REVIEW: Sky Sharks (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Marc Fehse.

There’s a moment in Sky Sharks where a character is reading Time magazine, the cover featuring Donald Trump’s face and the publication title changed to read “Mine”. Moments later the plane on which she’s travelling is attacked by undead flying Nazis who pilot airborne super-sharks in a daring mid-air assault. It’s not a subtle moment – nothing here is – but it does acknowledge that in the four years since 45 became President the very notion of satire has become problematic, reality falling into a tailspin where even the most outlandish of fantasies seem plausible. In 2020, this just might happen.

For buried deep below the Antarctic ice legions of zombie fascists are slowly reanimating with their toothsome rides, looking to take to the air and bring down Western civilisation. The one man who can stop them is Dr. Klaus Richter (Thomas Morris) – a former Nazi scientist who came to US via Operation Paperclip and was involved in the experiment that created this threat – along with his two (scantily clad) daughters who need to help atone for their dad’s misdeeds.

Director Fehse serves up a slice of green-screen exploitation in the vein of Iron Sky (2012) and Sharnado (2013), amping up the CGI gore, boobs and casual invocation of real life monsters. It’s clearly gleeful (Verhoeven-esque infomercials are great, and Tony Todd chews the scenery in loveable fashion) though how much fun one has with it is probably correlative to the level you’ve enjoyed its B-movie progenitors. It’s also an equal opportunities offender, deliberately flying (a great white shark) in the face of good taste, with certain moments feeling particularly out of step.

The female characters, for example, are largely framed as soft-core thirst traps. An early scene sees a couple having sex and when the zombies inevitably attack it is her naked body which is covered in blood, hung upside down and devoured until only her genitals remain on screen. Add to this claims that a super serum makes men invincible but turns women into big breasted zombie babes and its hard to escape the feeling that a line between playful parody and something more unpleasant has been crossed. Whether one takes all this as a cheeky middle-finger to propriety or a troubling revelry in outmoded misogyny and gendered violence is for the individual to decide.

And then there’s the zombies. It’s now over a decade since Outpost (2008) and Dead Snow (2009) first saw the Reich crawl out of the grave, and whilst it could be argued that the real-life rise of far-right groups should make them the monster par jour in reality it feels dated and stale. With actual Nazis parading the streets and throwing Seig Heils in public, the idea of supernatural storm troopers seems somewhat quaint, the film never serious enough to approach actual satire.

There are those of course who would argue that Sky Sharks shouldn’t be taken seriously at all, but even as a midnight movie it’s overlong, weighed down by lengthy exposition and labyrinthine world-building: and all that before its other limitations are considered. Sadly, despite the image of a Nazi surfing a shark through the clouds, its never more than that and often significantly less.

Tim Coleman

SKY SHARKS has its world premiere at FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition on 27th August 2020.

Published by Tim Coleman

Film critic. Screenwriter. Academic.

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