Jaws is by far one of my favourite films. I can proudly say it was the first DVD I ever bought with my own money, and since then I’ve gone on to watch it over 25 times and accumulated no end of Jaws related knick-knacks including an original framed poster and a model of the destruction of Quint’s boat.
The love I bare for it, however, is not unique, as it comes from the most commonly agreed upon attribute the film has, and that’s its ability to scare. Months after I first saw Jaws, I couldn’t get in the bath without expecting to be set upon by a ravenous shark, and even now I have some trust issues with the ocean. This effect has taken many in its hold and thus cemented Jaws as one of the greatest horror films of all time.
Thanks to its popularity and low standard of sequels, a new sub-genre of horror was born, one which still thrives today even when its waters are populated by some of the most ridiculous films imaginable. I’ve already talked about Jaws 5 in the past, the unofficial sequel made by the rip-off master, Bruno Mattei, but that was just the beginning on how low shark films have to aim in order to create a semi-successful picture.
Why don’t we have a look:-
The Sharknado Series (2013-2018)
Kind of an obvious one I know, but what I find so odd about the Sharknado films isn’t the fact they revolve around whirling cyclones flinging sharks at will, but the fact there’s so many of them. I get that the title is one of those alluring, ‘I’ve got to see how ridiculous they can make this’ kinds, so that’s its draw but you’d think after two or three, everyone would give up. I know I did, and I watch films like The Bed That Eats & Manos The Hands of Fate, so I’d say I have a high tolerance for shlock.
Credit where credit’s due though I guess, and like the Jaws films, the ante kept being upped which apparently kept the series popular:
Sharknado – killer sharks in a tornado
Sharknado 2: The Second One – More sharknados and a meta title
Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! – Sharknado’s merge to create one big sharknado, plus Jedward
Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens – Introduces more ‘Nados including firenado and cownado
Sharknado 5: Global Swarming – Sharknado’s cause the apocalypse
The Last Sharknado: It’s about time – Time travelling sharknados
The Last Shark A.K.A Great White (1981)
The Last Shark, or as it’s better known, Great White is probably the most Jaws like shark film which kind of gets away with being its own film. The plot is pretty much lifted from the classic, with a quaint and usually quiet seaside town becoming the hunting grounds for a big ol’ meany with teeth.
What sets Great White apart is its paradoxical tone. On the one hand, much like Jaws, it’s trying to be a hard-hitting, serious film about the dangers of nature and wishes to instil the same level of fear. All the way through, the characters highlight how thick the threat is and how hard it’s going to be to stop, but then the shark looks so ridiculous, you’d think it was trying to be a parody of Jaws.
Trust me, the shark in the universal ride is more realistic.
Okay not a shark film technically, but if you want to see a classier version of Jaws, Orca is your best bet. It’s kind of odd that apparently if you change the animal that’s attacking from a shark to a whale, and basically make your b-movie creature feature an unofficial Moby Dick adaptation, it can no longer be put in the same genre. Even if you decide to keep all the suspense and killing that made Jaws so famous and threatening.
It somehow jumps ahead of Jaws though, stealing part of the plot from Jaws: The Revenge by way of having a grieving parent Orca go on a killing spree, using all kinds of methods to do so. This is one of those films which will have you rooting for the creature by the end of it, especially when it does it’s free-willy esque victory flip after each attack.
Devil Fish A.K.A Monster Shark (1984)
You might expect some of those notorious ‘Sy Fy’ shark films to appear on this list: Sharkoctopus, or Dinoshark, or even Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus. But no, I think they’re the obvious choices when you’re looking for shark hybrid films – another little branch from the shark sub-genre in which writers splice sharks with just about anything they want.
This has paved the way for many visionaries to challenge each other to the most ridiculous concepts and nowadays, when you see these films out there, you know you’re not in for a scare, but rather a laugh. But it all began with a film doing it’s best to breathe new life into an already exhausted genre and create a new kind of terrifying threat.
This one isn’t really about a shark, but more of a tentacled pre-historic fish (although they call it a shark and ‘shark’ is technically in the title, well one of them at least). Let’s say it tries but not hard enough, with the creature being more adorable than anything else. That being said, this one will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first of its kind, and it was directed by none other than Lamberto Bava, who directed one of my favourite horror films of all time, Demons.
Toxic Shark (2017)
This one’s interesting because it tries to add another sub-genre into the mix of shark movies, zombies. Apparently, this mutated Great White suffered horribly thanks to pollution and developed a weird blow hole type protrusion on the top of its head. Instead of spraying water, however, it sprays acid and/or toxic waste which it uses to attack and kill people – fair enough, not heard of that before, right?
Well, the shark’s bites also turn people into zombies. So it’s a double threat scenario, but what’s even more refreshing is the zombies and shark aren’t working together – the shark even starts eating a big group of zombies near the end. Speaking of zombies fighting sharks, I’d like to say the writer’s watched Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters before putting their film to paper, but seeing this, it’s obvious they’ve never seen a zombie film before…but they’ve definitely seen Jaws.
Jaws IV: The Revenge (1987) Even the Jaws series isn’t free of silliness, actually, it endorses it full-heartedly once you hit the third film which gives viewers a 3-D gimmick to give it a more ‘real’ feel. Of course, this 3-D doesn’t work and has aged poorly but we can excuse it as a gimmick film. Number 4 however, is just too ridiculous to even try taking seriously. Number three at least had quite a dark moment where a character is trapped in the shark’s mouth and is crushed to death by its jaws, but here all we have is a shark that is somehow aware of the Brody family and how to track their movements, even if they go to a completely different ocean.
We get a tropical setting, Michael Caine and a shark that ends up being killed by stock footage from the first film (at least, that’s how it’s edited). It doesn’t really work and pretty much put the nail in the coffin of any future of the Jaws series. No remake as of yet, so thanks number 4 I guess?