Countdown to Halloween: Shark Exorcist (2015)

Shark Exorcist (2015)
Dir.: Donald Farmer
TC4P Rating: 1/9
Species: I suppose it is meant to be a great white shark, but the CGI rendering is not all that great. Plus, the shark attacks in the film are in a lake, so the shark is probably supposed to be a bull, though it is never mentioned. And – not for the first time in one of these films – the type of shark really doesn’t matter…

Believe it or not... the best part of the film...
Just over one year ago, I went onto Amazon Prime and watched a film called Shark Exorcist. I knew nothing of the filmmakers or the actors involved in Shark Exorcist, nor did I know anything beyond the title Shark Exorcist. It sounded like it could be a fun, stupid time. Was it about a shark that needed to be exorcised of demons? Was it about someone who was possessed by a shark and needed to be exorcised? Or was it about a shark who has been ordained as a priest who swims the world to perform exorcism rites on other fish who have been possessed by demons?

After watching scores of mostly bad shark movies over the years, one starts to grow a bit inured to the horrors before one’s eyes. You find a certain level of comfort at even the lower depths of “entertainment” and start to figure out that there are levels within levels. After a certain number of consistently terrible films, you rest your laurels on what you believe is the “bad” level, but then each succeeding, consistently awful film you see broadens not just that level but also its definition. You have heard the overused phrase “so bad, it’s good?” Well, it does exist, because on that “bad” level, films do exist that, despite their inherent awfulness, somehow end up being entertaining and even possibly lovable in spite of themselves. The biggest and best example of this would
Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ed Wood's sci-fi opus that is enormously wonderful to behold despite having everything in the world and Hollywood against it.

Shark Exorcist is not one of those films, so don’t get your hopes up here. (You can look at the rating I gave it at the top and figure that one out already.) After a single showing of Shark Exorcist, I was pretty certain that the film belonged squarely at the other end of the “bad” level from the “so bad, it’s good” lot. It was jumbled, confusing, and thrown together seemingly without care as to how it looked onscreen. It was poorly written, acted, edited and directed, and there didn’t seem to be much in the way of any joy behind the production in the way that sometimes occurs in small, independent, bare bones film shoots. (If someone from the production wants to tell me otherwise, that is fine. I am sure you "were like a family" and are all "BFFs to the end!" I am just reporting on what comes across onscreen.)

After seeing the film once, I would have normally moved on to another film. I would have written up my piece on Shark Exorcist and posted it. Readers would have found that I thought it was a genuinely shitty film that had been made solely because both shark films and exorcism films are pretty popular on video and cable these days. The filmmakers did the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup thing and jammed sharks with exorcists and got Shark Exorcist out of it, with very little care given to the film’s coherence. But it was not enough for me to merely surmise how such a film could be conceived, nor would that single serving of it satisfy my curiosity. I knew during the first viewing that I would probably need to watch the film a second time. Unluckily for me, the film was barely over an hour in length, which made it all the easier for me to return.

And Lo! There Came a Second Viewing...

A couple of days later, I went back onto Amazon Prime and I watched the film called Shark Exorcist a second time. Everything that bothered me about the film the first time still bothered me, only just a little bit more than before. Not that long ago, I fought my way through a couple of viewings of an ultra-low budget Canadian shark film called Marina Monster, and I thought that I had truly scraped the bottom at that time. I thought it must be the worst shark movie of the lot, but what kept saving Marina Monster slightly was that its cast seemed to be having a ball making the film, and it came through in the end product. It’s was ultimately kind of shaggy and lovable on its own terms, and while it was still a dreadfully made film, I harbored no ill will toward it.

I gained no such further feeling from Shark Exorcist. The vibe that I continued to get was “Let’s just make this thing as incoherent and crazy as we can make it.” On that level, director/writer Donald Farmer has succeeded. One might claim it is meant to be intentionally surreal, but there is no art behind this. I've met some shitty filmmakers in my life, and they couldn't pull this type of rubbish off at all. Shark Exorcist doesn’t gain this effect from a subtle juxtaposition of scenes of opposing polarity via clever editing technique. This is just bad filmmaking from start to finish; a collection of jumbled together, barely written scenes – some are obviously improvised – with roughly half the action held together with the barest wisp of a plot line.

I eventually watched Shark Exorcist a third time, but before I get to that woeful event, I want to relate a synopsis of the film to you. I did the write-up during the second viewing, partly because I usually knock out a full synopsis of every shark movie on repeat viewings to use for notes when I write about the film later. This time, however, I was truly struggling to get a grasp on what I had just seen. And while I don’t normally post full synopses of shark films on this site (unlike my animation blog, Cinema 4: Cel Bloc), I felt in this case, to truly understand what I went through, you either need to watch Shark Exorcist on your own, or take my advice and simply read what you are missing. You will thank me for it...

Shark Exorcist – The Synopsis

"Just call me Ol' Blinky..."
Open on a cemetery alongside a lake. We hear a news report of a serial killer named Vanessa Blair, accused of the torture and death of 13 local boys and girls. Blair is also a Catholic nun (of course, she is; that is the level on which this film operates). Sister Vanessa walks through the cemetery more like a seductress than a woman of god, and when he is not far from the water, she announces to the world that “The world has betrayed me, so I shall take my vengeance!” I’m not sure how she was planning to achieve that just hanging out on the edge of a lake, but luckily for her, a blonde woman runs up from out of nowhere, and spins the murderous nun around to face her. Proving you should probably watch what you say to someone announcing their intention of taking vengeance in a public venue, the woman yells, “You bitch! Everyone knows what you did!” Sister Vanessa calmly pulls out a large knife and stabs the blonde woman to death and then drags her body down the steps into the water. She says, “Lord Satan! Accept my sacrifice! Send me an avenger!”

"Hey! Get this! The director thinks he's Quentin Tarantino..."
As if on cue, a large shark of indeterminate CGI-cursed species with yellow eyes is shown swimming past. Or swimming somewhere. There is no connection between the fake water of the generic computer-animated scene and that of the location shooting or its two actresses. The shark might be 100 miles out or ten feet away, and we wouldn’t ever know the difference. With the shark’s appearance, the opening credits crawl over a background of blood red waters at dusk: SHARK EXORCIST.

Want to lay bets they are just texting each other?
Cut to bimbo trio, Lauren, Emily, and Ali, arguing in a car on their way to go swimming at a lake. “Just normal lake stuff,” is what one says they are planning. On the banks of the water, Em and Lauren lay down towels to tan, while Ali leaves an angry message on her boyfriend’s phone. Unbeknownst to her friends, Ali goes out into the lake to take a quick swim. She is barely out in the water, when the shark with yellow eyes apparently attacks her. Once more, no connection between the CGI scene and even the color of the water in which Ali is thrashing and flailing. Ali’s attempts to sell that she is being attacked by anything at all looks more like she is caught in quicksand in an old Republic serial. Her friends finds her with the least serious-looking “bite” every committed to film, on top of which quite obviously fake blood gushes as she convulses.

Oooh... that's a pretty serious ketchup roll-up you've got there, lady...
Ali is rushed to the hospital, and immediately after, we get a news report about a series of (thus far) non-fatal shark attacks. Later, Emily collects Lauren from a Dave and Buster’s, and wonders why Lauren never visited Ali in the hospital (from which she has been released after being “miraculously healed from the shark bite”). Emily then does the detective work in her head to figure out that Lauren has been cheating with Ali’s boyfriend Bobby behind Ali’s back.

I'll bet she does... I'll bet she does. Nudge nudge, wink wink...
Cut to: Nancy Chase, the annoying host of a low-budget paranormal show called Ghost Whackers. (This was not the first moment in the film, and it won’t be the last) when I thought that perhaps this film was meant to be a porno originally.) Nancy and her rotund cameraman are filming at a spot at Paris Landing, a State Park along Kentucky Lake in Buchanan, Tennessee. (This is where the bulk of the movie was filmed and takes place.) To give her show a scoop, Nancy Chase hopes to create a psychic link with any of the three women who have died from the attacks thus far. (Apparently, the shark has been busy since Ali’s attack but we haven’t seen a single bit of it.)

American Apparel ads just keep getting weirder...
At one point, with her cameraman behind her in the frame as she talks to him, she then turns to the real camera filming the movie as if it is a second camera on her show. (It makes no sense dramatically, but it is one of the few genuinely funny moments in the movie.) She kneels on a rock at the edge of the water and begs the waters to tell her of the evil that lurks there. Shockingly, she throws herself onto the grass and undulates upon it, thrashing about wildly and then speaking in a growling voice: “These waters are mine! Do you hear me? Mine! For-ev-er! I will eat your flesh and swallow your souls! For-ev-er!” Nancy thrashes about some more, almost a smile as the result of orgasmic joy on her face.

Psst! Girl on the left! Tell Ali she can't have the lead
role if she is going to continue to dress like shit.
Three weeks later, Ali looks fine (except that she isn’t). Emily mentions the “chunk bitten out” of her leg (even though there was never a chunk shown to have been bitten out of her), and thinks that Ali seems strange considering she almost died. Ali mentions that sometimes she wishes she had died (and so do I). I hope this is because Ali is a terrible dresser and has incredibly poor posture for a girl who is supposed to be “hot” (within the context of the film, that is). We then see Ali walking along dressed in tight clothes. She attracts the attentions of a hunky guy. She tells him she is going to the lake with or without him, so of course, because he is a Southern gentleman, obliges and gives her a ride.

"Wow! You are so wet!" "Dude, we're in WATER!"
At the lake, the pair hit the water and start flirting and caressing each other. Ali slips below the water and disappears. The guy wonders where she has gone, and then we see the yellow-eyed shark under the water in pretty much the same shot as we have seen repeated thus far. The guy gets pulled under weakly and tries to wade to shore, because he is only standing in water the whole time. It is not deep enough to have as much water as the shark is shown to have around it when swimming, unless it turned out there is a secret reveal that the shark is only two feet long. (That would have made for a much better and more intentionally hilarious movie, and I beg the director to redo this film with that element in place. We have had Mini-Me; why not Mini-Jaws? And yes, I am aware of the recent movie Piranha Sharks…) The dopey, surprisingly clumsy guy nearly gets to shore but the shark chomps him – without the guy ever being in the same shot – and he is mysteriously pulled under the water. There is then a huge explosion of fake blood from the water and the CGI shark swims away.

Unusual for a film to review itself right at the halfway point...
Nancy Chase is filming another segment of Ghost Whackers, where she claims the shark is possessed by the devil. Without warning, another TV host – Brianna Bennett from Ghost Fakers” – arrives to dispute her claims, and then walks off in a huff. (It’s stupid but it’s also a little bit funny. The actress playing Brianna Bennett sells her part in this one bit far more effectively than the actress playing Nancy Chase does throughout the entire picture.)

No joke... if you blow this picture up, you will see several
acting books sitting on the priest's desk in front of him.
Finally, because we have yet to get anywhere near an exorcist, we meet a Catholic priest. The priest looks at pictures of demonic statues and drawings on his phone (because that is what Catholic priests prefer to do with their time) and has a flashback of a ceremony in a cemetery where three women are trying to summon a “dear sister”
Anyone looking for a truly exotic candleholder?

We see a brunette woman in a negligee smeared in blood stumbling through the cemetery, falling down, and thrashing about as the trio of women summon her. The tall black woman who leads the ceremony also seems possessed by a spirit, but the other two with her think she is faking it. The black woman collapses on the ground, and the brunette woman seems to smile in victory. The black woman’s eyes suddenly open. End flashback.

I don't know if sharks have erogenous zones or not,
but it would probably help if the shark were real first...
On a playground, we meet an adult woman who runs about acting like a child. Not just a child, but a demented one. She holds a pair of rubber sharks in her hands. A blonde woman stands at one end of the playground and the crazy lady runs up to her. The blonde says “I like your sharks” and the madwoman says “Sharks are so cool” and then stages a pantomime fight between the rubber sharks. We then see the blonde is Ali, the recovered victim from the attack. She takes one of the rubber sharks and caresses it. “I think they’re beautiful. Perfect creatures.” 
This scene turns twice as creepy if we find out the girl
with the shark always acts this way, on and off the set...

The mad girl asks Ali what she likes to do and Ali says, in the tone of a five-year-old which lends a certain creepiness to the seduction scene, “I like to get wet.” The girl holds her hands over Ali’s eyes and leads her to a swimming pool, where slinky, softcore-style music starts playing while Ali strips down to her bikini for a swim. The crazy girl says, “OK, I can take a hint” and has a one-piece on under her clothes. She dives wildly into the water and then starts playing with her shark in the pool, spitting water out of its rubber mouth. Ali starts to talk about heartbeats beating faster and then disappears. Suddenly, Ali wakes up in bed in a cold sweat.

Back at the lake, Nancy and her camera guy go to the edge of the water again, and Nancy begins to summon the spirits as before. She is taken over by the demon and thrashes about yet again upon the ground. That’s it. There seems to be no purpose to the inclusion of this scene except to expand the running time.

"Hey, did ya forget me? This is my better side this time."
At the lake, Ali is seen with an a different and unknown woman of the not-so-apparently crazy variety whom she has apparently seduced. The yellow-eyed, demon-possessed shark appears under the water again, and the unknown woman is pulled under. We then see the now supposedly dead woman floating on the water, really none the worse for wear except that she has some fake blood floating on top of her. (No really gore effects thus far, just weak attempts at bloodletting.) We see a sign half submerged on its side in the water that reads: “Danger Shark Sighting -- No Swimming.”

As Doug Benson likes to say, this movie is not for emetophobes...
In a scene filmed at the American replica of the Greek Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee, Ghost Fakers host Brianna follows her now possessed rival, Nancy, as she stumbles through the monument. Nancy turns on Brianna and knocks her down, and then – because you can’t do a film with the word “Exorcist” in the title without doing so – vomits right on her.

I warned you! Try not to throw up yourself now!
We next see a burly man out for a jog. He runs around for a bit, and then sees the body of the last girl killed by the shark still floating on top of the water. He too throws up (because we have already established it is that sort of film, so why not?), and then says, “She’s still kinda hot. I’d still do her.”

Not the first time in this film that people in
ankle-deep water freak out over a shark...
Outside a restaurant, an impatient blonde girl yells at two other blondes, who are sorority pledges, and takes them to the lake, where one of their initiation rites is swimming where the shark is supposed to be. (So, is it an initiation rite of long-standing? If so, does this shark return each year for Pledge Week?) The frightened pledges go out only up to their ankles, but are scared to go out deeper. The mean girl in charge of hazing them tries to coax them into going deeper from the bridge, telling them “I won’t tell anyone you’re a big pussy!” That’s all fine and well, but she should have known such words would get her a visit from the yellow-eyed shark instead. We don’t see the attack, only the reactions of the other two girls, but for once in this film, it is clear that the mean girl has been eaten.

"Man, if I was ever possessed by a shark, maybe
I could live in a fish tank too!"
Despite how inconsequential most of the scene-hopping seems to be, Shark Exorcist still insists that it has a plotline worth continuing. We next visit the priest as he has a talk with Emily about Ali, during which he tells her about another shark attack at the same lake about a year ago. Emily tells him about how weird Ali is acting. He says there is something he needs to tell her but, of course, the director will make sure we are not going to hear it.

"Bingo! Bring me my own fish tank!"
At a local carnival, Ali walks about stalking her friend Lauren and Ali’s old boyfriend, Bobby, who up to this point, has been discussed but not seen. It’s a weirdly silent scene, without any dialogue at all. Lauren flirts with Bobby, but he eventually leaves her and she gets upset. Ali stalks them all through the carnival, stopping briefly at a fish tank that is sitting out on the edge of a booth for reasons unknown except that the filmmakers need Ali to stare into a fish tank. Which she does, and soon we realize that dear Ali has a set of shark teeth of her own, which she looks at in her reflection in the glass. Ali hunts down Bobby and bites him on the neck. The priest and Emily arrive and take Ali away to perform an exorcism.

"The power of Peter Benchley compels you!"
During the exorcism, the Ali/Demon tricks the priest into coming closer and vomits pea soup on him. Ali gets loose and offers a deal to the priest. He must surrender himself to save Emily. Ali takes possession of his body and Ali is freed. Then Mike the priest, now possessed, bites Emily on the arm. The moon opens up another dimension via a rip in the sky and the shark with yellow eyes flies down from the sky at Ali and Mike as Emily escapes.

What a waste of technology...
A blonde bodybuilder driving a truck arrives at the lake. She walks slowly to the shore and lays down a towel, stalked by a weird guy the entire way. She strips down to her bikini and lies down for a tan. She sits up to use her cell phone as the guy nears and the camera zooms in on her body. With some creepy music playing in the background, the guy starts snapping pictures of the girl and reaches out to touch her but never quite does. While she lies there unaware, he flips through the many photos he has taken. (You think he would save that for later, but maybe he wanted to make sure he got some prime shots.)

"Mmmmm... needs more corn syrup!"
Finally, the poor girl sits up like she senses something, but the stalker is long gone. She gets up and picks her things up to leave. Suddenly, she turns around and the killer nun has returned! The girl screams as Sister Vanessa stabs her several times. Sister Vanessa then stands barefoot in the water of the lake, licks the blood off the knife, and yells “Hail Satan!” Suddenly, a woman – the one killed at the beginning of the film – climbs out of the water and pulls Blair into the water. The yellow eyed shark is seen swimming again through the lake but never takes part in the violence, apart from possibly controlling it.

"Did ya know I could do tricks too? Eat my butt out, Flipper!"
Lauren sits on the dock at Paris Landing, while Emily staggers up bleeding from her bite from Father Michael. Emily takes off her top so she is only in her bikini. (These girls are always ready to go swimming.) Lauren confronts her about what has happened, and Emily tells her “You don’t want to know.” She dives into the water and disappears. The shark leaps out of the water and kills Lauren, who dies screaming. Cue the closing credits.

 I wouldn't be surprised to found out this is just what this
girl does every single day, and so they just turned on the cameras...
But only 62 minutes have passed. That's right... all of this nonsense was crammed into 62 minutes, and it still felt like it was going so slow at times. But don't fret, because there are still 9 minutes of running time left! Why not fill it with a scene featuring a red-haired, young woman with a backpack – and very clearly a shark toy fetish – walking through a mall and staring at the fish in an aquarium in front of a Claim Jumper restaurant? 

"Tell me you're a mako... a LONGfin mako! Ohhhhhhh...."
She sees some shark puppets through the window of the aquarium store, and the girl wanders in and looks at stuffed sharks and tries to pick one out she seems to love. She claps the pectoral fins together (because, you know, sharks do that all the time in real life) and tries out numerous ones, finally picking up almost a dozen of them. Later in the aquarium, she studies the fish and seems to be looking for something in particular. She has a rather sad look on her face and then she starts to cry. 

Lon Chaney used little painful wires to get that same nostril effect...
She begins to leave the mall but stops and leans against the wall, rubbing a rubber shark against her face, in an increasingly sensual way. The woman stumbles back into the aquarium area and looks through the glass and then drops the shark as she turns back towards the camera. Glaring at the camera, she spews orange gunk from the corners of her mouth and through her teeth, and then a negative camera effect with a red filter is employed before the screen turns black and the remainder of the credits roll.

"I see red when I see you/Fan belts break at 3:00 a.m...."
We’ve just been puke-rolled.

But still – incredibly! – there are yet another 50 seconds of running time left!

Cut to: a scene outside the fake Parthenon in Nashville again, where the still possessed Nancy Chase is on the loose. Completely out of her mind, she runs her hand over her face as vomit continues to roll out of the corners of her mouth.

We’ve been puke-rolled again.


At the close of that second viewing, and after having made notes of the entire thing, I was convinced that, at the very least, Shark Exorcist was simultaneously both the worst exorcism film that I ever seen, the worst killer nun film that I have ever seen, AND the worst shark film that I have ever seen. And this would have been the end of it too, if I hadn’t gotten hurt at the end of last October. My intentions of writing up a piece on Shark Exorcist in conjunction with Countdown to Halloween died at the same time. I intended on picking up the piece again about a few months later once I started getting positive treatment for my injury. I started to work on the review, but felt as if perhaps too much time had passed.

The Stunning Return to EVEN MORE PAIN!

And so, not wanting to pay $2.99 on Amazon Prime again (the first two viewings were under the same week’s purchase), I thankfully managed to find a full copy that someone in Greece had thrown up on YouTube and watched the film called Shark Exorcist a third time.

I can tell you passionately that I will watch nearly anything at least once, and I can impart to you the reasons why I returned to this film (as I did above) for both a second and a third time, but I say now that I really need to rethink my entire film-watching philosophy. I saw Shark Exorcist again and sat in numbed silence for several minutes after finishing it. This time it came off to me like a purposefully disrespectful and irresponsible attack on the art of film itself. I can find something redeemable in even the very worst of films, but there is nothing here. I am not sure that I have encountered such stultifying awfulness as that which I did in watching Shark Exorcist. Where I thought after the second showing that it was, in separate terms, the worst exorcism, shark, and killer nun movie of all time, this time I had to truly ponder if perhaps I had actually found filmdom’s nadir, the ultimate low-point of creative expression.

I know it’s not film at its lowest point, but it sure seems like it. I know there is still far worse out there. But let me have this moment. Returning to Shark Exorcist again was like revisiting an old school bully thirty years later and begging, “Please kick me in the ‘nads again… and again… and once more for ol’ Central High!” There was nothing happy about the revisit, there was nothing pleasurable to be gained. There is such a thing as so bad, it’s good” and now I swear there is also such a thing as “so bad, it must be destroyed for the good of mankind” or “so bad, its very making must have caused the Elder Gods to have been summoned and now we are on the brink of Apocalypse!” (Well, we are anyway thanks to Trump, but this film beat him to it by at least a month.)

I attempted once more to write about Shark Exorcist and could find no way to proceed. There was no foothold from which to ascend. I was torn between warning the world against the film and just shutting up about it and shelving everything. And I almost did. I finally had to admit: Shark Exorcist broke my brain. But I knew that the only way for me to stop Shark Exorcist was to become a Shark Exorcist exorcist myself.

Unlike my other sites, the Shark Film Office lie fallow for several months after my injury until I revived it in time for Shark Week 2017. Even so, it has been hard to get back into a groove, because Shark Exorcist has been lurking there the whole time, just begging me to even try to sit down and write about it. Now, another Countdown to Halloween is here, over a year since I first encountered Shark Exorcist, and I knew there was only one way to get this horrid thing behind me. I posted in my Countdown to Halloween previews on my sites that I would be writing about at least two shark films for the season, Shark Exorcist and Sharkenstein, figuring that would make me commit at least halfway to doing the deed.

And now, the moment is at hand. I am done with the film. The beast has been fought and defeated. The fight was not with the shark itself, but with the film, poorly conceived and even more poorly rendered, and strewn with unnecessarily fluorescent puke. Let it lie in a pool of its bilious sick and go unwatched by all but the most wretched of souls throughout all eternity.

At least until Shark Exorcist II: The Heretic is filmed. Then I will have to start all over again...


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