Steven Spielberg’s iconic shark tale Jaws is returning to theatres to terrorise audiences once more this weekend. It’s a cinema trip not to be missed – who doesn’t want to hear John Williams’ nerve-wracking score as Chrissy Watkins is pulled to the depths on the big screen?
Jaws might be the mother of all shark movies, but the genre has more than a few flicks that rival the revolutionary 1975 classic, and they are reason enough for steering clear of the water.
Open Water (2003)
Inspired by true events, Open Water tells the story of a couple left stranded in the middle of the ocean whilst on a scuba dive. This one hits a little too close home with a morbidly valid fear of being left behind. The ocean can be terrifying; you never know what lurks beneath; there’s no sign of land for miles; and it is far too easy to lose your bearings, as Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan) discover.
As the pair struggle to remain afloat, the sharks begin to swarm. Open Water plays differently to other films of this genre. The sharks aren’t portrayed as outright, bloodthirsty monsters; instead, they’re curious creatures, poking, prodding and inadvertently tormenting the pair; and the film snags a triumphant win in preserving a genuinely frightening narrative, leaving behind an ambiguous conclusion.
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Perhaps most memorable for Samuel L. Jackson’s inspiring monologue (and the event immediately that follows), Deep Blue Sea has aged considerably well. Science versus nature is taken to the next level as this band of unfortunate scientists inadvertently put themselves on the menu after genetically altering the DNA of three Mako sharks. The 1999 thriller is hardly a masterpiece, but it has its moments and yet again, does not depict sharks as instinctively vicious; they lash out in retaliation for being used as test subjects, their motivation driven by the freedom teased beyond the fences; it’s not difficult to pinpoint the villain in the film – and it’s not the sharks.
There’s also an impressive cast aboard. Even with little screen time between them, Thomas Jane shares a comical camaraderie with LL Cool J as they banter back and forth despite narrowly avoiding death seconds before. Deep Blue Sea excels at keeping you on your toes; there’s rarely a moment to breathe and is filled with disturbing imagery. Love it or hate it, Deep Blue Sea is a super fun classic to rewatch time and time again.
The Reef (2010)
This 2010 Australian thriller tends to fly under the radar when it comes to shark movie discourse. The Reef is incredibly effective in building suspense. The premise is quite possibly a huge fear that comes to life for many as a group of friends brave the ocean after their boat capsizes. During the daring venture, a great white shark begins to stalk the group.
Desperation is at a high; the film itself adopts Jaws’ less-is-more approach to the genre as well as using real life shark footage, capturing an authentic feeling of dread and worry. The Reef has everything you want from a shark film; unnerving, tense, packed with thrills, avoiding the water will become a necessity after watching this.
47 Meters Down (2017)
Cage diving sounds like an exhilarating and fun adventure in theory, but it’s made slightly less appealing when the rope snaps and sends said cage plummeting to the ocean floor. That’s exactly what happens with sisters Kate (Claire Holt) and Lisa (Mandy Moore) during a Mexico trip gone dreadfully wrong.
The concept alone is terrifying. Throw in a few (overly) aggressive sharks and it is a nightmare scenario. 47 Meters Down nails its claustrophobic tone from the second the characters get into the water; their hesitation and fear is felt. One finishing detail that really complements the film is the amount of action loaded into the final act; pushing through at an otherwise steady pace, those last scenes get your heart pounding, and a very memorable shot leaves a lasting impression that will have your jaw-dropping.
The Shallows (2016)
Blake Lively takes centre stage as a gifted surfer left stranded just 200 yards from shore with a great white waiting to strike. A nail-biting fight for survival ensues in a film that relies heavily on adrenaline. Lively puts on a fantastic performance, carrying the weight of The Shallows on her own for the most part – although, her squawking co-star, Steven Seagull, undoubtedly steals the show.
The Shallows, whilst not short of horror elements, is ultimately an action movie. So, despite leading with a strong premise and an equally thrilling execution, there are moments that become bogged down with disbelief. Though, that’s what makes the film stand out against other films of the genre; it does what has rarely been done before and sets up a fun, edge-of-you-seat, true survivalist shark thriller