Directed by Misty Talley, her fourth shark movie in a row, Santa Jaws is a film that is memorable for a number of reasons, and they're not the reasons you might expect. It's as ridiculous as the title suggests, but done in a way that shows those involved were trying to make something entertaining and witty, and not JUST anything they could tack the memorable title on to.
Reid Miller is Cody, a talented young artist who has illustrated a comic about a shark wearing a Santa hat on its dorsal fin. The shark is lured by the trimmings of Christmas (lights, songs, etc), but those things may also be the secret to getting rid of it. And getting rid of it becomes the main focus when Cody uses a magic pen one night, unwittingly bringing his fictional creation to life. Cody teams up with his friend, Steve (Hawn Tran), a cute new girl next door (Jena, played by Courtney Lauren Cummings), and his older brother, Josh (Arthur Marroquin), to try and stop people being eaten by this monster. And most of the people targeted are Cody's family, because of the wish he made while using the magic pen.
As so many others have already said, Santa Jaws exceeds expectations, mainly thanks to the strange tone it has. Writer Jake Kiernan (with only this to his name, so far) has taken elements from some Christmas movies, mixed in a magical family adventure, and then placed a killer shark right in the middle of it all. It shouldn't work, yet it somehow does.
The shark is most often just shown as that fin with a Santa hat on, which works brilliantly as a main image, but you have to be willing to accept a very mixed level of quality when it comes to the special effects, many of them using accessories like candy canes or Christmas lights. Talley seems to know that less is more, but she also knows that viewers who embrace the fun of the concept will want to see some gloriously demented images onscreen. She strikes a nice balance, and anyone who is aware of what they are getting into will be unlikely to complain. And how can you not be slightly aware of what you are getting into with a film called Santa Jaws.
Miller is a decent young lead, and Cummings, Marroquin, and Tran work well enough alongside him. Scott Allen Perry is good fun, playing the owner of a local comic shop (and someone who at one point tries his luck with the magic pen), and Miles Doleac is a highlight as Uncle Mike, someone who seems from the very beginning to be set up as a prime a-hole, but who ends up being not that bad at all.
It may not be up there with the many other shark movies you could choose to watch, but Santa Jaws may end up being a minor annual Christmas viewing tradition for those who want some genre fun without always having to go to the usual selection of killer Santa/killer Krampus movies. It doesn't manage to be legitimately great, but it does manage to be pretty good. And it certainly feels quite unique.
If you have enjoyed my usual December travels through the wide and varied land of Christmas movies, as well as the usual diversions, then feel free to buy me a coffee/cocoa/juice here. Thank you, and have a very Happy Hogmanay.