AUGUST 2, 2011
Does Shark Week occur in the same week every year? Because we’re coming up on the 4 year anniversary of my Open Water 2 review (the most popular in HMAD history, for whatever reason), but even though it mentions the event, it doesn't seem like I watched it specifically for Shark Week (which would have been ironic as I discovered it didn't actually have any sharks). Anyway, it was due to the aforementioned Week that I chose to watch Shark Attack 2 for today’s movie, despite not having seen the original. But I didn’t even bother to look if Netflix had it on instant as well; being so swamped with Chillerama credits it’s a wonder I remembered to put on a movie at all, let alone check to make sure I was watching the series in the most accessible order.
But also, no less a connoisseur of such fare than Phil Blankenship assured me that this was the best in the series (he later changed his mind, saying Shark Attack 3 was the best, no doubt due to THIS), so I wasn’t too worried. I also assumed that they didn’t have a goddamn thing to do with each other anyway, because it’s just that sort of production where you can just TELL – the lack of any returning actors, new director, etc. They DO mention the events of the original in a throwaway line, but I mean, come on. Shark ate some people. Other people killed shark. That’s the plot of pretty much every shark movie ever made.
And of course they all rip stuff off from Jaws, with SA2 going above and beyond the usual amount. I remember when Universal sued a movie from being released (Great White) because it was too much of a ripoff, so I can only assume they have lightened up over the years or just don’t pay much attention to DTV shark sequels lensed in South Africa. But to back up my claim, let’s see – we got the girl dying in the opening scene, the “we caught the shark – oh wait no this isn’t THE shark” sequence, even a lengthy bit where one of our heroes explains how he got a scar. Hell they even put in a Vertigo shot when the hero realizes that a shark is in the water near a bunch of oblivious swimmers.
But what makes it amusing and almost sort of charming is how low key it is. When the guy tells his scar story, he’s not on a boat in the thick of further danger, but sitting in a nice restaurant knocking back shots BEFORE they go out to kill the shark. The mayor is asked to close the beaches (of course), and he refuses (of course), but not because the town’s economy depends on them being open during a huge holiday weekend, but because of a surfing competition! Even funnier, when we see the competition, no one on the beach seems to care much about it; they just sort of glance up when a guy finishes and applaud before going back to their sandcastles or tanning.
And for every Jaws lift, there’s at least three examples of prime bad movie cheese. I particularly liked the director’s obsession with showing shark fins; one of the movie’s few non-Jaws ideas is that there are several sharks, so you’ll see three fins grouped together. In theory – holy shit! But alas, he puts the (fake) fins so close together that it would be physically impossible for them to belong to anything underneath (there’s also a bit where a fin appears like a foot away from a potential victim – wouldn’t the shark’s mouth be PAST him at this point?). The fins sometime appear motionless too, so I guess they aren’t much to worry about because that would mean the sharks are dead. There’s also a curious approach to audio throughout the movie. For example, one scene offers both people talking normally while underwater with breathing apparatuses in their mouth AND the shark roaring, as if we suddenly entered a world where everything we know about vocal chords got thrown out the window. And during an overlong (but hilarious) montage of our hero and the love interest bonding, she giggles at something he did, but it’s clearly ADR and forced, so it just comes off as the creepiest moment in the movie. I also dig the song that plays over it, which sounds a lot like the love songs from The Room (“you are my rose, you aa-rr-ee- m-y ro-oo-se”).
I guess I should probably start talking about how the movie stacks up against others in the annals of Shark Cinema. Actually it’s not too bad once you know what you’re in for (not much). There’s no CGI, so that’s good - even if the fake heads look like giant toys at least the actors have something to interact with. The body count is pretty reasonable, and I like that they combine Jaws with Jaws 3, as the shark is captured early on (in a scene that is edited so poorly I actually thought it had fast forwarded to the end of the film) and put in a water park inexplicably called Water World (try the Mariner Lemonade, kids!), where he wreaks havoc in record time and escapes. I figured the movie would build up to the opening of the park (it’s like a week away from opening when we first see it) and stick to the Jaws 3 template, so that they race through to the opening, kill a worker, and let the shark escape in the first half hour was a nice surprise.
I also liked that there were a couple of evil human types that didn’t go through the usual motions. The asshole who runs Water World seems like the type who would tag along on the expedition, being an insufferable prick the whole time, maybe letting someone die, and then finally getting chomped in the final reel, but he never sets foot in the water. And then there’s this Steve Irwin type who is hired to find the shark, and the hero hates him at first, but the guy’s actually just a bit of a fame-seeking boob, and actually saves our hero’s life not once but twice. So it’s cool that he wasn’t all bad, and kind of funny that the hero is still a dick to him anyway. There’s an amazing bit at the end where you think the guy is dead and then he surfaces to the water like Mario Van Peebles in the TV cut of Jaws 4, all mangled and bloody, and rather than rush to help him, the hero just smiles and shakes his head like “Man, this guy’s something else, huh?” without making the slightest effort to at least get the poor bastard out of the water as he bleeds to death.
Maybe on Saturday I will watch Shark Attack 3 or one of the other shark films on Netflix. As much as I love Tracy Jordan, I must admit that I have failed to live every week like it’s Shark Week; the least I can do is live Shark Week like it’s Shark Week.
What say you?