I scream, you scream, we all scream for Shark Week.
Seriously. Every summer, the Discovery Channel's seven-day celebration of Great Whites, Hammerheads and other predators of the deep becomes a sort-of-ironic-but-not-really-ironic obsession among my peers. Why? Because awesome, that's why. Also, because we were indoctrinated to appreciate the gnarliness of sharks (I mean, their intimidating majesty) by cartoons and commercials for gelatin fruit snacks. More on that momentarily.
Since Shark Week kicks off this Sunday, August 4, I thought it made sense to devote a "Throwback Thursday" to my personal favorite shark flicks. Let's turn back the tides, shall we?
5. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Do you like Jurassic Park? Do you like The Poseidon Adventure? Are you a true blue cinephile looking to round out the filmography of esteemed American actor LL Cool J? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this late '90s popcorn flick deserves a gander. Short version: on some floating laboratory in the middle of the ocean, researchers are developing "smart" sharks to harvest their brains for an Alzheimer's cure. But you can't just override Mother Nature, you Arrogant Scientists, You. (Here we have the shades of Jurassic Park.) So they escape and kill everybody. Including Samuel L. Jackson, in a scene that is, frankly, more unintentionally hilarious than anything that happens in Snakes on a Plane. Warning: don't blink.
4. Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009)
Long before B-flick du jour Sharknado, Syfy had already stumbled upon the uniquely compelling - nay, intoxicating - schadenfreude experienced by watching former "It Thing" idols score grocery money off scripts written between rips from a gravity bong. Mind you, campy efforts don't always work; some stars get "in" on the joke, and some don't. Ian Ziering, bronze medal winner of the Beverly Hills 90210 hunks, seems game and self-aware in Sharknado, whereas Tara Reid, party girl and American Pie alum, felt unengaged. (Probably because, she admitted to an Australian paper, she planned to just "take the money and run.") Well, the conviction with which pop singer Debbie Gibson sold SyFy's 2009 flick Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus is truly inspiring. And it inspired a 2011 follow-up, Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, in which she has a screeching catfight with fellow '80s teeny-bop starlet Tiffany. I've actually included that clip here, which I know is cheating on a shark list. But if you don't want to see it, I'm afraid we just can't be friends.
3. Street Sharks (1994-1995)
Okay. It was a cartoon series, not a movie. But Street Sharks was too badass to not mention. Look at these jacked em effers in action figure form. I was sort of too old for cartoons at this point, but look, I'll say it: if I was flipping through the channels after school and this was on, you better believe I'd grab some Shark Bites, organize them by color (save the rare Great White for last!), and regress a couple years.
2. Jaws (1975)
Well, duh. I can't not mention the king of shark movies, especially given its local ties. (It was filmed on Martha's Vineyard and Peter Benchley, author of the novel Jaws, lived on Nantucket.) Truth be told, I've never found Jaws scary, not even when I re-calibrate myself to place it in context of the time in which it was released. (Many other, older movies like Psycho, The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre still manage to pack as powerful a punch now as they did on release.) But with this sleek, streamlined film Steven Spielberg basically invented the "summer blockbuster movie." (For better or worse.) In fact, I'd suggest this documentary on the making of Jaws, which you can apparently watch in its entirety, is as compelling as the actual movie.
1. Open Water (2003)
I can't. Just can't. To me, this movie is leagues scarier than Jaws. Nothing jumps at the screen, there is no yelp-inducing soundtrack, and yet I watch it between my fingers. Ninety percent of Open Water features just two scuba divers, a vacationing couple, as they float and bob in the middle of blue: abandoned by their boat in shark-infested waters. (Amazing how expanse can suddenly seem so claustrophobic.) In the '70s, Jaws played on our natural fears of the natural world: scary animals encroaching on beaches, the blurred borderline between our territory and theirs. But Open Water exploits a more contemporary anxiety, the fear that everyone is so immersed in their own lives we've all truly become invisible to each other. And that we could easily be abandoned to die with the only other person to whom we really matter. Sorry, Spielberg. That's a far scarier idea.
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