August in Florida means scorching heat, intense humidity, and blistering sun. It is a time when more folks head indoors, crank down the AC and cozy up to summertime movies, and shark flicks are at the top of the list for many! Here is a rundown of our top five picks.
Steven Spielberg's summer blockbuster “Jaws” frightened scores of people out of the water forever. Even after 45 years, “Jaws” remains an all-time apex predator in the world of shark movies. Based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel and set in a fictional Atlantic beach town, “Jaws” tells the story of a massive great white shark stocking swimmers at the height of a holiday weekend. “Jaws” introduced much of the world to the Great White shark and is responsible for a movement around the conservation of sharks that is as powerful today as ever. “Jaws 2” (1978) is equally entertaining with largely the same screenwriters and much of the cast from the original. “Jaws 3,” and “Jaws: The Revenge,” not so much. Once Roy Scheider and company bugged out after the first sequel, these became cheesy chapters in a once-proud franchise.
Fun Facts: “Jaws” took forever to film (159 days); went over budget four times; and Robert Shaw, who played Quint, was not only drunk on the set a good deal of the time but was also on the run from an IRS tax evasion investigation.
(Theatrical release poster by Roger Kastel/Universal Pictures)
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
There were, in addition to several failed attempts at “Jaws” comebacks, a number of really bad movies trying to ride Spielberg’s slipstream, but it took nearly 15 years for Renny Harlin’s “Deep Blue Sea” to chum the shark movie waters once again. A refreshing break from a string of terrible horror movies that tried too hard and failed, “Deep Blue Sea” is an over-the-top humorous thriller about Mako sharks and a genetic experiment that goes horribly wrong. This movie is so much fun to watch because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the acting is solid, and the special effects are exhilarating. Part of its charm are the numerous and clever references to “Jaws.” “Deep Blue Sea” made shark movie history with a spectacularly unforgettable death scene preceded by a soliloquy that few actors could deliver the way that Samuel L. Jackson did, but rapper LL Cool J did most of the heavy lifting with a thoroughly charismatic and often hilarious performance.
Fun Facts: Scriptwriter Duncan Kennedy witnessed a horrific real-life shark attack near his home which inspired his writing, and the parrot in the movie was actually two parrots the producers had to buy in Mexico City because they didn’t have the budget for a “professional” parrot.
(Theatrical release poster by Warner Bros.)
The Shallows (2016)
Jaume Collet-Serra’s survival thriller seemed to pop up out of nowhere and turned out to be an amazing return to the epic battle between a human and a vicious white shark that “Jaws” audiences had been craving for years. A young woman surfing on a remote beach inadvertently paddles upon a dead whale carcass and instantly attracts the attention of a Great White in full feeding mode. She winds up stranded on a rock just 200 yards from shore alone and in the battle for her life from the relentless predator. Blake Lively, who plays the film’s heroine, puts on a stunning performance and the cinematography is spectacular. The shark in “The Shallows” is completely computer-generated imagery but the surfing is authentic and so cool that Warren Miller would have been impressed, thanks to Lively’s stunt double and pro surfer Isabella Nichols, who is the No. 1 junior champion surfer in the world.
Fun Facts: The seagull in the film is a real bird and a trained professional. Sully the Seagull was the breakout star of “The Shallows” and has his own Facebook page and IMDb profile. He had three understudies in the film and later appeared in Robert Eggers's The Lighthouse (2019) with Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe.
(Theatrical release poster by Columbia Pictures)
The Reef (2007)
Written and directed by Andrew Traucki, “The Reef” is set in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and follows the harrowing drama of four friends on a sailing yacht vacation. When the vessel is torn open by sharp rocks, they must decide whether to stay with the sinking ship or swim 12 miles to safety through shark-infested waters. The group soon realizes that they are being stalked by a large great white shark. Purportedly based on a true story, “The Reef” has a similar feel and format to “Open Water,” one of the lowest budget, yet wildly successful films about terror in the ocean. Traucki presents the audience with straight forward characters who react to their dire circumstances in a more realistic manner than what we are used to in horror movies. Using masterful camera angles and the authentic setting in three different locations of Queensland, Australia, this film captures the true feeling of total exposure. “The Reef” is a great nail-biter and the behavior of both the shark and its intended prey is about as real as it gets.
Fun Facts: All the sharks that appeared in the movie were real and “The Reef” is the very first film made in Australia about Australia’s most notorious ambassador. So, not surprisingly, the CEO of Tourism Tropical North Queensland was not thrilled about it.
(Theatrical release poster by Lightening Entertainment)
We could talk about all the super bad shark movies since “Jaws” but all you need to do is check out Anthony C. Ferrante’s dark comedy “Sharknado” which does a clever and deliberate job of conflating all of them into 90 minutes of pure joy and shameless laughter. The film’s subject is a freak storm that spins up tornados packed with man-eating sharks that rips through Los Angeles. Sharks raining from the skies cause bloody mayhem throughout the city. Starring Tara Reid and Ian Ziering, “Sharknado” was originally a made-for-TV movie that first aired on the Syfy channel. Its implausible plot, crazy theatrics, wacky effects, and intentionally bad acting acquired a near-immediate cult following and earned it a one-night-only special midnight theatrical screening that grossed over $200,000. Five sequels followed over the next 5 years and the franchise was declared officially dead in 2018.
Fun Facts: “Sharknado” was filmed in only 18 days and, yes, it can rain fish. Waterspouts are perfectly capable of sucking up small aquatic life including fish, frogs, and even snakes and dropping them inland and have done so all over the world, including in the U.S.
You’re gonna need a bigger umbrella?
(Theatrical release poster by Syfy Films)