This weekend sees a perfectly summer-appropriate release in The Meg, a deep sea creature feature in which Jason Statham faces off against the biggest shark in the history of history…
Seeing as the Stath actually dabbled in professional diving before he became an action star, here’s hoping they actually put that to good use as his character is – wait for it – a rescue diver. Although who are we kidding? – the thing we hope to see most is Jason Statham roundhouse kicking a giant shark in the face. Short of that, though, The Meg promises to be pure over the top insanity for your late-summer needs, which got us thinking about other frankly wilder-than-necessary oceangoing monster flicks for our Friday Five. Jaws these films are not, but if it’s schlock you’re after…
So 1987’s Jaws the Revenge frequently gets flack for essentially being about a shark actively seeking revenge upon the Brody family. What people tend to forget is this was the exact wacko plot of Orca, which came out 10 years earlier and sought to capitalize on Jaws with its tale of killer whale venganace. Richard Harris (O.G. Dumbledore for you kids!) stars as the sea captain who mistakenly harpoons a pregnant female, killing both mother and child… and boy is her baby daddy angry about it. (Seriously. You’ve got to see it to believe it.) One of grandiose producing legend Dino de Laurentiis’ goofier opuses, and that’s saying a lot.
It’s 40 years old this year, but Piranha remains one of the great schlockfests in the genre for a number of reasons. One, for all its craziness, it has real craftsmen behind it – namely the greatest of all B-movie producers Roger Corman; and director Joe Dante, who brought you Gremlins, The Howling, Explorers, The ‘Burbs, Matinee and so many more. Piranha was completely slammed upon its release but over time, it’s rightfully gained a cult following and its almost snappy disaster tone makes it easy to see why. (James Cameron cut his teeth – no pun intended – directing the 1981 sequel, and Alexandre Aja remade the original as Piranha 3D in 2010… yeah, that one hasn’t aged well.)
We all have those movies that we saw when we were younger which, though you’re well aware that it’s not a good movie, you somehow have a strange affection for it anyway. Leviathan is one of those for me; now I see all the flaws, how it’s basically a by-the-numbers Alien/The Thing rip-off set miles under the sea with the flimsiest plot to speak of. Yet still I remember so vividly watching it with my junior high friends in the theater, sugar-high on Cherry Coke and gummi bears and being scared out of my wits. It helps with the good will that it’s got a great cast (Peter Weller! Ernie Hudson! Amanda Pays! Richard Crenna!), and that amazingly it was the better of the two underwater-monster flicks released that year. (Remember Deep Star Six? Yeah no one else does, either.)
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Oh, Deep Blue Sea. You had to take the concept of shark revenge that one step further into glorious, scientific balderdash: Hey, let’s study sharks’ grey matter in an attempt to engineer a drug that cures people of degenerative brain diseases! But what if in the process of this experiment, we accidentally made the sharks smarter?…. RUH-ROH. Yeah, it’s director Renny Harlin at his Renny Harlin-est, but Saffron Burrows and Thomas Jane are attractive, and oh, I’m just going to say it: Samuel L. Jackson gets eaten by a shark who leaps up through a moon pool and chomps him while he’s in the middle of a sentence. It’s not a spoiler at this point, it’s kind of a notorious WTF moment and it is 100% worth waiting for it through the rest of this movie. You’ll laugh till you cry. We salute your sacrifice, SLJ.
The Reef (2010)
Alright, you got me… I couldn’t leave you guys with only the cheesiest films this time around. While the Australian horror indie The Reef definitely owes a lot of its DNA to Jaws and all the minor-league schlockfests that came after it, it is a solid and legitimately terrifying survival story. Five young Aussies are along for the ride when one of them is delivering a fancy yacht to a customer in Indonesia. The boat capsizes, they try to make a break for land nearby… but there’s one very nasty Great White shark in their way. Director Andrew Traucki makes deft use of the claustrophobia of up-close underwater sequences and the desolation of the open sea. This is a real hidden gem, check it out!