Whelp! I’m back here on Stuff And That. I can’t have been too bad last time. Or probably more to the point. Milo was so into doing his middle-aged cosplay while visiting SteveForTheDeaf a while back, that he wanted to do it all over again. While he’s got the keys to SFTD and he’s over their trying on all my cardigans and marvelling at what it must be like to have a middle age spread I’m here! On STUFF ANNNNND THAT. Again I’m wielding the barometer with which all high art should be measured. THE ROCK-O-METER!
Yes. My tedious and tenuous 11 units of measure from worst to greatest are being focused this time on one of cinemas most enduring genres. For those of you paying attention you’ll know, we covered the greatest genre in cinema ‘The Rock Movie‘ last time around. What’s coming next is kind of obvious. In SteveForTheDeaf logic anyways. We’re swerving Westerns, Rom-Com’s and War Films to go straight for the mother lode of subjects on celluloid. Sharks!
You know when I look around all the subjects that The Stuff And Thatters post on this site my initial and only enduring criticism is ‘Not enough sharks!’
So let’s right the wrongs, sing the songs, and I’ll drink to your leg.
“Farewell and adieu you sweet Spanish Ladies.”
-5. Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus
It’s no telling surprise that the bottom of this list is full of Shark-ence Fiction (as I believe the genre will become known by the historians of which ever race it is that will soon replace humanity to rule the Earth) these films are everywhere. Cluttering up hard drives, bargain bins in garages and market stalls the planet over are low-budget, bikini drenched, bad movies made by people who believe putting a shark in the title or on the cover will see a return on the investment. They must be right. They must or it wouldn’t keep happening.
Now I have seen Mega Shark Verses Giant Octopus. And I’ve seen Sand Sharks, Ghost Shark, Sharks In Venice and Jurassic Shark. They’re all painfully bad. I usually paid money to see them and yet they keep on coming. And people like me keep paying up. Please enjoy this trailer of the worst of the Shark-ence Fiction Genre. What I’m saying is, these feature films are poor entertainment. They’re bad. Not ‘so bad they’re funny’. They’re just dull. This is the subgenre of Shark Movies. And yet, weirdly, compellingly, while this is true of the films, almost all of them make for amusing trailers.
Mega Sharks trailer is the best of the lot.
Actually scratch that. Super Shark’s trailer is best.
Super Shark (or Super Shark Attack depending where in the world you manage to find a copy) has a little toy tank on little tiny legs that runs up the beach to the ocean liner sized shark (which is also on the beach, because it’s super) to kick it. These images unfold while the trailer regurgitates actual lines of real dialogue from Jaws all over itself.
This is so shamelessly bad and yet great (as a trailer) it makes every argument I’ve already posted down here in the grey water of Mega, Nado and Mecha Shark irrelevant.
Lookit’ ‘is little tanky legs.
No! No No! Just wait! I’m wrong (on so many levels) Jurassic Shark’s trailer is best! This is because if you’re going to watch a totally shit film, you don’t even want it to try to not be shit. Not even in the trailer.
Normal people, the kind you might work with or got to school with. You know the ones. They might consider Sharknado worthy of that often too easily awarded title ‘worst film ever’. Sharknado was designed to do that. They’re wrong. The worst film ever is the John Cusack rom-com Must Love Dogs. Honestly it’s horrific. But it is horrific in its blandness. Sharknado is designed to press that gag reflex on the good taste button.
There’s a plucky low budget can do spirit and a knowing intent in Sharknado which raises it above those horrendous sub-genre movies we’ve already discussed. Only just mind you, but it’s noticeable the same way an undigested peanut is noticeable in a piece of poo. There is something here. If you’re hungry enough.
Sharknado is utter rubbish. So are its sequels, but they do scrape in on their bellies in the category of so bad it’s funny. Sharknado is to Shark Movies what The Room is to the Academy Awards. Who knows one day there may be a James Franco Movie about how Sharknado got made.
-3. Dark Tide
Academy Award Winner Halle Berry was so dissatisfied with the amount of damage she’d done to her career with that atrocity of a Catwoman movie that she thought she’d make a Shark Movie. Somewhere between New Year’s Eve (the movie which is Love Actually for the lobotomized) and Cloud Atlas (The Thinking Man’s Hot Tub Time Machine) She opted to make Dark Tide. This is a movie about Halle being a traumatized shark hunter who gets back in the water for the big bucks only for it all to go pear-shaped when her boat capsizes at night.
There are problems with his film. Namely its script, the leaden performances and the dumb as mud central concept. There is also some fine cinematography, a decent cast and the odd attempt at real acting.
This is below the line of what is acceptable, but it is possible to sit through it. If for instance, you’re home sick and only have the energy to push a few buttons on the remote. Let’s say you have a fever. You’re in and out of consciousness and you want to look at pretty people (and sharks) while you wait for your family to come home and look after you properly. Trust me I have worked this scenario and Dark Tide fitted just fine.
-2. Swimming With Sharks
There are some who might consider this a cheat move. The movie Swimming With Sharks being a film about Hollywood corruption, work place bullying, inappropriate behaviour and the psychological toll it takes on people… And it stars Kevin Spacey.
There are no actual sharks in Swimming with Sharks. Nor Ghost Sharks, Sand Sharks or Storm Sharks… But there is Kevin Spacey.
And that’s all I have to say about that…
-2 Second attempt… Shark Tale
So perhaps we’ll have the delightful family fun of Will Smith being recast as the Fresh Prince in the body of a Fish and Robert De Niro and (unexplainably) Martin Scorsese as the Mafia Shark’s who run the underwater underworld.
Yes that’s Martin (Director of Goodfellas, Casino, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Gangs of New York) Scorsese playing a cartoon shark. In a Will Smith movie. With some truly awful musical numbers… Set in an (big sigh) underwater car wash… Yep
Here’s the thing, I have seen Shark Tale numerous times. It was one of those ‘on TV all the time’ movies a few years back. You know how there seems to be a movie channel constantly showing Zootropolis and Sing in rotation these days? Well between 2005 it was this, Shrek 2 and Chicken Run.
They were very different times.
-1. USS Indianapolis: Men Of Courage
The origin of this movie is a pretty hefty piece of real American history. The Indianapolis was the ship that delivered the atomic bomb to Tinian in the Pacific in July of 1945 which played such a major role in the end of the Second World War. It’s secret mission was instrumental in shaping the latter half of the 20th century. It’s fate however is the most sinister of seafaring legends since Titanic.
The film itself does not do this monumental story full justice. How could it on such a paltry budget and as such a low-key piece of film making?
But what it lacks in decent VFX it gains in Nic Cage. Imagine a movie which is one half Nic Cage in a raft getting attacked by sharks. Imagine how Nic Cage he gets.
The story deserves a proper retelling by a cinematic master… It might just get one
0. The Reef
‘Oh place your haaaaannnnds! On your booooaaaat! Ship is siiiiiinking! Wil you flooooaaat?’
-That’s a little 90’s Britpop gag right there. You’re welcome.
So this is Open Water but, the boat is sinking. Land is tantalizingly close but the water is brimming with hungry little big ole toothies.
The thing that makes The Reef work is the various clocks ticking down. From the ruptured hull to the sinking boat, to the swim towards land to the dwindling cast.
What put’s The Reef in the plus column is it knows what it is. And it knows what it isn’t. This is Sharksploitation. This is the moment the list starts on the good stuff. This is ground zero for Shark movies. Ironic as that is also how much ground the characters make it to… Ouchies!
1. Deep Blue Sea
It’s possible to hold the opinion that Deep Blue Sea is not a towering work of cinematic genius. It’s possible to be the sort of huge cinephile who watches worthy contenders for awards with a critical eye. You could be of a mind which even has time for genre conventions. Like the colour of a cowboys hat denotes his character or that the quiet bit must lead to the monster jumping out only after two false starts in a creature feature. It is possible to be that cine-literate and still find Deep Blue Sea a terrible film.
You and me? We know otherwise. We know it’s great. We know Deep Blue Sea is the Mötley Crüe of Shark Movies. Just like Crüe were the worst of the big 80’s bands for depth, for credibility and for nuance so too is Deep Blue Sea lacking in those aspects.
And yet… Crüe knew their genre. They wore the most outrageous outfits, they did the Satanic pentagrams and the glam thing, they played in the shallow waters of Metal and Pop and Glam and Sleaze and they turned the clichés into choruses. Deep Blue Sea does that Shout At The Devil thing for sharks. You may not have taken Mötley Crüe or Deep Blue Sea to heart when they were a going concern, but you’d be a real fun nazi to turn down an opportunity to go and see either.
In 90’s cinemas post-Scream post-modern cliché outing landscape Deep Blue Sea had the balls to (Spoilers) let the Rapper turned actor live to the end. Even though he spent much of the film reciting the very Scream like premise that ‘Brothers never make it out of situations like this’. It killed almost the rest of the entire cast including the pretty white women who were usually competing for final girl status.
It mixed it’s B-Movie Sci-Fi (We experimented on them and now they’re smarter) with A-List talent. Sam Jackson was undoubtedly this films biggest star. In 1999 he was THE cool box office draw. Samuel L. Jackson’s death scene in Deep Blue Sea literally shocked audiences in 1999. It was funny, it toyed with movie cliche and it broke the entrenched rules of how this stuff was supposed to go.
2. 47 Meters Down
The newest film on the list is last years 47 Meters Down. They’re not even remaking Jaws anymore. The Open Water remake is a genre in and of itself.
The big concept this time is that they’ve dropped to the bottom in a cage during a dive and are stranded with nothing but chow filled water and hungry great whites between them and the boat. What’s surprising is how well a whole movie is wrung out of this. The obvious challenge to this plot device is that for the majority of the run time the two protagonists are in a tiny space under water. Thanks to Bluetooth enabled headsets at least there’s dialogue, even if it is mostly ‘What are we gonna do?’ and ‘Don’t leave me here alone’.
There are the added perils of busting your lungs if you come up too fast, the short range of the radio coming and going, O2 tanks running out and falling bits of metalwork from the boat above as things on the surface go from bad to worse. All of this plays out in the murky dark waters. There’s not a lot to look at but I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
You can play a strange game drawing parallels between this movie and that other two hander (Alfonso Cuaron’s ISS wrecking) Gravity. One above, one below, pacing, beats, hallucinations and bit parts almost directly opposite or entirely interchangeable.
3. Open Water (& Open Water 2: Adrift)
The most superior tier of Shark Movie’s starts with a couplet of films that left me petrified to ever get off the boat back in the nougties. The sharks are scary, but not as scary as the stupidity of other people. What does for everyone in Open Water is one of cinemas truly original concepts. Death by bad admin.
So how’s this for terrifying
What if you and the bunch of happy-go-lucky funsters you’re hanging out with forget to do the one tiny thing that you never realised would save your lives?
That bit in 127 Hours where James Franco (who knew he’d pop up in Shark Movies Rock-o-Meter twice?) leaves his mobile before going off into the desert has nothing on Open Water.
In Open Water it’s those beach resort ‘cool dudes’ whose work is your leisure who drop the ball. By simply cocking up a head count they don’t realise that they’ve left two divers in shark infested waters. They bugger off and leave a young couple to cry until they die in a panicy shark picnic.
They carry the concept over for what is in some territories Open Water 2 but in others simply titled Adrift. Both films were independently developed and if the press hype is to be believed both films are in some way ‘Based on True Events’ though the details how what went down must be with work of screenwriters imaginations as both movies have a (Spoilers) no survivors premise.
In Adrift we get the ultimate reinforcement of that parental adage that “it’s all fun and games until it all ends in tears”.
So we get the very pleasant opening scenes where everyone is having a lovely time on a big expensive boat. We get the buoyant frivolity of it all and we’re swept along. It’s like being invited to party with the cool (but annoyingly idiotic) crowd.
One minor over site is all it takes. Everyone is enjoying themselves so much that they jump into the water all at once. Sweeping the only sensibly reserved one literally off her feet and over the side in the process. And that’s it. You’re all dead. Only you’re not all dead from the off. No. You have however long you can stay alive to contemplate the utter stupidity of the situation.
That’s the scariest part for me. As someone who is an idiot on a pretty regular basis the idea that this could one day get me killed is terrifying.
4. The Shallows
The Shallows is a tight little horror movie. It has essentially the same opening 25 minutes as at least 3-4 other films on this list and wastes very little time getting the star of the film out into the water to face Sharky Mc Shark Face. All great shark movies have the focus to eschew unnecessary plot, characters and (vitally) shots of the actual shark. In stark contrast to the straight to video dross at the bottom of the list which shows you big unconvincing full daylight images of the creature lolloping around, The Shallows keeps the predator mysterious.
The films set up allows for bit part characters to come and go. It allows for a memorable use of modern technology which I hope will only date the film as a period piece decades from now rather than undermine its clever isolation of the set up. There are pop up graphics used innocently at first to convey text messages and give the lead an emotional grounding and back story without the usual encounters with Basil Exposition. These graphics come into play during the climax of the second act when our battered and desperate lone survivor type starts to plot how to beat the baddie.
There’s also a Disney Princess talk to the animals scene filtered through Nietzsche’s abyss (not to be confused with James Cameron’s one), a spectacular whale corpse based game of cat and mouse and an opportunity for a comedy drunk to get his head bitten off.
Blake Lively is a fantastic screen presence throughout the whole film. Going from Daddy’s little girl lost to an Ellen Ripley style superhero leaping from Buoy to water in a race for her life. It’s a genre piece. A water based chase movie with a sparingly used monster and a primal fear as it’s driving force. I did a little poo watching it.
Confession time. This isn’t just the best Shark Movie ever made. This is possibly the best movie ever made. There is not an ounce of fat in this film. Not a frame wasted, not a dollar of its budget squandered and not a moment that isn’t a master class in cinema, in storytelling and in intelligent entertainment.
Everyone who ever saw Jaws was affected by it. And if they weren’t, they were not watching properly. You don’t need me to tell you that Steven Spielberg is the man. He invented the modern block buster as we know it. He’s still making essential, intelligent entertainment in 2018. But this? This is the masterclass.
Jaws is massively entertaining even if you cut out all the bits with the shark. If you’re just watching the story of Roy Schieder as Chief Brody trying to adjust to life on Amity, his run ins with the Mayor and those terrible suits he wears. It’s fascinating.
If you’re here to see Richard Dreyfuss’ posh college boy Hooper come up against Robert Shaw’s relic of the WWII generation Quint in a play for 3 actors which plays out in the cabin of The Orca, it’s all just as gripping as that poster and that famous score. The machismo bouncing off the wooden panels as they mark their territories with story tellers piss is an actors workshop in oneupmanship.
Then there’s the deaths. First the quiet night-time drag race through the waves. Then the Kitner boy. Between those they kill the dog. THE DOG! You can’t kill the dog. But they fucking do. That’s only three of the six deaths in the movie. But Boy, they all weigh heavy on the plot, and on the Chief.
This film has the only two note theme tune the whole world can recognise when they hear it. It has ‘That Shot’ when they pull focus on Roy in the deck chair as he realises Bruce the shark has come up the beach. It has ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat’, it has three generations of movie goes talking about how they were scared to sit on the toilet after seeing it, in case a shark came up the u-bend and it has that amazing ending.
There’s a bunch of Shark Movies on this list. There’s really only one that counts. Jaws.
I just want to thank Stuff And That for letting me ramble on here. It’s been fun going all Shark Week on yo’ asses. Check out Milo’s Moshpit Mutiny (or whatever MMM stands for I can never remember) over on SteveForTheDeaf. And let me know below if I missed out on a qualitae Squalidae Matinee somewhere on my Rock-O-Meter of Shark Movies