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Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre [Movie]

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2016) is a television movie, distributed by SyFy, that is set in Arkansas, though it was filmed in Florida. It capitalizes on the popularity of sharks as villains in such productions as Jaws and its sequels (1975–1987), Shark Week documentaries on the Discovery Channel (1988–), and the zany Sharknado films on the SyFy (formerly SciFi) Channel (2013–).

Director Jim Wynorski is a prolific veteran of both SyFy fodder (such as 2010’s Dinocroc vs. Supergator) and mild exploitation movies (Sexy Wives Sindrome, 2011), and Sharkansas combines the conventions of both cinematic types. The SyFy Channel’s original films are parodies of old creature features, but they use cheap computer-generated-image (CGI) special effects rather than the more professional effects artists like Ray Harryhausen created for the old monster movies.

In Sharkansas, the “Arkansas Fracking Company” opens a door to an “underground ocean” under Arkansas, releasing giant, spiny, fast-moving, amphibious “prehistoric” sharks. (The “fracking” is represented by showing stock footage of hillsides being dynamited; real hydraulic fracturing is the underground insertion of high-pressure fluid.) The sharks, presented as speedy humps moving just beneath the surface of the ground, lay siege to a group of female prisoners on work detail in a swamp and their guards. The people try to escape through a flooded cave. At the film’s end, the sharks are still a menace, and only three people are still alive. The surviving prisoner, however, has won her freedom. The five prisoners, two male guards, and six other cast members are all white, except for one Asian-American prisoner. Since the film was intended for TV, the horror is tepid, and the exploitation elements related to the scantily clad women prisoners are mild.

Two stars of the film are reasonably well known: Traci Lords, a former porn star who switched to mainstream B-movies, and Dominique Swain. John Callahan manages an appealing performance as a world-weary but heroic guard. In keeping with SyFy practice, Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre is not a comedy but attempts to get laughs by being “so bad it’s good.” Wynorski, who co-wrote the screenplay with two other writers, attempted to film a tired clichéd formula with a tight budget and failed to produce any real tension.

A review of the Blu-ray in Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope (issue 100) pointed out that “this silly flick” is “not nearly as fun as a couple of those Sharknado numbers [but]…if you just have to watch every movie out there about crazy killer CGI sharks, by all means, go for it.”

For additional information:
Grzeca, Kuba. “Film Review: Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2016).” HorrorNews.Net. http://horrornews.net/107200/film-review-sharkansas-womens-prison-massacre-2016/ (accessed May 24, 2017).

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3403194/ (accessed May 24, 2017).

Michael Klossner
Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 5/24/2017

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