“Deep Blue Sea is a shark movie with teeth!”
Yes, I’m trying to be quoted in ad copy. It’s every unpaid critics’ dream.
Deep Blue Sea is a horror movie. It’s not a thriller. It’s not an action movie. It’s a horror movie, and it is a very good one. The film itself has some bad writing and some terrible exposition—after the first ten minutes of wooden speeches and clichéd setups, I was ready to give up on it. But before long, the movie bares its teeth, bites down, and doesn’t let go.
Russell Franklin ( Samuel L. Jackson) is the head of a big corporation about to cut funding to a shark research facility, where the scientists hope to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. A plucky young scientist, Dr. McAlester (Saffron Burrows), convinces him to visit the facility one weekend in hopes he’ll see the good work they’re doing, and extend their grant.
They’ve been experimenting with sharks in their gigantic, mid-ocean, floating laboratory (complete with underwater pen). The scientists have been tampering with the sharks’ brains—trying to make them bigger so they can extract more of the stuff that will make their Alzheimer’s drug.
The first night of Russell’s visit, a big storm rolls in and the facility is hit hard. At the same time, the brainy sharks start acting up. One of the sedated specimens wakes up too soon and severely wounds one of the 10-man crew. As the crew tries to get a rescue chopper for the wounded scientist, the sharks start attacking the facility with deliberate intent—seems their new brains are making them smarter. Between the storm and the sharks, the small crew becomes trapped.
Now damaged, the facility becomes a cage for the humans as well. The sharks continue to attack the facility and its crew as the “floating Alcatraz” starts to sink. The survivors must figure out a way to stay afloat while avoiding the omnipresent supersharks.
Despite some clunky writing and lame exposition, Deep Blue Sea is a satisfying horror movie. It has what horror movies have lost, namely, ruthlessness.
It seems like a lot of extras die and a lot of main characters survive in horror movies. It gets to be where you can predict who’s going to live and who’s going to die, and in what order.
Sometimes the formula contains a “morality” indicator as well, that kills off whoever “deserves” to die. Paul Reiser’s slick, greedy character in Aliens is an obvious example. Or if you prefer slasher flicks, you could predict a kill if the victim was 1) a teenager at summer camp, and 2) about to have sex.
Deep Blue Sea shuns all of that in favor of sheer ruthless terror. I knew, as soon as I saw somebody’s loveable pet get swallowed whole, that there was no telling who would live by who “deserved” it. It used to be the rule that the loyal dog always had to survive, but no more.
And that, in essence, is what makes Deep Blue Sea a good horror movie. It is scary, ruthless, and unpredictable. If that doesn’t impress you, then don’t go see it because the bad writing will stand out even more.
Those of us who enjoy a good scare will have fun without you.