Make no mistake, Hammerhead is a bad telefilm, but it's the kind of B horror film that is fun to watch. Foremost it is fun because it has Jeffrey Combs as a mad scientist. More third-rate horror filmmakers should bare in mind that the worst drivel committed to a script & reenacted in front of a camera can grow from laughable & boring, to laughable & thrilling, if there's a pleasingly hammy performance cementing it all together. Many a film from the past has nothing to recommend it but an over-the-top performance by Vincent Price or Peter Lorre, & to a startling extent Jeffrey Combs is the modern Peter Lorre.
The story Combs has to sell the viewer isn't an easy one. He's a psycho scientist fired from his lab-research job with a major pharmaceutical for dubious experiments. Unlike any other unemployed lab-tech, this one seems to be as wealthy as a Saudi oil sheik. He moves into a mansion-in-tropical-paradise where he has an "Island of Dr. Moreau" style state-of-the-art laboratory with technological advances unknown elsewhere in the scientific world, & he hires a private army with plenty of bombs & a couple of helicopters to persue his Dr. Mengele agenda of revenge against the pharmaceutical company for firing him. It's a multi-billion dollar plan to carry off a thousand-dollar assassination, but hey, he's a madman after all.
The imposition of inexplicable & magically funded military (with soldiers who're very nonchallant about such jobs as getting rid of the corpses of disemboweled pregnant women) means the film can be about explosions & fire gags, with plenty of extra bodies from the private army to be blown up or shot down, if not ripped to pieces by shark-boy. It's supposedly a monster movie foremost, but the scriptwriter couldn't think of enough uses for a mere shark-boy, & required just about everyone at one time or another to be machine-gunning everything else while stuff is exploding or catching fire all around them. The story of the monster too often takes a back-seat to the director's pyromania.
The creature-feature element is wonderfully goofy. The mad scientist's son Paul supposedly died of liver cancer some years before, but actually Paul is the scientist's crowning achievement. He's been injected with hammerhead shark DNA & has turned into a half-man half-shark, first of a projected New Race that will be master of land & of sea, living hundreds of years immune to cancer & all other diseases, but with no iota of humanity left & an overwhelming desire to bite arms & legs off people then leave the body parts lying around.
According to the mad & apparently poorly educated scientist, the most ferocious shark of all sharks is the hammerhead (in reality pretty innocuous as sharks go). The madman never gives up on his belief that his son is still partly human, & as coincidence rather than clever planning would have it, Paul's former fiance shows up on the island & the mad scientist thinks Paul may be willing to mate with her to establish the new master race. Crap, I can't bring myself to explain any more of the plot, but you get the idea, it's all pretty damned stupid.
But it doesn't matter, because it has Jeffrey Combs in it. And whether he's waxing nostalgic about his memories of the smell of his mother, or petting one of his son's trio of sharkfins, or griping angrily that neither his private army nor his shark-son is killing everyone swiftly enough, he's just a jar-full of joy to watch over-act.
Shark-boy himself is not that consistent a monster. As a swimming CGI effect he's not all that bad glimpsed for quarter-seconds at a time. Walking around with camera work never showing too much of him for too long at a time, he's just a cheap rubber suit with an oversized head & floppy fins on his back. But since there is never a complete "reveal" even for the climax, we never know for sure if any camera trick could've made it look convincing.
The human aspect of the shark seems to be merely that it can walk upright though the film sometimes assumes it can't get far from water, other times assumes it can, but there is never any sense that it has human intelligence of any kind. The stated direction of the plot, with his coincidentally-showing-up ex-fiance to be used in one of the mating trials, is never fullfilled. Her presence does not awaken even a slight degree of humanity in what in the Shark With Legs.
The script seemed to be aiming at a climax that required a momentary spark of the old "Paul" revealing himself in the presence of his fiance. But probably because the shark suit wasn't convincing enough to be shown in its entirety, it was decided to just blow him up in the presence of some bondage & titty-action.
The hero & heroine of the piece are surprisingly decent. Paul's ex-fiance is played by Hunter Tylo (awfully sexy for a twenty-year veteran of soap operas) in a role that demands her to mix porn star attributes with action-star attributes. She manages somehow to make a passable character out of what was on the script pages empty exploitation.
The leading man, her new boyfriend, is played by WIlliam Forsythe. He's a tubby middle-aged dude with a machine-gun, some martial arts skills, & a he-man attitude. Though physically the casting would appear to be wrong, he comes off really well & is somehow less ridiculous than the young beefcake actors who would ordinarily be cast in this role.
One gets the impression the three main stars enjoyed making the film. They either failed to notice the script was retarded or thought the script's stupidity factor was one of its charms. No one appears embarrassed that they couldn't score better work, & everyone tried to give their best to the project. They by & large succeeded. If all terrible movies were as fun as this one, no horror fan would ever again feel ripped off for their time or money.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl