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Dinoshark DVD Review

Dinoshark DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Dinoshark

Original Air Date: March 13, 2010 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Declan O'Brien / Writers: Frances Doel, Guy Prevost (screenplay); Porter Fox (additional dialogue)

Cast: Eric Balfour (Trace McGraw), Iva Hasperger (Carol Brubaker), Aaron Diaz (Luis), Dan Golden (Michael Kirshner), Humberto Busto (Captain Victor Calderon), Guillermo Ivan Mora (Ernesto), Roger Corman (Dr. Frank Reeves), Christina Nicole (Rita Valdez), Richard Miller (Steve Loggins), Liv Boughn (Lois), Robbie Roesell (Dr. Simon Otis), Gary Tunnicliffe (Jeremy Long II), DJ Johnson (Zorra), Erika Zinser (Janelle), Cindy Mazer (Elsa), Sara Kova (Jade), Benjamin Woodlock (Tom), Jack Hite (Eddie)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
DVD Release Date: April 26, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.97
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($24.97 SRP)

Buy Dinoshark on DVD from Amazon.com • Buy Dinoshark on Blu-ray from Amazon.com

Dinoshark, a product of B-movie king Roger Corman and cable network Syfy, opens on melting polar ice caps, one of which gives life to the titular creature and unleashes it upon the world. Three years later, it makes its first kill off the coast of Alaska. We then relocate to sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where we find our human protagonists in Trace McGraw and Carol Brubaker.

Trace (played by journeyman Eric Balfour, slipping in and out of a Mexican accent?) has just returned to his childhood hometown, where he's planning to spend the next two months captaining a sightseeing boat,
which heightened harbor law enforcement may prohibit him from also living on. The vaguely European Carol (Iva Hasperger) is somewhat new in town, but not new enough to be needing work. She gets a job offer on top of her gigs as a girls water polo team coach and a science teacher. When Trace and Carol's mutual friend Rita Valdez (Christina Nicole) goes missing, they become aware of a shark-like being unlike any other around.

Trace spots it first and can't believe his eyes. What is this horned, scaly giant beast? Why, it's one of prehistory's monsters, believed extinct for millions of years, and somehow preserved in that polar ice. Carol brings her improbable pliosaurus theory to marine biologist Dr. Frank Reeves (Corman himself, in a medium-sized expository part). After that, Trace and Carol make it their mission to contain and stop the killer, whose predatory ways are already thinning the population at the resort city during a modest weekend event.

Trace (Eric Balfour), Carol (Iva Hasperger, showing off her toned abdomen), and Luis (Aarσn Dνaz) search for the prehistoric "Dinoshark" that ate their friend.

Dinoshark is very much a sister production to Sharktopus, the Puerto Vallartan Corman/Syfy movie that aired six months later and whose DVD release I reviewed last month. In many ways, Dinoshark isn't as bad as Sharktopus. The visual effects are better and there are fewer outlandish turns and ludicrous subplots. That would be good news if a person watched Syfy original movies wanting and expecting them to be good. But it seems like the biggest fans of the network's schlocky low-budget productions are those entertained by their egregiousness. Such folks are sure to be disappointed that there is less humor, over-the-top acting, and ogling here.

Dinoshark is less entertaining than Sharktopus, stopping at the "so bad" and thoughtlessly leaving out the "it's good" part of the camp value mantra. It is genuinely bad, though. The combination of Corman, Syfy, and the title Dinoshark is enough to anticipate hasty rubbish and unsurprisingly it delivers that.

As these films always are, the story is a slight variation on Jaws (whose John Williams score is paid "homage"), with a deadly aquatic predator surfacing and various reasons (authority ineptitude, nature defiance, a marina festival with an open water polo match) keeping people on or in the water and at risk.

We get one of our closest looks at the killer Dinoshark, who may actually be extinct reptile pliosaurus unfrozen. Dr. Frank Reeves (legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman) enjoys the mariachi band, but not the volume at which they're playing for the marina fiesta.

Director Kevin O'Neill is first and foremost a visual effects supervisor, having spent more than 20 years in that department, with the last ten suggesting creative decline from prominent TV and film credits (Addams Family Values, Blade, "Xena: Warrior Princess") to gory no-name straight-to-video horror series (Pulse, Feast).
(Although he did work on last year's well-reviewed kindred remake of Corman's Piranha.) O'Neill made his directing debut on 2004's Corman-produced Dinocroc, which inspired the semi-sequel Supergator (2007) and the follow-up Syfy showdown Dinocroc vs. Supergator (2010). His sophomore outing as director, Dinoshark displays modest acumen visually (he also supervised visual effects), stretching the generous estimated $2 million budget and keeping the mutated threat largely in the water instead of making it a limitless leaping laughingstock like the crudely CGI Sharktopus. (Dinoshark does, however, pull down a computer-generated helicopter to its demise.)

Whatever sense O'Neill has for effects (and, in case it need be pointed out, the animal never looks real and pales next to any practical mechanics that would have been used pre-digital age) is countered by his insufficient grasp of storytelling. Characters come and go, the two leads never remotely earn our sympathy, victims are clumsily established as Dinoshark prey, and nothing ever arises to care or invest in. No one would argue otherwise, and such items almost certainly didn't make Corman and Syfy's checklist, which probably read: 1) pleasant tropical location, 2) fit women in bathing suits, 3) lots of monster kills.

Perhaps the film's most distinctive shortcoming is its extremely poor use of ADR (automated dialogue replacement), a.k.a. looping. People speak a few times when their mouths aren't moving and lines regularly do not synch up with lips. Much of the dialogue is delivered with turned backs, which is strange because it's not like anyone says anything that couldn't have been thought up on the spot. I imagine heavily-accented local actors (this was really shot in Mexico) might explain some of it, but the amateurish implementation lends the feel of an old foreign movie. Amusingly, someone named Porter Fox actually receives credit for "additional dialogue" alongside the two screenwriters (longtime Corman associate Frances Doel and 1999 TV episode writer Guy Prevost).

Dinoshark is not rated, but most of the time it feels too tame for the TV-14 it earned on air. I did notice one expletive. As for the violence, there are images of a severed head and a half-eaten body, but none which are graphic enough to bother anyone out of elementary school. Running 90 minutes (which is about eight more than most two-hour timeslots allow these days), it is unclear how much, if at all, this DVD presentation extends the broadcast version.


Dinoshark isn't too easy on the eyes, but Anchor Bay's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen DVD transfer can't take much blame for that. It presents the movie competently, with light grain and some compression artifacting. The visuals can't hide their low-budget nature.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is equally sufficient. Compounding the clunky looping, much of the dialogue isn't especially clear, but the English SDH subtitles track help that out. Otherwise, the mix dispenses score and atmosphere from all channels and with vitality befitting the production. The rare bit of Spanish is not translated automatically.

Fear what's just below the surface, reads the provocative tagline for Syfy's "Dinoshark" in its included trailer. Dinoshark's most ludicrous kill, chomping a CGI helicopter to its doom, makes an appearance on the DVD's main menu.


Two extras are included here. On the main menu, we find Dinoshark's dialogically sparse trailer (2:10), which may be most notable as the only marketing ever giving Eric Balfour pre-title billing.

From the Set Up menu, there is an audio commentary by director Kevin O'Neill and married producers Roger and Julie Corman. The track is moderated by independent producer Perry Martin, who lobs praise and easy questions.
Still, it's enough to reveal the kind of thinking that goes into a modern B-movie. Among the topics covered: Syfy's lack of notes, shooting on 35mm film, Mr. Corman's biggest acting role to date, Corman inspiring O'Neill to enter film, having to meet a kill quota (that helicopter bite was an afterthought) and a required runtime (with a disposable California scene), the modest casting requirements, collaborating over Skype, the tone compared to Sharktopus, and Eric Balfour's closing stunts. It's a serious discussion and though you may question that, it makes for a more entertaining listen than just goofing around and recalling the fun.

The disc opens with a 10-minute reel of trailers, promoting Sharktopus, Dinocroc vs. Supergator, Roger Corman's Cult Classics, Starz's Cyclops, and Turbulent Skies.

The main menu loops a montage of ocean and shore footage set to excited score. Submenus are static and silent.

The standard Eco-Box keepcase gets topped by a cardboard slipcover with a sticker billing it "The 2010 Hit Film as seen on Syfy." That's not exactly exaggeration, since Dinoshark did attract just over 2 million viewers in its March 2010 premiere. With one million in the 25-54 demographic (raising the question of where the other half fall), the broadcast ranked Syfy a respectable fourth among all cable networks on that Saturday night.

Just because leads Trace McGraw (Eric Balfour) and Carol Brubaker (Iva Hasperger) are single thirtysomethings united in their pursuit doesn't mean the movie has a romance for them. It's Dinoshark vs. human jet skier in the movie's climactic near-finale showdown.


Void of horror and camp humor, I'm not sure what people are meant to get out of Dinoshark, a typically brainless Syfy movie that is bad, but not quite bad enough to enjoy. The only audience for this is the crowd that can't get enough killer monster movies and they would be probably do better with a cable subscription than renting or buying the many entries in the genre.

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Related Reviews:
Produced by Roger Corman: Sharktopus • Fire on the Amazon (Unrated) • Eat My Dust • Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
Starring Eric Balfour: Skyline (Blu-ray) | Syfy Programming: Lake Placid 2 (Unrated) • Stonehenge Apocalypse • Alice (2009)
New: Teen Wolf (Blu-ray) • Tron & Tron: Legacy (2-Movie Collection) • I Love You Phillip Morris • Taxi Driver (Blu-ray)
Piranha • Primeval • And Soon the Darkness (2010) • Spartacus: Blood and Sand: The Complete First Season
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou • The Ruins (Unrated) • Harpoon: Whale Watching Massacre (Unrated)

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Reviewed April 10, 2011.

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