Normally, judging a film’s content based on whether or not it lives up its to its various kinds of advertising—TV spots, trailers, posters, and especially its title—is a myopic way to view and critique a film. But when you’re watching a film that was first dubbed Jaws in Japan for American consumption, then re-titled PsychoShark due to legal reasons, you kind of expect—nay, want—a shark to be in the film in question. The fact that much of PsychoShark is shot fast and cheap and could pass as outtakes from Visitor Q (i.e., done up to look like CCTV footage from a digital camera unmoored by a singular, identifiable POV) isn’t exactly original, but it’s fine. The film’s skimpy plot, about a pair of girls that hitch to a sketchy Okinawa beachside motel only to be put upon by the hotel’s young boy-toy proprietor, is also generically passable, even if, combined with the film’s voyeuristic aesthetic, it does make the film sound more like a Japanese remake of Vacancy than Jaws.
But the lack of a big honking shark after a point is simply unacceptable. Apart from a hokey silhouette of a shark and a few dorsal fins later on, there are no satisfying signs of a shark in PsychoShark until an admittedly hilarious death scene scant minutes before the end credits. Nothing warrants bull-headed “the customer is always right”-type complaints quite like a monster movie with no monster in it. I shouldn’t have to wait 38 minutes for a little blood, then at least 10 minutes more for a little fin action. That central lack makes me antsy more than anything else in a B-monster movie, even more than the film’s strangely sadistic emphasis on the preadolescent intelligence of its big-boobed protagonists. Which is saying a lot considering how egregiously dumbed down, even by generic standards, their dialogue is (such as: “The sea is so blue!,” “It’s so salty!,” “That top is cute!,” “I love Disposable Meat Puppet #2!,” and “That boy is cute!”).
PsychoShark isn’t exactly an Antonioni movie where people go missing and the film can arguably still revolve around their presence. No, this is a trashy and pointless horror movie no one will remember in a few months. So, to paraphrase that beef commercial, where’s the shark?
PsychoShark looks like dirty dish-water, mostly because the film is largely composed of footage of characters filming each other using handheld cameras shot with natural lighting; in other scenes, Higiri maintains a room's worth of empty space between us and the camera's subjects. It's trying to look ugly and lo, it succeeds. The film's sound is equally hobbled: lots of fuzz, tinny noises during the digital found footage within the film; not much of a soundtrack beyond girls exclaiming and waves crashing otherwise.
The special features on this disc are pretty pitiful. There's a behind-the-scenes featurette sans English subtitles that highlights cute Japanese girls giggling and jumping and down some more. There's also some trailers for other Cinema Epoch films. Which is basically like telling the viewer to either watch PsychoShark with the sound off or just watch another film, preferably one of theirs.
For all we know, the shark in PsychoShark is perfectly sane. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?