NOVEMBER 21, 2011
Last night I was able to see Jaws in 35mm for the first time in years, thanks to the New Beverly, and it reminded me of why I wish more shark movies were actually good. I’ve seen Jaws a dozen times or so, and everything about it is just so damn perfect, it actually bums me out that so few others manage to rise above “so bad it’s good” fare. I mean, Halloween is a perfect slasher, but it’s not the ONLY good slasher movie, you know? Sadly, Shark Zone manages to be worse than the “true” Shark Attack sequels (it’s listed as a sequel, just not titled Shark Attack 4 for whatever reason), as it retains the incompetence but ditches the batshit silliness of the previous film.
At times it seems director Danny Lerner is actually going out of his way to make himself look bad – how else can you explain the fact that the treasure that is being discussed in the opening scene (in the Atlantic Ocean) ends up off the coast of San Francisco, which apparently has a nude beach now? Or that he not only recycles footage from the other Shark Attack movies and some documentaries, but Shark Zone itself? Nearly every attack shot is used twice, sometimes even in the same scene. If you mute the sound you’d probably be convinced the movie was skipping.
It also recycles Shark Attack 2’s hilarious dismissal of how vocal chords work. Once again the sharks roar underwater, and once again we have scenes where people carry on normal conversations despite the fact that they all have breathing apparatuses in their throats. But I started thinking – maybe they’re all communicating telepathically and we’re just HEARING what they’re saying, like in Breaking Dawn’s amazing wolf pack “council meeting”? Sadly, this theory had to be abandoned when a woman managed to scream when the roaring shark bit her, mouth not moving at all and apparatus still firmly in place. No one screams telepathically!
Lerner also fails to keep any momentum going in his film (which he wrote with another guy who doesn’t have a single other IMDb credit to his name). A good chunk of the final reel takes place in a major city as some goons kidnap our hero’s kid in order to force him into helping them locate the aforementioned treasure, which is being “guarded” by the sharks (a plot point mentioned in the Netflix description despite not coming into play until the 3rd act). There’s also some hilarious inconsistency with regards to how our characters treat one another, especially the hero and the mayor, who butt heads in one scene but talk like equals in the next, and on more than one occasion!
Speaking of the mayor, this movie wins the no-prize for the all-time dumbest “close the beaches” sequence. Having just watched Jaws again, you see how perfectly simple the whole thing was – the mayor made his case, and Brody – the new chief who the town already looked at as an outsider – begrudgingly went along with it. But when tragedy struck again in front of all of those important tourists, the mayor saw the error of his ways and did the right thing. Here, the sharks attack the beach in full force, killing what seems like a dozen people (the poorly matched stock footage and recycled shots make the attack scenes more than slightly confusing), and THEN the mayor does the whole “this town’s livelihood depends on those tourist dollars!” speech. You mean the tourists that just got eaten? Who the fuck is going to want to come to the beach now anyway? You won’t even have to go through the formality of closing it if these folks had any sense in their heads.
I also realized halfway through that Lerner would essentially remake this movie with Sharks In Venice, which also seemed more interested in treasure hunts and 80s style all-purpose “foreign” bad guys than sharks. It even had the same “dead father” back-story for the hero. But at least that one had a cool shooutout and some nice Venice imagery. This has… uh… well, there’s a nightmare scene early on that’s pretty great, I’ll give them that one But when your best scene is A. a dream and B. in the first 15 minutes, the movie has problems.
In other words, they were right to change the title, because this doesn’t live up to the high standards of total lunacy of the “true” Shark Attack sequels. And no, I still haven’t seen the original movie, but that’s OK – I saw Jaws 4 before I saw Jaws, after all. And Lerner didn’t have anything to do with that one (only his father, Avi), so maybe there’s a chance it will at least be somewhat competent. Until then…. “Show me the way to go home…..”
What say you?