Cameron is just a goofy teen who says outlandish things that are ultimately not outlandish enough. The best of his quips is when he's regaling some girls with stories about fighting the ghost shark. He tells them that he stabbed him, and “Went all Michael Meyers on that bitch.” The only time Cameron's funny is when he smirks, “It is what it is,” after commandeering his friend's jet ski. He could have just as easily said, “YOLO!” But Ghost Shark's trio of writers showed some restraint, and resisted the urge to make a cheap joke.
That lip-teasingly coy attitude is the problem-behind-the-problem with Ghost Shark. The film's makers clearly want to be crazy, and silly, but either didn't have the stamina, or the ideas to support such a modest endeavor. One can only hope that the creators of Cyborg-Shark-Ninja, Rockabilly Shark Stripper, or whatever the next Adjective Shark movie is will channel their inner Larry Cohen, and make a z-grade movie you can drink to.
*Author's Note: as one commenter pointed out, there was an error regarding the extent of Finch's involvement in this introductory scene. I assumed he was the captain of that smaller boat, but I was wrong. Thanks, and sorry for the mistake.