Blu-ray Review: Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre

Director Jim Wynorski is a cinema magician. Like his mentor Roger Corman, Wynorski can make a feature length film out of less resources than The A-Team. Given a camera, a few scantily clad actresses, a roll of gaffer tape and a title, Wynorski will return with a feature length film that’s perfect for late night cable viewing. He doesn’t need a massive budget, focus groups and a craft service truck that makes personalized omelets. He makes dogme 95 films look like bloated over-budget dinosaurs. The genius behind Chopping Mall and Piranhaconda returns with a double concept film in Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre.

The film adapts classic Corman plot device of an ancient creature being unleashed by man’s need to destroy the environment in the name of progress (Up from the Depths & Demon of Paradise). In this case of Sharkansas, it’s a fracking project in the heart of Arkansas. The explosion to uncover the lost oil assets frees prehistoric sharks that have the ability to swim through mud and dirt. Why? Because that just makes them more badass that dry land can’t stop them from eating people. Who are the potential dinner entrees for the sharks? Turns out a group of women prisoners are being taken out of the penitentiary to perform a bit of community service in the wilderness. The ladies are there on various charges which mainly involves them being bad girls who need to be watched. They are dressed to be watched. The Arkansas Women’s Prison has uniforms that consist of tanktops and cutoff jeans for the inmates. Even when they have to work clearing brush, they don’t get to cover up.

On the drive back to the prison, the van stops to help a lady with a car stopped on the side of the road. Turns out it’s Dominique Swain (Alpha Dog). She’s out to free her girlfriend who is part of the crew. Traci Lords is tracking them down in the swampy woods. The lady prisoners on the run cross path with the sharks and it isn’t pretty. Can anyone survive the monsters that roam through water, mud and dirt?

The film is most noted for the casting of two women whose care involved the name Lolita. Dominique Swain had starred in Adrian Lyne’s Lolita from 1997. The film had issues being released in America because of its tale of an old professor’s desire for the young girl. Traci Lords scooped up headlines as a real Lolita when her early career in the other film industry had her performing when she was underage. Both actresses have matured so they are believable as the investigating cop and the lifelong bad girl looking to escape the law and the mud shark. The film is a bit of a reunion as Wynorski directed Traci in Not Of This Earth, her first non-adult feature after her scandal struck the industry. She taps into all her cop roles in this film.

After the over indulgences of the Sharknado films, it’s nice that Wynorski has made things intimate with the Sharkansas inmates. We’re not pummeled with celebrity cameos. Most of the action takes place in the woods and a picturesque cave instead of racing into outer space. The production design is very efficient. The prison van might be the rented crew van with a magnetic label slapped on the door to make it part of the prison system. The prehistoric mudsharks are threatening without being hyped by Al Roker or launched from a tornado. He understand what matters most in a movie like this is keeping the audience guessing as to which cast member will become the next shark snack.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The 1080p resolution brings out the cast’s shock when they get attacked by the sharks. The audio is 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. You’ll hear the rush of the shark as it tears through the mud. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary features Wynorski and actresses Cindy Lucas and Amy Holt. Wynorski right off the bat blows away the movie magic by mentioning they shot in Florida. They had a better cave for his production. Turns out small role cast members were also crew. The actresses enjoy their time with Wynorski even if they shot on the coldest day in the history of Florida. Wynorski apologizes for blowing eye lines in a scene. He also admits the sharks are a reference to the land shark sketches on Saturday Night Live.

Photo Gallery (3:58) is a montage of promotional pics and behind the scenes action. Wynorski had a lean crew capturing the action.

Trailer (1:16) sets up the attack of land sharks versus Traci Lords.

Scream Factory presents Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre. Directed by Jim Wynorski. Script by: L. M. Kit Carson. Starring: Dominique Swain, Traci Lords, Christine Nguyen, Cindy Lucas and Amy Holt. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 84 minutes. Released: May 3, 2016.

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