Sunday, June 12, 2011


My readers, we all have fears that make certain films scarier than they normally would be, that's one of the many reasons why, for the most part, horror reviews tend to be all over the place. Sure, we may not openly discuss our phobias, but we have them just the same, and we all have movies that touch upon them. Unless you're one of those people that suffer from a phobia that possibly doesn't exist outside of shows like Maury (well, I guess The Red Balloon could basically be someone's personal nightmare fuel.)
I'll go ahead and be honest with my big ones, as it might reveal a bit about my horror tastes: Spiders, heights, the unknown, and my own paranoia turning against me. Tonight, we're covering number three. Well, maybe number one, if I don't close my front door, at which point I'll stand helplessly in a corner until some brave warrior defeats the small, demonic arachnid that has ventured into my domain.

Our world is largely water, water that goes so deep that we're unlikely to be able to even explore any deeper than we have for a long time due to pressurization issues. Which is good, because I don't want James Cameron accidentally bumping Cthulhu awake with his filming equipment, although I'd rather watch the footage of this incident than Avatar 2, wherein after realizing that he's already taken all he can from Fern Gully, is forced to steal from Fern Gully 2. has some great examples of why the deep is terrifying, at least to me.
Some of the shit we find in the darkest parts of the explored oceans are... horrifying, the kinds of things some horror fanatic would make on Spore, the kinds of things that make you wonder if Tom Savini is secretly God. Seriously, why the hell do angler fish even exist? Why do they look like monsters from a low budget 80s movie?
Anyway, for some reason, people find sharks to be terrifying. I figured it was less to do with the sharks themselves and more to do with the element of the unknown. The idea that, as you're swimming along, some unseen thing with large teeth can just come up and take a bite out of you, possibly afterwards questioning where whereabouts of cream filling.

The first Jaws film is nothing short of a masterpiece, and may just be my favorite non Indiana Jones film he's done. Largely this is due to the movie being a great example of my favorite horror technique, that is that we barely see the shark. However, there's more to this film that just makes it easily one of the most fantastic horror films I've ever seen.
For starters, we've got our cast. This time by cast I don't mean the actors, but the awesome characters that make up this film. Since we don't see much of the shark, and it is a very lengthy film, the characters matter the most, and we're far from cheated. Our hero is a city-boy stuck in a ruralish island community where things are peaceful, everyone knows each other, everyones in everyone else's business, etc. We've got a nerdy shark specialist that comes in, seems to be more paranoid than our hero, much more skeptical, and less sociable. We've got Quint, who is basically THE sailor. I mean, this guy is like every manly thing I've ever heard about sailors combined into one man, including being a horribly foul person both in attitude and language. He's also obviously got a few screws loose from the start, and it slowly becomes obvious that he's got a sort of Ahab Complex going. ...and these are just the three characters we focus the most on. Seriously, everyone has a sort of... personality to them, and I love that. I've got many, many issues with Spielberg, but bland, lifeless characters has never been one of them.
Thankfully, this film averts most of my issues with Spielberg. We have a few touching moments, sure. We've got the cute scene where Brody's youngest son is imitating him, and it's pretty adorable and kinda typical for Spielberg, but we've also got a kid being torn apart by a shark on screen. Sure, we get a fairly humourous bonding sequence between the three male leads of the film, but this ends up descending into one of my favorite scenes in horror film history.
For those that don't remember that scene, it's fairly... simple. It's basically just Quint talking about what happend to the Indianapolis, but god damn... it's the way he tells it. There's just something so eerie about it, that I really have to compliment Robert Shaw on his performance (great actor, he was also the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin & Marian, the Sean Connery film that Costner's Robin Hood is largely a knockoff of.) This scene has so much emotional impact yet required so little to do it that it's just... fantastic to me.
I realize I'm possibly praising this film too much, I'd like to bring in one complaint that I'd make, if I could make a complaint on the film. I fully believe that Dreyfuss's character should have died. It just seemed like a cheap happy moment to have him pop up at the end. The original intent was for him to die in the cage, but they had a harm time getting the trained shark to attack the cage, and by the time he finally did the cage was empty. Everything else is fantastic, but this one little bit bothers me.

Jaws 2 came out around four years afterwards, and is not that bad of a film overall, I want to go ahead and say. I'm going to judge it as a Jaws sequel, but on its own it's an alright movie.
The film's plot is extremely similar to the first film, to the degree that it almost feels like they just copy-pasted parts of the script. This gets especially irritating when Brody presents the mayor with evidence that a great white is back, then gets FIRED. Seriously. Do these people have like, no memory at all? We just went through this a few years back! Does Amity have some sort of high Alzheimers rate or something?
Aside from largely just being the first film in plot, it's also a lot more violent. The shark's featured more, meaning we get a lot of gorey deaths of nameless people, whereas only a few people died in the first film (skinny-dipper, kid, a dog, Quint, and two other people.)
Still, Jaws 2 isn't that bad of a movie, and I do like the whole insanity thing going on, with Brody sort of descending into madness as the film goes along, at one point taking out his gun on a crowded beach and firing at a shape he -thinks- is a shark, but is actually just a school of fish. I mean we saw what happend to Quint, where he basically went Ahab after his experience with the Indianapolis, went and filled his home full of shark bones from the many he'd killed in revenge, so it's a neat idea having Brody show signs that he's going down the same path.
Sadly, that also chips away at what I liked about the first film. It's a lot harder to really like -anyone- in this movie. Brody's going insane, his wife's getting kinda bitchy, his kids are irritating, the mayor's gone from corrupt and greedy to full on evil...
Still, as its own shark-themed horror film, it's alright. It's not a classic, and I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone that isn't just craving a movie about a killer shark, but it's alright.

I wish I could say the same for Jaws 3-D. Now now, before anyone even thinks this, not all horror films that make heavy use of the gimmick are bad. I'd like to direct your attention to Friday the 13th 3, which is easily one of the best films in that franchise. Jaws 3-D however basically acts as an example of how -awful- a 3D movie can be.
First off, this film is -much- worse if you're watching it standard, without 3D. It has a lot of cheesy 3D sequences that just look awful and ridiculous without 3D, although they don't exactly look "good" even in 3D.
The effects in general are pretty fucking awful this time around. The shark is so fake looking, it doesn't even really move, it's just like a solid... thing that just floats forward like some child's toy lost in a pool.
The deaths are ridiculous. Actually, let me expand on that. Every scene featuring the shark is absolutely ridiculous. This movie gave us the shark trying to eat a -raft-. Nobody was on the raft, he just tries to eat the raft.
The entire movie screams unintentional comedy, and I -strongly- recommend it for that purpose. This movie is just hilariously bad on so many levels. The acting is ludicrous, the plot is silly (great white shark loose in Not Seaworld), the characters are absolute morons or moronic assholes, the CG sequences will make your sides hurt. I haven't laughed this hard at a shark movie since Shark Attack 3: Megalodon.
The film's also notable for being one of the earliest Dennis Quaid films. Before you get your hopes up, Dennis is the less ugly of the two Quaids. I know, I know. Randy Quaid fighting sharks sounds like an amusing film to me to. On the bright side, this film also stars Marty McFly's mom.

Jaws 4 manages to be even worse, to the degree that how awful this film is has reached heights of memetic mutation. Allow me to sum up the plot of this shitfest.
A shark kills one of the Brody kids, the mom flees to the Bahamas... and the shark follows her. Seriously. The shark follows her to the Bahamas.
The rest of the film's plot can be divided into two sections. Mrs. Brody being emotional and flirting with Michael Caine, who is playing... Michael Caine in this picture, and scenes of the shark randomly killing people in the Bahamas.
Eventually we get a battle sequence wherein Michael Caine and Mrs. Brody... make the shark blow up for some reason. It's not really clear. I figure the makers of the film decided "The shark blew up before, right? Maybe that's how all these need to end. Maybe sharks are like Pintos."
Also the shark roars. Seriously. If you've never heard that referenced before, look it up. The shark. roars. A ROARING. SHARK.
This film crosses the line from hilariously awful to just plain awful. It's boring for the most part, even Michael Caine being over the top Michael Cainey couldn't make this entertaining.
Pass on this film, no matter what. It's not even a fun movie to watch just for the roaring shark, just... pass. Pass and be thankful that there is no Jaws 5, since the films managed to exponentially get worse.

I want to give a quick mention that there are also two Jaws video games. One is based on Jaws 4, and is about as awful as the film it's based on. The other is Jaws Unleashed, which is basically a sandbox game where you play as a shark and eat people to the Jaws theme. Neither are worth buying, but I guess if you ever find Jaws Unleashed used for $5, I'd go for it. Think of it like GTA, only you're a shark.

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