Shark Movie Review: Bull Shark (2022) – The Daily Jaws

Bull Shark
For the films I’ve reviewed I feel like there has been a good mix of species. We had tiger sharks masquerading as mako sharks in Mako, we had a great white masquerading as a tiger shark in Cruel Jaws, actual great whites in The Reef films and The Requin as well as a sighting of a blacktip shark in The Reef. What we haven’t had is bull sharks.
Arguably the most dangerous (to humans) of all the shark species, bull sharks are capable of swimming in both freshwater and saltwater. As I mentioned in a previous review, a bull shark may well have been at least partly responsible for the Jersey shark attacks of 1916 that inspired Jaws. One of the attacks took place in Matawan Creek, an inlet in New Jersey that wouldn’t be a typical location for interactions between sharks and humans, and claimed two lives.
It is still possible that a great white could have been responsible as tidal patterns meant that the water may well have been salty enough but as the bull shark is known to happily swim in both varieties of water, it has been seen as the most likely culprit by many experts. Ultimately, we’ll never know which species was responsible for the Matawan Creek attacks or indeed the wider spate of attacks that plagued the east coast of the United States that year.
Bull sharks have a habit of ending up in places that you wouldn’t expect. In 2017, Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit the town of Ayr in Australia. In the aftermath of the storm residents discovered that a bull shark had sadly died as floodwaters receded, leaving the animal stranded on a road. A similar, albeit less tragic tale, unfolded in 2020 when a storm brought floodwaters that led to a bull shark being spotted swimming near the back fence of a house in Queensland.
Additionally, bull sharks can make their way up rivers and into lakes. In theory they could live their entire lives there but tend not to for feeding and reproductive purposes. These sharks have also been found in Lake Nicaragua with evidence showing that the sharks jump up the rapids in the San Juan river from the Caribbean Sea to get there. Tagged species who were later caught in open ocean were able to show to scientists that this journey didn’t take too long either – 7 to 11 days was the time some sharks completed the trek in.
Finally, the sharks have been found 4,000km up the Amazon river in Peru, in Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, USA after Hurricane Katrina and even a lake on a golf course in Logan, Australia when some of the species were caught in flood waters. Carbrook golf course even uses their resident sharks for marketing purposes and the bull sharks have now bred and expanded in number. I’d say alligators are probably a preferable water hazard.
It is a lake that provides the setting for this film. Also known as Blood In The Water, Bull Shark is 2022 film that follows a pattern of shark films from the last decade that move the setting away from open ocean and into new locations, be they the canals of Venice, supermarkets, baths or swimming pools. Alongside that list, a lake seems perfectly reasonable.
After the absurdity of Mako and Cruel Jaws, these reviews looked at three films with a more serious tone, namely The Reef, The Requin and The Reef: Stalked. Having seen the trailer for Bull Shark I get the impression that it will be one of the more flippant offerings. Disappointingly, the shark on the promotional poster does resemble a great white (particularly the pointed snout – a bull shark tends to have a more rounded snout).
The film was actually released free on YouTube which doesn’t fill me with hope but, in these desperate economic times, I can’t turn down something for nothing. On that note let’s find out if the film is capa-bull or just bull s***.
Plot
The opening credits show us a pretty lakeside landscape with the names of our stars shown over the top. Some solemn music leads us into the title card but not before we see a lobster, a catfish and a not great CGI bull shark (which does look a bit like a great white).We begin the film with a man being woken by an alarm clock. He tries to smother himself with his pillow rather than turn the alarm off but eventually relents and hits sleep. It is 10:21 in the morning but the man, who wouldn’t look out of place in a prison gang, checks a beer can for leftovers. He gets ready for his job working as a police officer (maybe he’s just finished working under cover?) and seems to be quite the fan of alcohol. He is actually a Texas game warden, which my research tells me is just a specific type of police officer. Picking up his badge and gun, he leaves for work which I am guessing he gets to by boat as that is what we see before arrives.
A secretary is pecking his head about a missed meeting with the mayor and some other police duties he is required to fulfil. He reschedules the mayor, defines a buck deer, ignores a sponsor but wants to take care of some issue with ‘Nolan’ personally. The snarky secretary goes to get the phone but not before giving the Texas ranger some unsolicited life advice.
A sketchy looking man with a pickup turns out to be Nolan (Billy Blair). Nolan has a shark on the back of his truck that he and a friend caught whilst out fishing. The flies and the bloating suggest that the shark is decomposing but Nolan wants to sell it on anyway. Tex (I’m calling him that until I hear his name) wants Nolan to get rid of the animal as people will equate this dead shark with real sharks in the nearby lake despite Tex claiming that sharks don’t swim in freshwater. Nolan reluctantly agrees.
Back at his waterside home, Tex finds Gary (Joe Bunner) perusing his fridge. Tex is understandably annoyed and Gary must be particularly stupid as he is aware of Tex’s alcohol problem combined with the permission to carry firearms, although as the film is set in Texas I assume that pretty much everyone has that permission. However, Gary is able to dismantle Tex’s anger with some barbs about getting his family back and how alcohol will prevent that. He hasn’t seen his kid in three week for example and Gary wants to see that change.
The pair go fishing and drink coffee. I’m guessing that Gary is from Alcoholics Anonymous or some similar organisation as he has experience of what Tex is going through. This scene is intercut with Tex drinking more alcohol and passing out. Gary’s help isn’t quite working just yet.
Nolan is carrying his shark to a nearby water source, complete with fins sticking out from underneath a sheet. I recently bought toy sharks for my nephew and they just look like smaller versions of whatever Nolan is hauling away. He dumps the animal and heads off.
We cut to a bikini clad lady who is going a-paddling. From overhead we see her being approached by a large shark. A relatively small fin goes past which she misses but she is immediately dragged under the water. In seconds, she is fish food.
We find out that Tex had a nice lunch with the mayor but unfortunately for him the sheriff is here to see him. Finally we find out that Tex (Thom Hallum) is actually called Spencer (I prefer Tex) and the sheriff’s name is Wilson (Derrick Radford). Sheriff Wilson tells Tex that they found the girl, or what is left of her, at the lake. There int bin a murder in these ere parts for 60 years but, doggone it, Tex thinks there might be trouble. And during election year too. Sheriff Wilson tells Tex that it was actually an animal attack and he knows that because they pulled a shark tooth out of her back.
Tex visits Nolan, blaming him for the shark attack. Tex believes that the dead shark on the back of Nolan’s truck that he poked with a stick wasn’t actually dead. Nolan insists that the shark was dead but Tex is having none of it.
Next up we have multiple people jumping into the murky water and the shark swims by as they do so. That however is all we’re seeing of that scene for now. Okay then. We’re back with Tex and the sheriff and the sheriff is being a bit mean to Tex, asking if he even went to police academy. The coroner mumbles through a mouth full of food and tells the pair that actually sharks can go into lakes. This coroner mistakenly claims that the shark must be a juvenile since the tooth came out. She says that must mean the shark’s jaw is still developing. This is complete bull. Sharks are well known for going through rows and rows of teeth in their lives.
Tex is handling a few different calls from the press, the mayor, Gary, Nolan and what I’m guessing is our expert figure for the film who knows a lot about the situation. Tex is heading off for a seven hour drive somewhere and wants to meet the sheriff the next morning. In the mean time, he puts his favourite Stetson on and heads off.
Before he can set off, Tex heads home and we meet his estranged wife (Lindsey Marie Wilson) who serves Tex with divorce papers. She won’t let Tex see their son either and this gets Tex rather heated. To be fair to his soon-to-be ex-wife she makes some fair points about why that is and Tex accepts what she says. He won’t sign the divorce papers though because he hasn’t given up on turning things around. He wants to talk but his ex won’t have it. He takes a swig from a bottle before cursing himself.
A really pale man is casting a line (maybe he has just put the entire bottle of sun cream on) and he wades a little further out for more agreeable fishing conditions. Something takes the line and he takes a swig out of something that looks more than a little like the canister Dodgson gives Nedry. The fin goes around the back of the fisherman despite the line being pulled in front of him and suddenly his legs are akimbo. His hat and beer cans wash sadly up on to the shore with the bloody water gently lapping away.
Tex is heading to a place with a much more picturesque shoreline which is home to the National aquarium. A scientist (Michael Dooley) there is also astounded by the ability of bull sharks to swim in fresh water even though it has been long documented and says they have been spotted in the Great Lakes. This is actually debatable as the temperatures would not suit the sharks. The scientist actually says that the cold weather will drive the bull shark bothering Tex away in the not too distant future and says that as long as the lake has been closed, it will have no reason to hang around. But Tex didn’t close the lake.
There is some more fishing and then a man canoeing. From underneath the water the bull shark looks to be about to bite the canoe in half. It actually reminds me a little of Shark Attack 3, a comparison I doubt any film wants. Also, how is nobody noticing the shark with all these encounters?
We finally meet the mayor (Richard Ray) and his legal counsel (Michelle Holland). The mayor looks a little like colonel Sanders but he’s not here to cluck about. Can you guess what the mayor of shark lake wants to happen? That’s right. A cover-up. He threatens the funding of the aquarium and swings the proverbial dick. His legal representative wants to discredit anyone letting the story out and as Tex is an alcoholic, we have a potential conflict lined up.
The coroner is still eating as she gets into her car but the mayor slides into the backseat and she eats a little slower. He gives a cliched rich bad guy talk about bravery and following orders before leaving her to her lunch. Soon after she is walking through the woods (as you do when somebody has just subtly threatened you and you’re dressed in a white lab coat) and she gets a call from a voice that sounds like the sheriff. He wants her to change her report on the girl’s cause of death from shark attack to a blank space. The coroner understands what she has to do.
A couple of younguns are enjoying the water as are some mallards. Unbeknownst to both youngun and duck, the shadow of a shark is visible beneath the surface. A dog also wants to go for a swim. I love dogs so I’m hoping that it’s the younguns who get it as the shark is seemingly uninterested in the ducks. Sadly, I was disappointed.
The sheriff meets with Tex the next morning and tells him he can’t close the beach and turn away those tax dollars. Plus he’s up for re-election in two and a half months which seems like an ideal way to have easily corruptible police officers. Tex gives him all the evidence he has but the sheriff wants to kill the shark without closing the lake. He sends Tex on his way to fetch them a boat and is left alone, gazing over the lake. Suddenly the jetty is being thumped by something. The sheriff draws his gun and shoots at a passing fin. The fin takes no notice but the sheriff may have been drinking some of Tex’s booze because he comically falls backwards into the lake for no reason. He is mauled by the shark, leaving just his hat.
Mayor Sanders visits Tex to discuss the sheriff’s death and their shark problem. The mayor wants Tex to handle the issue without harbour patrol but agrees to pretend the lake is closed due to work on a dam. Mayor Sanders isn’t happy and leaves, but not without saying that the town can survive anything on two feet. He then mentions wildcats and sharks, neither of which have two feet. I’m not sure if that is how that line was meant to come across. It sounded stupid though.
In the next scene, Tex begins chumming the water but his estranged wife calls meaning he initially misses the fin floating by. Trying the sheriff Wilson method, Tex fires at the nonplussed fin to no avail. He leaves and we get to meet Tex’s son Grant (Colin Heintz) who is holding a large gun. Grant, who is 13 but looks older, complains that there is no TV. Tex warns him off doing anything fun.
After some awkward interactions we see a fisherman and someone dangling their legs over the lake. No deaths though. Tex seemingly does everything he can to wake up his son without actually waking him, such as removing headphones playing generic rock music, sitting on the bed next to him, telling his son he loves him and pressing his hand onto Grant’s forehead.
Tex starts drinking again whilst reading about sharks, looking pensive and breathing loudly. When he runs out of beer he falls onto his arse and we cut to the next morning. The shark is not hungover even if our hero is. Tex is out on the boat again and we even see some of his tattoos up close, one of which says T. T for Tex. I knew it was a better name than Spencer.
Tex begins firing his gun. At first I thought the shark was circling the boat but there is no fin in sight. Either he is still pissed or he wanted to practise. All that noise disturbs the shark who rams the boat. Tex gets a phone call from Gary who tells him that Grant has disobeyed him and gone to the lake anyway. Now the boat won’t start and, for all Tex knows, the shark could’ve overheard the call and may now know that Grant is potentially on the menu. Summoning all of his (Dutch) courage, Tex jumps into the water and swims for the shore with the shark in close pursuit. However, the shark doesn’t attack for plot purposes.
Having got home, Tex finds Grant gone and we see Grant entering the lake. Tex grabs a knife but leaves the massive gun that Grant had the day before and in a flash he is at the lake, screaming at Grant to get out of the water. Grant questions his father but quickly discovers the issue as he is pulled under. Tex runs in to help his son. The shark comes in for another attack and Tex stabs it. They make it back to land and Tex’s estranged wife, who I’m going to christen the ex-Mrs-Tex, is annoyed that Tex knew about the shark and still had them over. However, the ex-Mrs-Tex is also sceptical about the idea of a shark in the lake which hasn’t been reported. Tex explains he is the fall guy and the one to kill the shark.
The ex-Mrs-Tex says that the baddies are just going to blame him when all this blows up in their faces. This gives Tex an idea, namely blowing up the shark. He’s obviously seen shark films too. Ex-Mrs-Tex even offers to help and so the couple leave their injured 13 year old son to go and quietly blow up a shark.
Nolan, by now looking a little like X-pac with his bandana and even a Wrestlemania shirt, is Tex’s next port of call. Apparently, Nolan is the go to guy for explosives and he just so happens to have some C4 lying around. Nolan wants the sheriff ‘off his ass’ in return and Tex, knowing that the sheriff was the main course to Grant’s dessert, agrees. On the boat, Tex teaches ex-Mrs-Tex the basics of police firearm training which is pretty much if it moves, shoot it. They need the shark to swallow the C4 before shooting it with a shotgun.
The shark seems to have got wise to the plan though as it isn’t taking the bait. The couple seem like they’re about to row but finally the shark shows up and gives the boat a nudge. Tex is going to get in but instead ex-Mrs-Tex dives in with the C4 and Tex’s flask. He cries ‘no!’ but I’m unsure whether it’s because his former wife is in mortal peril or he had a bit of vodka left.
The shark, which does look a little bit like a bull shark but is too obviously CGI for me to take seriously, has heard the commotion and very slowly swims in the direction of the ex-Mrs-Tex (when I came up with that name I wasn’t expecting to have to use it this much). She throws the flask and the shark obligingly smiles allowing Tex to shoot that son of a bitch. He hauls the ex-Mrs-Tex aboard and we fade to black.
At the Texas parks and wildlife HQ, Tex is moving on and his family are back together. The thermos flask is gone, the shark is gone and soon Tex will be gone (from his job) too. He puts his Stetson back on, thanks the secretary and moves his stuff out. An aerial shot shows us another shark in the lake and we cut to the end credits.
In the end credits, Nolan is wandering through the woods to go fishing and he gets unusually excited about casting off. He starts speaking to a Dictaphone about recent events (reminding me a little of Jack Nicholson’s casino owner character in Mars Attacks – although I’m sure the resemblance is coincidental). He wants to write a book on the subject but finds his line may be stuck. He wades out to investigate and we see a fin in the background. He makes it back to land and picks up a stick but then screams as the rest of the end credits begin to play.
Ratings
Quality of the shark/s: The shark doesn’t look great to be honest. We don’t actually see it that much as the main reason we ever know it is around is the fin. When we do see it, it tended to be in those weird cuts when we didn’t actually see people getting attacked. They even killed off a dog, typically a go to move to turn viewers against a character or creature, but that was off screen too.
It also doesn’t move like a shark. It is really slow and, if you have ever seen that video of the bull shark and the man with the harpoon, you’ll know that those fish are lightning quick. At least it didn’t always look like a great white, it was just most of the time.
2/10
Underwater Photography: This was minimal. We got the odd shot on some underwater life but for the most part the water was too murky, perhaps a natural issue with the film taking place in a lake rather than the open ocean. When we did see underwater shots it was usually to see that awful shark moving slowly at the screen with it’s mouth open.
1/10
Suspense: I can’t say I ever felt any suspense during the film except perhaps during the end credits when I really wanted to see Nolan get munched (I think it was the shirt he was wearing). I suppose Tex swimming back to shore to warn Grant about the shark deserves a mention too but ultimately I think loads of the attacks taking place off screen (if they were happening at all) removed quite a lot of potential tension.
3/10
Characters and Story: The characters were daft and I can’t say I particularly wanted any of them to get through the film although I should give a mention to the coroner who I did enjoy. It was a shame she got such a small amount of screen time. Tex was okay although the endless drunkenness got a bit much. Grant was a bit annoying as was the ex-Mrs-Tex. The other characters were either cliched evil, corrupt or just plain imbeciles.
As for the story, let’s just say it borrowed quite heavily from a more well known shark film at times. 3/10
Watchability: Regardless of what I’ve said in these ratings, I did actually enjoy the film. It was stupid and made absolutely no sense at times but I thought it was a lot of fun.
4/5
Other factors: There isn’t really much to add here. The music wasn’t notable. There weren’t really Jaws references so much as ideas lifted from Jaws and I’ve already given points for my favourite character, the enduringly famished coroner. I’ll give a (generous) point for Nolan looking like X-Pac at one point. I can only assume that, like me, the shark was not a fan of the X-factor stable. I’ll give another point for the fact that it was free but I was very close to giving nothing in this section.
2/5
Total – 15/50
Okay, so the film got the worst score so far and I very nearly gave my first 0 for a rating. But I don’t think this film is as bad as the scoring suggests. It is definitely one of those so bad, it’s good films which you could enjoy with a few beers and a switched off brain. If CGI doesn’t bother you then you may even score it a little higher. Personally, I prefer a bit of creative effort to go into a film like this. One of the few things I praised Cruel Jaws for was the dead diver.
Genuinely, I would watch all the films I’ve seen so far again apart from The Requin (I dislike that film more and more each time I think about it). The lowest scorers in these reviews are perhaps akin to rubbernecking but if low budget creature features are your thing then I see no reason for you to particularly dislike this film. If they aren’t your thing however then you might want to save yourself the bother with this one.

Watch ‘Bull Shark’ below
The League Table So Far
The Reef – 41
The Reef: Stalked – 31
Mako: The Jaws of Death – 27
The Requin – 21
Cruel Jaws – 16
Bull Shark – 15

Words by Jamie Tingle
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