Friday, 5 August 2016

Classic Movie Review: Deep Blue Sea (1999)

When you think of a classic shark movie, Jaws is the one that jumps to most people's minds. But in the late 90s along came this updated horror flick that took the idea of shark horror to a whole new level. It's one thing to have a 25-foot Great White terrorise some townspeople, but the threat of three genetically engineered supersharks getting out and terrorising the whole world is a lot more terrifying. And while these sharks may not benefit from the dodgy 90s CGI or budget Waterworld setting, they certainly didn't hurt the reputation of shark movies (no, that was something that Sharknado did expertly).

Set off the coast of California on the aquatic base Aquatica (clever), this horror movie follows a skeleton crew of scientists and others led by Dr. Susan McAlestar (Saffron Burrows) and Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skårsgard) who are experimenting with the brain tissue of sharks. They have genetically engineered three Mako sharks who have grown to massive size in an attempt to extract some of restorative brain tissue to help with human brain diseases such as Alzheimer's. But the company funding the experiment are skeptical and send along Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) to check on the science and safety of the experiments. But it suddenly goes horribly wrong when the sharks are discovered to have a high intelligence and fight back. Luckily shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) is more than capable of leading the crew to safety.

First and foremost, Deep Blue Sea is chock full of references to Jaws, but not in a jokey way. Rather it is extremely reverential to that movie and is almost admitted to never reach the heights of that film. This definitely takes the pressure off of it to try and achieve that greatness. Some of these references include a tiger shark that is identical to the one that is mistakenly caught at the beginning of Jaws and has the same licence plate caught in its mouth. Also the three sharks are killed in identical ways to the first three Jaws movies, but in reverse order (they didn't count Jaws: The Revenge because that would be just silly). These are incineration, electrocution and of course blowing up, which everyone should at least know.

Not pictured: you know, a shark
But it's not just sharks that get killed in creative ways. Admittedly there aren't too many variations for a shark to kill a person, but this movie endeavours at least to try. Stellan Skårsgard is the first to go and has it the roughest, first having his arm bitten off, then pulled under the water and then smashed against an underwater plate glass window. That's a bit of a lousy explanation, but here's him getting his arm bitten off (that comes with a huge NSFW warning). Others include Samuel L. Jackson getting cut off during his rousing survival speech and a fantastic moment of un-Hollywoodness when the female lead gets eviscerated. Okay perhaps I'm making this film out to be way more gory than it is. By today's standards it's incredibly tame, with plenty of that late 90s/early 2000's action that seems so satisfying. Like diving and sliding along hard surfaces. It's never made sense to me, but my god nearly every character does it in this movie.

Deep Blue Sea is an essential viewing for anyone really, just as much as Jaws is. It's a serious and well handled horror flick, that while it may not have aged as well as the aforementioned classic (it has plenty of laugh out loud moments), it's a huge step above whatever shark movies they're making today. After rewatching it, there is definitely room for an unrelated prequel about Sam Jackson's character and his survival of an avalanche.

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