Yesterday I reviewed In the Heart of the Sea – so why not stick with sea creatures for today’s old movie review? We’re wading into the dark waters of 1999, which is scary in itself, to hark back at this sci-fi horror movie that I was desperate to see when it was released. I was seven years old.
Clearly, I had impeccable taste.
Don’t get me wrong, because I love it – and I’ll explain why later – but Deep Blue Sea is a poorly acted, badly written shitfest. I had to restrain myself from adding inverted commas when I described it as sci-fi horror up there, and again right now, because it’s so easy on the science and heavy on the fiction, way beyond the realms of what we’d usually tolerate.
Granted, some of this isn’t entirely its fault. For example – the basic premise is that this group of scientists are trying to cure Alzheimer’s disease by studying sharks’ brain matter, because sharks “never get cancer or go blind, or show any loss of brain activity as they age”. These days, we know that this isn’t true, which makes it seem sillier – but some of it was ridiculous even when the movie was released. Their supposed shark handling expert is shown petting a shark backwards, against the grain of its skin – which, as anybody who likes a fun fact knows, would cut his hand open. The sharks are suddenly able to swim backwards now that they have enhanced intelligence.
The movie itself even addresses this. “Sharks don’t swim backwards; they can’t!” Maybe it’s that self-awareness that makes it bearable for me. Maybe I just like shitty creature features. Either way, it’s daft.
In fact, there’s a gigantic plot hole that undermines the entire movie. My no-spoiler policy is probably irrelevant for this kind of movie, which you’re not watching for the story anyway – but let’s stick to it anyway, and I’ll just say that increased brain capacity does not equal increased knowledge.
Let’s get back to the acting, though, because that’s the true star of this film. Probably my favourite is Jacqueline McKenzie as Janice, who’s so wooden I imagine she’d give a hungry shark splinters. I haven’t seen her in anything else, so I can’t say for sure whether this is an outlier – but the script certainly doesn’t help her out. Michael Rapaport as Scoggs is in a similar position. (“(She) was a healthy girl. Something in here has to run on batteries. Where would a girl keep her… mmmm thing?”)
LL Cool J deserves a special mention for not being as awful as any of us probably imagined. Admittedly, even he is outshined by his pet parrot, Bird – but who isn’t a sucker for pets in movies? I always am.
Okay, so if it’s this bad – why am I reviewing it? It was released seventeen years ago now, and there’s no talk of a sequel. It contains nothing culturally relevant, and it’s not even available on Netflix.
Honestly, it’s just a lot of fun.
I mentioned that I was desperate to see this movie when it came out in 1999 – but obviously I was far too young to watch it then, and by the time I was old enough I’d pretty much forgotten it existed. Every now and again I’d catch sight of it on a shelf somewhere and think… oh. I should watch that sometime. By this point, however, I was past horror. My moment with horror movies was pretty brief. I refused to watch Jeepers Creepers at a sleepover when I was 11 because I had been told it was frightening, and literally turned away from the screen and read a book instead. (It was one of the Princess Diaries sequels. That’s the kind of child I was. You’re welcome.) For my 13th birthday I had a sleepover of my own, and my parents bought The Ring for us to watch. Again, I had been told it was very scary; one of the kids there had already seen it and she insisted it would be too much for me, so she kept hold of the remote control, muted the parts she thought would scare us, and told us when to look away.
When I actually saw a horror movie properly, I was underwhelmed – and not frightened at all. I can’t even remember what my first one was. These days I watch a fair bit of horror as my best friend quite likes it, but I still haven’t found one that scares me. Tension’s about as good as it gets – but considering that Up makes me tense as I brace for the sadness, I don’t know how much that counts.
Long story short – last year I was looking for something to watch on Netflix while visiting the US, and as I was looking through it showed up. There it was. Deep Blue Sea. Forbidden underwater realm of my childhood. So I watched it. And then I watched it again.
Now, I freely admit – I’m not an ordinary viewer. I have always liked repeating things, but this movie was one of the areas I took it to an extreme. During the time I visited, I got to watching that movie back-to-back, maybe three times a day or more. I’d work on other things while it ran; I wasn’t solidly watching. Still, it was entertaining enough to listen to over and over.
These days it’s no longer on US Netflix, and it never was on Netflix in the UK, at least when I looked for it. It’s available on Amazon Video for £2.49 in the UK, however, so if you’re looking to waste an evening on a shitty horror movie… well. It’s pretty cheap, and it’ll make you laugh with how awful it is. You can hold your breath along with the characters to see how preposterous the length of time they’re expected to go without breath is. You can see sharks kill people in a variety of ways you weren’t expecting, and some ways you were. You can hear lines like, “Bring me some sushi!” after a shark dies. You can count the number of times the characters refer to the main shark as ‘he’, even though it’s specifically referred to as a female at the beginning of the movie.
You will laugh. You may not like it as much as I do. Maybe you’ll wonder why you just wasted a portion of your life you’ll never get back. But hey – it has Samuel L Jackson in it, and a soundtrack that’s pretty much the only thing that really betrays how old this movie is. (It’s aged surprisingly well; the shark effects are achieved with a mixture of real footage, CGI and animatronics, and they’re nowhere near as bad as you’re imagining.)
In any case, it’s at least as much fun as Sharknado.