Few films launch entire subgenres. Yet it’s hard to dispute the power of Jaws in this sense. The iconic feature from Steven Spielberg was not the first or even the second shark film. However, it was a turning point for creature features in the mainstream. Not only did it launch dozens of movies using the logline “Jaws but in (insert place),” but some of its imitators dealt directly with sharks. While the Jaws franchise struggled to recapture the magic, dozens of knockoffs entered the market. Sharksploitation seeks to understand the trend and explore the power and damage many of these films left on the world.

Director Stephen Scarlata – best known for his feature Jodorowsky’s Dune – brings in dozens of experts. The array of guests is impressive. Not only do we hear stories about the original Jaws franchise, but many of the knockoff directors speak about their experience. Joe Dante represents Pirannah, Rebeckah McKendry discusses Alligator, and Carl Gottlieb addresses the sequels. Together they paint a knowledgeable baseline for the subgenre.

Including Roger Corman makes for incredible stories about the origins of the exploitation film. When he becomes a purveyor of shark flicks, including modern SyFy movies, the lineage becomes apparent. Even the teams at Asylum discuss their role in helping Anthony C. Ferrante kick off the Sharknado films. During these sections, Scarlata provides considerable insight into the background of cinema history.

However, where Sharksploitation rises above a fairly standard documentary is with the interjection of scientists. As marine biologists and researchers weigh in, their fears regarding shark conservation become evident. Their lives work is not only on the line, but the creatures they have grown to love and research are dying out. In the big picture, these losses are far more significant than any joy brought on by a movie. While the tide has turned, the damage has already been done to many who believe sharks are evil and not just animals trying to survive.

Not only will you get a nice history, but you’ll be able to relive many of your favorite shark films. Modern hits like The Reef, Open Water, The Shallows, and The Meg keep the genre alive. It’s a fun little documentary about a fun little subgenre. With the ability to learn a lot about horror exploitation and creature features, it’s well worth the time for any horror aficionado.

Alan’s Rating: 6/10

What do you think of Sharksploitation? Let us know in the comments below. Watch it on Shudder now.

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