Sharksploitation (2023)

Sharksploitation (2023)

A documentary more interested in listing examples than providing analysis, but one that remains funny and absurd nonetheless



United States of America
Carl Gottlieb, Chris Kentis, Joe Dante
106 min


If you ever feel jealous that Steven Spielberg changed blockbuster cinema at 28 years old, just remember that he also almost permanently destroyed how sharks are culturally perceived at 28 years old.

What it's about

A retrospective of films that use sharks as threats or villainous figures, and the cultural myths and scientific facts that disprove our widely-held beliefs about these creatures.

The take

Those looking for a nature documentary or cultural deep dive into the ways that sharks really behave and have been perceived throughout human history are likely to be disappointed by this. Sharksploitation only occasionally takes a greater interest in the actual animals that have become staple movie monsters since 1975's Jaws—which makes all of the doc's numerous examples lack a greater connective tissue. But with all that said, it's rare to find what's essentially a catalog of other movies be so amusing just in how it geeks out over its subject matter. Sharksploitation is, at the end of the day, a sincere celebration of B-movies and ripoffs that sheds light on a much weirder but no less passionate side of the film industry. As easy as it is to make fun of the Sharknados of the world, there's a different kind of creativity that goes into films like this. It's a blessing that they don't take themselves so seriously.

What stands out

As fun as Sharksploitation becomes, I still wish it had more to say about real sharks, who were (at least for a moment) endangered because of growing public concern about shark attacks. But the figure who emerges as the most interesting person amid the development of this subgenre is, of course, the original author of Jaws, Peter Benchley. Famously, Benchley changed his tone about sharks and became involved in marine conservation, and the brief time we spend hearing about him in this film provides a potent emotional anchor to the whole thing. Even for schlocky B-movie fare, there's still an urgent responsibility to be a good person and exercise ethical procedures in filmmaking.


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