My Top Five Shark Movies That Aren't Jaws
If I were smarter, I would have themed this week as Shark Week in its lead-up to The Meg's release on Friday. But I'm new to this and so what you're getting, instead, is four days of Shark Stuff. I began with my first mistake, watching The Last Shark. Today, you'll get My Top Five Favorite Shark Movies that Aren't Jaws. Friday, I'll post my thoughts on why Jaws 2 is a classic slasher. All of this will culminate on Saturday, with my review of The Meg.
Honestly, you probably won't find many (if any) surprises on this list. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of great shark movies, particularly post 2000s. At any rate, please enjoy.
5. Open Water
Watching this opening weekend in a theatre was a harrowing experience. Filmed with real sharks and based on a frighteningly possible story, this movie has a nasty, nihilistic streak to it and makes the best use of its doc-style filming. When the sharks dart by, I jumped, knowing those were real people and real sharks. Sure, it leans a bit too heavily into that. And there are long stretches where nothing happens, as per this particular subgenre. But, it’s still deeply upsetting and one of the better "one location" type horror films.
4. Jaws 2
Yes, it's kind of a goof to pick Jaws 2, given the title of this article. But I don't think Jaws 2 gets the credit it deserves, which I'll talk a little more about tomorrow. The original cast returns, the shark is more menacing and vicious and, as a sneak peak of tomorrow, it turns the story of Jaws from an action-adventure to a straight up slasher. Obviously, it's not as good as Jaws, but it's probably better than you remember it being.
3. 47 Meters Down
A bad script and some faulty logic can’t ruin the terror in this nasty little minimalist exercise in tension. The sharks in this are vicious. Monsters. Serial killers. In multiple interviews, Director Johannes Roberts has mentioned that he doesn’t particularly like slashers, which surprises me. In 47 Meters Down, he's created basically an intense modern slasher. Roberts also makes incredible use of the dark to build tension. You don't know where or when the shark is going to jump out at you. This was one of my favorite movie-going experiences of the last few years. It's a terrifying little gem of a film. I recommend listening to Mick Garris' interview Roberts, too.
2. Deep Blue Sea
SyFy movies have been unofficially remaking this movie for years. It has all the SyFy shark staples. A mad scientist. Super sharks. An underwater lab. Campy performances. Rap music. It’s goofy and silly. It has tons of CG sharks that somehow look better than the CG sharks in other films released since. The reason this movie succeeds where those fail is that it doesn't realize it's a B-grade movie. The Sharknados of the world do and so they just try too hard. Once in awhile, magic happens where a budget, a cast and a director make a terrible movie into a classic. Go home, SyFy shark movies. You’ll never reach the ridiculous brilliance of this movie.
1. The Shallows
I honestly think this is the best shark movie made since Jaws. For years, the genre has been filled with trite and cheap SyFy knockoffs. And then director Jaume Collet-Serra classes up the subgenre with lush photography, a thrilling performance by Blake Lively and some genuinely terrifying shark moments. The moment pictured above is the perfect definition of tension. You know the shark is there, but Jaume teases the audience, dragging it out until the tension is at the highest and BOOM. The PG-13 rating doesn't detract and even the CG shark and the turn towards over-the-top fiery action at the end can’t ruin the vibe. I love this movie.
So there you have it. I have to give an honorable mention to The Reef, which has a similar feel to Open Water, but I prefer Open Water to it. Other movies that missed the mark are Bait and Shark Night. Neither of which are great, but were enjoyable in a campy sort of way. Kudos to Shark Night for the variety of sharks, including the cookie cutter shark. But yeah. That's about the only good thing going for it.
What did I miss, fellow sharkphiles? What movie should have made this list? Hit me up on Twitter!