“And the thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t even seem to be livin’… ’til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin’ and your hollerin’ those sharks come in and… they rip you to pieces.”
So went the immortal words of Robert Shaw’s salty sea Captain Quint in Steven Spielberg classic Jaws, summing up just why we’re all so afraid of the underwater killers. The terrifying power of the shark strikes at the nerves like no other creature, and for this reason they’ve been used as efficient onscreen killers time and time again.
Cage Dive is the latest brutally effective shark horror. In this intense thriller, three friends from California head to the rugged Australian coast for a cage- dive encounter with deadly sharks. But after attracting a swarm of vicious sharks, their tour boat is destroyed by a massive rogue wave. As clouds gather and darkness descends, the three friends find themselves alone and defenceless, afloat in the chilly ocean as hungry man-eaters begin to circle. With little hope of rescue, they must fight to survive using only their courage…
To celebrate the release of this new entry into the canon of frighteningly realistic shark features, we’ve taken a look back at the history of these amazing beasts in films, from humble origins to the extreme interpretations of today…
Sharkfighters (1956) “Man Against Tiger Shark!”
Possibly the earliest example of sharks onscreen was this adventurous offering based on a true-life story. Leading man Victor Mature headlined the science vs. sharks tale of US scientists and their mission to create a shark repellant for use by sailors and stranded aviators in World War II. While the emphasis may have been on the human drama the film contained some impressive underwater photography for its time with solid scenes of action and some gruesome deaths.
Shark (1969) “Will Rip You Apart!”
It would be over ten years before another notable shark-based action- adventure came along, this time starring Burt Reynolds as gunrunner Caine, who is duped into diving into shark infested waters by a pair of treasure hunters. Controversy circled this film when a shark, supposedly sedated, killed one of the stuntmen. The studio then used the death to help promotion, which caused the director, Sam Fuller, to quit.
Blue Water, White Death (1971) “The Hunt for the Great White Shark”
Into the 70s and we have this exciting documentary wetting audience appetites for what was to come. Director-producers Peter Gimbel and James Lipscomb travelled across the world, made countless dives and caught some of the most exciting footage then seen on camera on a quest to encounter their most elusive and deadly target, a Great White. This awe-inspiring doc would prove a direct influence on a film that would alter not only the way we thought about sharks but also the nature of the movie business forever…
Jaws (1975) “You’ll never go in the water again!”
Fledgling director Steven Spielberg stepped behind the camera to film this adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best selling novel and, along with scaring a generation of viewers away from the water, he created the template for the summer blockbuster movie. Set in the quaint New England beach resort of Amity, a series of vicious shark attacks rock the small community at the height of tourist season. The town’s water averse sheriff, a marine biologist and a grizzled fisherman then set off to hunt and kill the creature. Roy Schieder, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw turn in fine performances but are out shone by a malfunctioning mechanical shark, (‘Bruce’) and an unforgettable soundtrack in one of the greatest blockbuster pictures of all time.
Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976) “Sheer Terror!”
Jaws spawned an evitable slew of inferior imitators (see also Tintorera and The Last Shark), of which this was one of the first… and the weirdest. The story involves a young man who obtains a mystical medallion from a shaman and develops a telepathic connection with mako sharks.Isolating himself from the world, he uses his ability to get revenge on anybody who attempts to harm his fish friends.
Deep Blue Sea (1999) “Your Worst Fear is About To Surface”
With Jaws rip offs and a slew of poor-quality sequels resulting in a loss of interest in shark movies, it would be a while before something fresh could come along and shake the genre up once more. Combining science fiction horror and action elements with a dose of wicked humour, Deep Blue Sea was a fun and original new shark tale that worked. At an underwater facility a team of researchers are doing research on mako sharks in an effort to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. They do this by increasing the brain size of the sharks with the unwanted side effect that the deadly sharks are now showing signs of increased intelligence. Starring Samuel Jackson and rapper LL Cool J and directed by action veteranRennyHarlin, this shark success story proved a solid hit.
Open Water (2003) “Don’t Get Left Behind”
Based on the true life story of a scuba diving couple left behind after an excursion to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the low-fi aesthetics of this intense drama give it a palpable sense of realism. With the almost unbearable psychological terror of seeing a couple stranded at sea in shark infested waters with no means of rescue, Open Water created a trend for realistic depictions of stranded survivors that continues to this day.One of the best modern shark movies.
Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009) “Winner… Eats… All!”
What started as a cheap exploitation monster movie has now spawned an industry revolving around increasingly preposterous ideas. When a glacier is broken open off the coast of Alaska two long-since extinct prehistoric titans are released… the Mega Shark and Giant Octopus! The undersea titans then proceed to wreck havoc as military and scientists desperately try to stop them. The ‘Mega Shark Vs.’ series currently stands at 3 sequels and counting…
Sharknado (2014) “Enough Said!”
3-Headed Shark? Ghost Shark? Snow Sharks? All real titles in the recent line of B-movie shark tales, but perhaps the silliest, and most successful, has to be Sharknado. Running aground in 2014, this movie featured a freak cyclone that hits LA flooding the city with monster sharks. Starring notorious party girl Tara Reid, the film caused a twitter storm on its Syfy channel premiere racking up viewers and proving an unlikely success.