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Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre. Just saying the title of this movie is enough to put a smile on your face. In the great tradition of the drive-in days of old, I’m sure co-writer/director Jim (Chopping Mall) Wynorski worked backwards; coming up with the title first and writing the movie second. The problem is that although the film is fun, it never quite lives up to its supremely awesome title (which, again goes back to the old drive-in tradition).

Only a guy like Jim would have the ingenuity to take two of the best exploitation genres, the Women’s Prison picture and the killer shark film and put them both together. The results are predictably uneven, but the whole thing benefits from Wynorski’s trademark campy humor and some truly funny dialogue. (My favorite line: “Keep that up and you’ll be playing pocket pool with no balls!”) One thing is for sure, Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre is still much better than those silly Sharktopus and Sharknado movies.

Fracking in an Arkansas swamp unleashes a swarm of prehistoric land sharks from an underground cavern. A group of female prisoners, who are out in the swamp on work release, are taken hostage when one of the prisoners’ girlfriends (Dominique Swain) stages a jailbreak. Their escape is put on hold when the girls find themselves surrounded by the hungry sharks that can burrow their way underground to stalk their prey.

The usual Wynorski elements are on display here, namely the campy attitude and the assorted beautiful busty women showing off their cleavage. Some may be a tad disappointed that Wynorski stops short of showing actual nudity in the film. (This is, after all, the guy who directed the legendary Busty Cops Go Hawaiian.) However he does give us scenes of 1) Beautiful women in tank tops pouring cold water all over their body on a hot summer day 2) Desperate female prisoners getting into catfights and 3) Babes in bikinis lounging in hot tubs (perhaps a nod to the late, great Andy Sidaris). These scenes are all pretty entertaining in their own regard. Putting them into a picture that involves hungry prehistoric land sharks just makes them that much better.

The film also benefits from some great performances by its female cast. Cindy Lucas, Skye McDonald, and Amy Holt all fare quite well as the prison girls, and Swain does a good job playing the spunky outlaw. As a die-hard Wynorski fan, I can’t tell you how good it was seeing Traci Lords back in the Wynorski-verse again. It’s been three decades since Traci made her “legitimate” debut in Jim’s awesome Not of This Earth remake in 1988 and she equips herself nicely playing the detective tracking the prisoners.

The film really belongs to Christine Nguyen though. If you’re a fan of her Skinamax work, you’re guaranteed to love her here. She gives a truly funny performance and lights up every scene she’s in with her natural charm and charisma. I sincerely hope that she and Lords will team up for a sequel very soon (which I hope Wynorski titles “The Shawsharkansas Redemption”).

This is not a perfect movie by any means. The sharks are kinda weak and since they spend most of the running time underground, we don’t see very much of them. While the film gets off to a great start, once the action switches over to a house in the woods it becomes increasingly uneven as it essentially turns into a Tremors rip-off with burrowing monsters chasing the cast.

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre might not be the best movie of the year, but it certainly has the best title of the millennium, and that, folks, is worth something in my book.

AKA: Sharkansas.


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