What are the elements that make up a successful movie? Plot? Characters? Conflict? Interesting direction? Or is it really JUST shark attacks? I think when you boil movies down to their essence, to the core elements that really separate the masterpiece from the mundane, everyone must agree that the key element is shark attacks. And this movie promised to have a lot of them.
I can’t recall how I came across this movie. I think I was going through Netflix’s sci-fi section and came across it there, and of course advanced it straight to number one immediately. Anyway, it is the rare shark attack movie that begins in space, but that is precisely how very vast the scope of this unforgettable film is. There is some big spaceship, and it is heading for a star crash with this other ship, for reasons that are unexplained. But before they hit, the aliens, who look uncannily like the aliens from Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, jettison this cylinder into space. Then their ship explodes in a series of superimposed explosions [that I would swear are the very same explosions used on the old Battlestar Galactica series]. So the cylinder comes crashing to Earth and hits this ship, and around this time one thinks, “Wow, they really aren’t going to skimp on the explosions.” Speaking of explosions, there is a cool underwater explosion here—well, underwater explosions are always pretty cool—but this one has a shot [that I watched frame-by-frame about 70 times] wherein all these tiny particles shoot upward out of the water, creating what looks like this kind of crystal ice sculpture that… was really pretty!
Anyway, it would seem that there’s like this underwater research facility [WHAT they’re researching, I never figured out] that is very much like the one in Deep Blue Sea. In fact, we have a shot approaching a big window into the lab that is taken directly from Deep Blue Sea. And that’s not the only thing stolen from that movie. And of course there’s a storm raging above on the surface, and there’s this ship, commanded by Corbin Bernsen, who is ordered to go into the area to rescue them, only it’s the Bermuda Triangle, and he’s like “do you know how many ships have been lost there?”
Down in the lab, we meet our hero, who looks like the love child of Gary Oldman and David Spade, and as such is someone I found intensely unpleasant to look at. He is surrounded by a rather unusual number of scientist babes, one of whom is played by the remarkably odious Vanessa Angel [heh heh—I mean, that NAME. And she looks exactly like the kind of person who would choose that as a stage name, too] and some other blonde babe in pigtails that always seems to be somewhat in a snit, perhaps over the fact that a desiccated squid could act better than she does. They’ve been concerned about the unusual amount of sharks in the area, and are bummed that the equipment they’re using is total bunk, but the Spade look-alike says he can’t get funding for new equipment until they bring in “results, people!” Turns out this guy is married to Vanessa [touched by an] Angel, and the next thing he does is go to the surface for some reason, leaving everyone else behind.
So in the lab, two people, Dawn and Jake go out because they’ve “gotta get that relay fixed.” There’s always some shit outside that has to get fixed, huh? Talk about a MacGuffin. Anyway, they get munched by sharks. The make-up of shark footage of this film is as follows: 49% stock shark footage, 46% plastic shark snout footage, and 5% bargain-bin CGI shark footage. It’s also a little funny that although this deep-sea lab is supposed to be in the, you know, DEEP SEA, the majority of shark footage they have is of sharks swimming just below the surface, so it’s a bit of a hoot to watch the water dramatically change levels several times within just a few seconds.
Now, although it is abundantly obvious that both Dawn and Jake are nothing but bloody entrails by this point, the dim Vanessa [send me an] Angel is on the intercom going “Dawn? Jake? Are you all right? Dawn? Jake? Are you all right? Dawn? Jake? Are you all right? Dawn? Jake? Are you all right? Dawn? Jake? Are you all right?” until you’re like “Bitch, they’re fuckin’ DEAD!” So Vanessa Angel: Life on the Streets orders the cute, cute Harvey to go out and look for their entrails, and Harvey’s like “fuck y’all!” so Vanessa Angel: The Complete Season Five goes out herself and finds, surprise surprise, that Dawn and Jake are just a bobbing pile of entrails [actually we don’t see this]. Then SHE gets attacked by a raging shark, but stabs it in the eye, and escapes, barely making it back into the lab, none the worse for wear for being bitten by a shark. Hey, no big.
So the sharks, who are also super-intelligent now by the way, attack the lines connecting the lab to the surface, which is apparently the way they get their oxygen, because soon after this they start talking about running out of air. Then some guy in an airplane that can land on the water is standing on one of the leg things when a shark attacks the moving plane, and he falls off, flipping over the surface of the water at high speed like one of those seals in that famous installment of the Trials of Life series. Then we have some more drama below featuring the cute, cute Harvey, who plays the role of one-half of the apathetic slacker mechanic duo who just sit around and grouse, as perfected in Alien. Harvey is supposed to be British, but who, despite the fact that the script works double-time to work in well-known British words like bloke, blimey, bloody, and bangers and mash, cannot effect a consistent accent to save his life [this would in no way prevent you from being my new boyfriend, Binky, so please don’t hesitate to call me]. He does his best in the scenes where he’s more stable, but as soon as he’s supposed to get angry or impassioned, his accent goes total Midwestern. His IMDb bio, by the way, tries to convince us that he was raised in Britain. Uhhhhhhhhh-huh.
We then cut to Bermuda for some action that will have absolutely no connection to the rest of the movie, but will accomplish the task of upping the shark attack rate. The sharks attack the beachgoers there in a feeding frenzy. This sequence is actually a masterful showcase of the editor’s art, because at no time do you actually SEE something happen, it’s all just suggested by the editing. For instance you might see a person on a float, then a shark swimming, then the person’s feet, then a shark open its mouth, then the person fall off the float, then a plastic shark snout with a bloody arm in its mouth, and the you can tell fairly clearly what happened, even though you didn’t actually see anything happen. I admire it all the more from seeing the massively disparate elements this is all cobbled together from; I swear, at times this entire movie seems to be made up of found footage. Like I said, this entire sequence has absolutely nothing to do with the main action of the movie.
Then there’s an autopsy [on a shark with a tongue… and oh by the way sharks don’t have tongues], wherein they find that there are some orange crystals in the shark’s stomach [maybe he licked them up], and this could have something to do with why they’re raging. Then there’s some also wholly unrelated boat with a film crew that is upset by a shark and the entire thing flips over and sinks into the water like a stone in 30 seconds. I forgot to mention that during this whole time the ugly husband has been trying to get back to the lab, and he’s now behind hounded by this government investigator [in the Colin-Farrell-in-Minority-Report mode] who is giving him a bunch of guff for not following standard procedure or whatever. He insists on going back to the lab with the husband, and once they’re both back and he’s still going on about equipment overruns and such, you’re like “Yo fuckwad, did you happen to notice all the RAGING SHARKS around? Like, can’t this shit, like, WAIT or something?”
Anyway, there’s a magnetic spike, whatever that is, which causes the hot blonde to abruptly exclaim “Damn magnetic spikes!” and graphics straight out of Galaga to scream ALERT on their video screens. So someone has to go out and fix something or other [the relay, still?] and once more Vanessa Angel of the Morning asks unshaven sweetie Harvey if he’ll go, rather than her husband, because she, you know, LIKES her husband. Harvey rightly says “hey ho, I won't go,” and the movie acts like he’s a despicable coward for not wanting to run out into virtually assured death, although I wanted him to say “Hello? How come it’s perfectly okay if I die, but not okay if HE dies?” So the ugly Spade clone goes out to fix the, uh, thingy, and the sharks are on the way, when the sub [oh, did I mention there’s a sub?] shoots a TORPEDO at “those monsters”, which explodes in part of the 10 total seconds of CGI that have been specially commissioned for this film. You will notice that as Spade [who survived the blast] swims around, what are supposed to be pieces of shark are raining down around him, but they’re really just pieces of tubing. What, do sharks explode into sausages when they go, the same way that cows explode into steaks? Or maybe sharks, like the Internets, are really just a series of tubes.
But Harvey, who is non-American and therefore evil, steals the only escape sub and tries to make it alone to the surface, a la Borgnine in The Black Hole. Mmmm, The Black Hole. Anyway, the sharks attack the sub, as is their nature, you know, and poor Harvey gets knocked unconscious and the sub crashes. At least he avoided having that sweet face ride his severed head down into a raging shark’s gullet. Hunky Harvey, by the way, is played by a man named Binky van Bilderbeek. My mother used to refer to my pacifier as my “binky.” So I DO have previous experience sucking on Binkies. I’m just sayin’.
Anyway, I don’t know if I mentioned this, but about four hours previously they announced that the lab only had “ten minutes of oxygen left,” so you keep sitting there saying “aren’t they going to die soon? Start wheezing? Look sweaty? Anything?” But no. Then the investigator, who must carry the burden of “only attractive cast member” now that our Binky bit the dust, goes all The Abyss and starts to freak out and hide and shoot people in the lab. Actually, prior to this the supposed scientist has poured some acid or whatever over the entirety of their only sample, meaning that if something goes amiss, he has completely ruined his entire sample and cannot perform any further research. Have you noticed that we haven’t heard anything about sharks lately? Yeah, because they pretty much vanish after the first hour, and this turns into The Abyss. Speaking of The Abyss, around this time the aliens [remember them?] pop down to pick up their canister, which has mysteriously relocated itself to right outside the window, where Spade watches them with what we are to understand is a sense of wonder. Then the lab starts all on fire, despite the fact that there has supposedly been no oxygen in the lab for the past three hours and fifty minutes, and finally the whole thing explodes. Somehow Spade and Vanessa City of Angels are expelled from the blast with no injuries and just FLOAT to the surface [she unconscious] with no depressurization problems. Turns out the psycho investigator is alive, too, and still bent on murder, and pops up for one last “thrill,” but he gets eaten by the straggler shark who didn’t hear that the rest of the sharks have vacated the movie. We are led to believe that the crisis is completely over, but, as we know from the autopsy on the tongued shark, a lot of the orange crystals are in the shark’s stomachs, which would mean that those sharks are still raging. I say: Rage on you crazy fishes!
This movie is like a mélange—a medley, if you will—of all the good parts of the movies you liked in the 80s and 90s, seemingly on the principle that if you liked it once, now you can see it all together in one fabulous blowout movie! There are elements of Jaws [obviously], Deep Blue Sea, The Abyss, The Black Hole, The Hunt for Red October, Alien… I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t think of them now. I totally had fun watching it, though I’m sure you can tell from my comments what kind of level of quality we’re talking about here.
Amusement can be had from seeing just how very seriously everyone in the “making of” is taking this, and acting like it ISN’T the world’s most ridiculous movie EVER. The director comes on first thing and says: “People been asked what is the most feared subject in the world—including terrorism—and number one is come the shark.” I know, it’s not nice to pick on foreigners and their broken English, but I do get a giggle out of that sharks are “the most feared SUBJECT in the world.” Like, people are terrified that the subject of sharks might come up around the dinner table? Or they’re scared that if they look at a magazine article the subject might be sharks? You also have certain of the actors talking about their “characters,” and one of them says that the director “has the whole film edited in his head” before he even goes to shoot. You mean he had time to reflect on how to tell this story and THIS is how it came out? There’s also a hilarious bit where they clue us in on which footage was stock photography, which was shitty, fake-looking animatronic shark snout, and which was bargain-bin CGI, as though a five-year-old couldn’t tell the difference at a glance.
Sure! It's about the dumbest thing you'll ever see, but it's got shark attacks and lots of 'em.