Sharksploitation!

Error of the deep.

by Jennie Kermode

2-Headed Shark Attack
2-Headed Shark Attack

With Shark Week now well underway, we thought it would be a good time to check out some of the very best bad shark movies available to discerning audiences. Whilst the magnificent Jaws was accused of giving sharks a bad name, nobody is likely to take these films seriously enough to become scared of the water – and if they do, they’d better batten down the hatches, as you’ll soon see that B-movie sharks can come at you through land, sea or air. The only place you’re not likely to meet these creatures is in the cinema. Welcome to the land of watery DVD doom.

Ten: 2-Headed Shark Attack

We were assured in Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey that two heads are better than one, but it has to be acknowledged that they’re not ideal if you need to swim fast to catch your prey. This mutant monster – whose provenance is left unexplained – makes up for it by being extra fierce and has an endearing habit of grabbing one victim in each mouth, leaving behind distinctive double pools of blood in the water. It’s aided in its stomach-stuffing mission by the arrival of a boatload of scantily clad students who promptly start sinking and flee to a nearby atoll – which starts sinking too. Unfortunately the average shark knows more about acting than most of the cast.

Shark In Venice
Shark In Venice

Nine: Shark In Venice

“The ultimate tourist trap!” proclaims the tagline for this straight-to-DVD disaster, but its heroes aren’t actually tourists – they’re inadvertent treasure hunters on the trail of a missing parent. He’s fallen victim to sharks introduced by a scheming Mafioso with a rubbish plan to seize a lost Medici hoard. There are more holes in the plot than in the shark victims and the sharks themselves are mostly inserted using stock footage – hence the sudden shifts from murky canals to tropical reefs and back again – but there are some cute moments, such as when a diver places his head in the mouth of a shark he’s supposedly fleeing from because the model isn’t close enough. It’s a shame it bites off more than it can chew.

Eight: Jaws 3-D

Arguably the weakest in the Jaws canon, this really is B-movie stuff, but it’s also a monument in the history of 3D cinema and a lot more fun than it deserves to be. The set-up is pretty simple – the sons of the original film’s Police Chief Brody, one of them now terrified of the water, now work at a water park owned by a scheming businessman. Into that park comes an enormous shark, and it gets stuck there, but this is about as traumatic for it as a child getting stuck in a cake shop – it’s a bit more of a worry for the families of disappearing tourists. A young Dennis Quaid is determined to set things right, but he has more than one kind of shark to do battle with – and an even bigger threat is lurking just beyond the horizon.

Seven: Shark Night 3D

Having had the villain of his Snakes On A Plane resort to snake-based mass murder because he had “exhausted every other option,” director David R Ellis tries the same trick with sharks in this beautifully shot but wilfully cheesy fin-fest. Young people partying at a secluded lake gradually fall prey to something lurking in the water but, as so often, the survivors seem unable to stay on dry land. What marks the film out is its use of many different kinds of shark, giving it a bit more character than the average oh-look-a-great-white-again fearfest. Its flaw is that it sometimes lacks the good humour necessary for real B-movie fun.

Sand Sharks
Sand Sharks

Six: Sand Sharks

Sooner or later, humans were going to figure out that they could avoid becoming sharkbait by staying out of the water. This stroke of genius proves inadequate, however, when a long lost species of prehistoric shark emerges that has learned to swim through sand. In a still worse stroke of luck, it does so just as the residents of White Sands island are preparing to hold a music festival for scantily clad students. Cue dodgy shark science, dodgier special effects, colourful characters and a low-budget version of nuking the site from orbit. This film knows exactly what it is and revels in it. There’s not really enough people-eating action but there are some great one-liners.

Five: Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus

The original Mega Shark movie, this is the film in which our fast-feeding fishy hero first broke out of the ice where it had been trapped for millions of years. No shark movie has yet topped its centrepiece stunt, where it jumps out of the ocean and bites a passenger plane in half; and when the action slows down, sometime pop starlet Debbie Gibson pops up to steal submarines and do Science. It’s all about pheromones, you see, so cue some chemical shark seduction and we’re all set for an explosive finale. This may not be the most sophisticated shark film ever made but it can be credited with launching a revolution in low budget movie making.

Deep Blue Sea
Deep Blue Sea

Four: Deep Blue Sea

Rather more knowing and more competently based than its kin, this is still a B-movie, but very much as a matter of choice. It would be difficult to tell the story any other way, since it features sharks whose intelligence has been specially enhanced in pursuit of a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, whilst they’ve also grown to enormous size. An unusually strong cast includes Samuel L Jackson, who delivers a rousing speech that you won’t forget in a hurry. Also interesting is the fact that cast members get picked off in an unexpected order, and there are some great set pieces as the sharks not only learn how to break out of their enclosure but also figure out how to use kitchen equipment.

Three: Mega Shark Vs Crocosaurus

The second outing for the most charismatic shark still active in the business, this adventure may not involve plane-munching but it features some fantastic monster-on-monster action and, along the way, totally destroys Panama, a feat your average fish would be hard-pushed to match (even if well funded by the CIA). Humans, ships and scenery are chewed with equal aplomb before our giant prehistoric heroes find themselves facing the final showdown atop an active volcano. This is a film that knows exactly what its audience is looking for and doesn’t hold back. It even involves the use of a power station as a weapon.

Sharknado
Sharknado

Two: Sharknado

Sometime you should listen to the hype. There may be few cinematic visions dafter than a tornado skimming over the ocean selectively picking up sharks and dropping them on a city, but this film really does deliver on the action. See sharks start bar brawls, climb up ropes, burst out of sewer pipes and attack helicopters in flight! It’s all here, from imperilled schoolchildren to shark versus chainsaw battles (the best thing since a zombie fought a shark in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters). And you have to admit, if you’d been carried off by a tornado, you’d probably be pretty angry too. As sharks reinvent the home invasion genre, we know we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Sharktopus
Sharktopus

One: Sharktopus

Just pipping Sharknado to the post – by virtue of cheating, which seems entirely reasonable in context – this fearsome film combines a classic cartilaginous killer with tentacled terror to fantastic effect. Its star has, as you’d expect, been genetically engineered into existence by scientists working for a top secret military division. Breaking its electronic bonds and escaping into the wild, it turns out to have heightened killer instincts too. It’s so fierce that it doesn’t even stop to snack on what it has killed but swims directly in pursuit of the next target. Since there happens to be a water park nearby, that’s not good news for delicious humans. With near-constant action and some spectacular stunts, this is the king of the sharksploitation genre.

Real sharks, of course, think humans taste pretty manky, and they don’t taste too good to us either (ammonium compounds in their tissues give them a flavour not unlike pee) – but that doesn’t stop us killing thousands of them every year just to dine on their iconic fins. If you want to help preserve them so that future generations won’t know them only from dubious movies, you can donate to The Shark Trust.

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