Prehistoric fish are exploited again for cheap thrills this weekend in Shark Night 3D, a movie about a group of pretty young people with gym bodies who become fish food for a bunch of sharks that are loose in the lake where they are vacationing. We haven't seen the film yet because, for reasons we can't fathom, the film was not screened for the press, but we suspect moviegoers know what to expect when they walk into a theater to see this PG-13 fish frenzy directed by the guy who brought us Snakes on a Plane and Final Destination 2. In other words, get ready to root for the sharks.
Did Steven Spielberg know what he was starting when he directed Jaws in 1975? This seminal killer-fish flick is responsible for a school of sequels and cheap imitations that continue to this day with Shark Night 3D. The difference here is that Jaws became a summer blockbuster that terrified a generation about going in the water and made us all want a "bigger boat." Jaws stars Roy Schneider as new Amity Island police chief Martin Brody who, along with marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfess), tries to prevent vacationers from being eaten by a giant great white shark that is hunting in the area. Jaws is, to date, the only killer-fish flick to have won any Oscars (it scored three) or get nominated for Best Picture. Sadly, Spielberg's classic is only available on DVD.
When a film like Jaws takes that big of a bite out of the box office, sequels are inevitable. What surprises us is that there have only been three, all of which are available on DVD only. Jaws 2, which arrived in 1978, is a surprisingly thrilling sequel in which another great white terrorizes Amity Island and Chief Brody must save his son and a group of teens who are drifting helplessly on the wreckage of their boats after numerous attacks from below. Jaws 3-D, which is only available in 2D on disc, features some of the most laughably bad 3D effects in the history of cinema as a new great white goes after a grown Michael Brody (Dennis Quaid) at a SeaWorld in Florida. Michael Caine couldn't pick up his Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters because he was busy filming 1987's Razzie-winning Jaws: The Revenge, which featured the return of Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody, who travels to the Bahamas to prevent her only remaining son from being killed by a great white who, yes, is swimming from Amity Island to the Caribbean to eat him.
Immediately after the success of the original Jaws, other enterprising filmmakers rushed more killer-fish flicks into production to capitalize on the public's newfound appetite for aquatic terror. Director Joe Dante's gloriously low-budget and super fun Piranha became a cult classic and spawned the 1981 directorial debut of James Cameron with Piranha II: The Spawning—a movie that features flying mutant piranha. Both have more bite than 1978's Barracuda, which sacrifices fish footage for a terra-firma conspiracy caper.
More recently, killer fish have returned to hunt more box-office dollars. Renny Harlin's 1999 action flick Deep Blue Sea featured some aggressive, genetically enhanced "smart" sharks that take an unexpected bite out of Samuel L. Jackson in a howl of a scene. There is nothing to laugh about in 2003's Open Water, which is based on a true story about a couple who go out diving only to be abandoned by their boat and left adrift in shark-infested waters. In last year's bloody fun Piranha—which is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D—the killer-fish film frenzy went full meta with Jaws star Dreyfuss making a cameo in the opening scene of a movie that is a remake of a movie made to exploit Jaws.