Ah summer. A time to flock to the beach to enjoy the sun, sand, surf and of course, sharks. As a lifelong fan of Discovery’s Shark Week, I never turn down the opportunity to pair some informative nature documentaries with some good old-fashioned shark movies. There’s something about the water, not knowing what lurks beneath the surface that plays to our primal fears. There’s nothing like a shark movie to kick-off summer celebration. Of course, nothing can truly beat the masterpiece that is Jaws, (or Jaws 2 for that matter, not as good, but still entertaining) but here’s a few films to satisfying your craving. There will be no mentions of any movie starting with the word “Shark” and ending with the word “nado”. Also Jaws: Revenge. We do not speak of Jaws: Revenge.
I was the first person to scoff when I saw Blake Lively was going to be in a shark movie, but The Shallows manages to deliver suspense and fun. Nancy (Lively), a medical student grieving the death of her mother, returns to a remote beach in Mexico where her mother used to surf. Attacked by a shark and stranded on a rock, Nancy desperately tries to survive before the tide closes in on her. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and featuring a relatively small cast, The Shallows proves to be a new summer staple for those looking for some good shark scares.
Deep Blue Sea
There comes a time, when one examines a movie about sharks where you must weigh the sheer ridiculousness with the entertaining. Reny Harlin’s classic film about a group of researchers using the brain tissue of DNA altered sharks for research on dementia is many things, but no one can ever accuse it of being boring. I defy anyone to watch Samuel L. Jackson’s rousing cry to arms only to be completely engulfed by a shark to not find something to love in this delightful train wreck of a movie. Granted, this is not the movie to watch if you’re hoping for the next great shark film. The storytelling is not tight, the filmmaking far from flawless. What it does bring to the table though, is a whole lot of fun. Also, it has Thomas Jane. In a wetsuit at times. And let me tell you, he looks good. That should be enough to win over even the most hardened movie critic.
Kimble Rendall’s Bait is the very definition of a silly summer movie. And much like Deep Blue Sea, this is not a movie you watch because you’re expecting new and innovative film making. It is not good. But the sheer audacity of having a tsunami trap people in a grocery store with a great white shark is too good to surpass. True, the characters are under-developed, and the acting is far from what I would consider to be award winning, but if you’re looking for a frivolous summer film, Bait is for you.
I know what you’re saying. “Kim, this is an article about SHARK movies. Black Water is not about sharks.” To which I say, you are technically correct. Alright, more than technically, the creature in Black Water is totally a crocodile. But it was inspired by true events! Which means it HAS to be true! Black Water, directed by David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki is your basic man versus nature story. A group of friends decided to go on a tour in some swamps for fishing. The soon run into an aggressive giant crocodile that tries to turn them into a meal. It’s supremely entertaining and better than your average creature feature. Worth taking a break from all the sharks to be scared by a crocodile.
12 Days of Terror
Strictly speaking, 12 Days of Terror, directed by Jack Sholder, is actually more of a docudrama than a horror film. It gives an account of the REAL story that inspired Jaws, a 12-day period in 1916 when four people were attacked and killed and another grievously injured by a shark on the Jersey Shore. Part of what made the story so remarkable at the time was how unusual and out of character it was to have a shark behave this way. For those interested in history as well as the origins behind any “inspired by true events” film, 12 Days of Terror is informative as well as entertaining.
Part of the terror in Chris Kentis’ film Open Water is that it is one of the few shark movies where you actually believe it could happen to you. Based on the real-life story of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, Open Water is remarkably simple next to the other films on this list. Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan) are on a group scuba-dive when they find themselves left behind after an inaccurate headcount is taken. Stranded in the water with no resources or way of getting in touch with the land, the desperately try to survive. Open Water is a much simpler film, not relying on fancy special effects or depicting sharks as mindless monsters. Kentis actually strived to portray sharks and their behavior accurately. If you’re in the mood to mix it up with a subtler and less flashy film, consider giving Open Water a watch.
For those of you who would rather sit in your home watching a movie about people being eaten at the beach than actually go to the beach, I hope this list might offer you a few suggestions for how to pass the time. At least until it’s time for Shark Week!