Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Your worst fear is about to surface.
With October right around the corner, I thought it might be a good time to get our feet wet in some more horror thriller fun. Of course, that's a little deceiving, as my slated queue for the next month cycles back and forth between serious and comedy as opposed to going full-blown tracked terror. Either way, this one actually fits a bit into both categories - it has your tense murderous super-sharks, and it has your jokey master chef L.L. Cool J. Throw on your wetsuits, it's time to play with nature.
As mentioned only moments ago, this movie is a bit of a blend in multiple regards. We have plenty of comedy coming from the Chef and his bird, and plenty of serious nature-tampering science horror coming from the sharks. You also get all of the fun of underwater station terror - where you could say it puts all the characters under pressure. Even then, it shares many of it's beats with action movies, with a steadily moving plot that doesn't leave you sitting around waiting for things for very long before the next event happens. It might not excel phenomenally in any one of those parts, but it does a commendable job for the most part.
Of course, the plot itself isn't really anything far fetched - you've got some scientists wanting to cure a disease and in turn doing a little experimentation that they shouldn't have done, and the experiment going south and turning the tables on them. It's a typical play out - but when you see a big old shark on a cover with a name like this, you pretty much don't expect the cutting edge of plots, your just looking to nail that Jaws style fix with a little twist or two to put it apart still. In this case, we up our threat by giving us three sharks (well, beyond the whole science-tampering). We also remove the safety of land from our players as well, putting them on a floating science lab that also carries over largely into the underwater, complete with pens with which to contain the shark-related subjects. This tweaks things further, allowing the actual environment to play into the danger and add to the tension without giving the players too much of a respite from the danger.
The characters themselves don't really have a whole lot of growth to go through, inheriting a little bit from slasher movies in that regard. Most the characters are still quite likeable though, despite not having a whole lot of background or development, which in turn helps you to not want them to get wolfed down by a shark. Of the entire bunch, the most likeable is by far the chef, who is really well acted by Cool J and has plenty of humor in his parts to liven up the movie. Sam Jackson's character is used very well in the movie as well, using a background of the character through various little exposition points to work him up as a pivot point of the group despite being an outsider viewed as a suit to them before popping out a surprise or two. Of the bunch, probably the least likeable is the female lead - but that's less to do with acting and more just to do with the fact that I don't think the script wants us to like her for being the "good of many over few" styled devoted scientist that goes to any lengths. She's played pretty straight to the point in that regard, but does have a moment or two of redeeming qualities - and in turn is largely the only person that has obvious growth to her character.
Humans aren't the only thing floating around in this movie however, as our main threat is these three sharks. Sharks which, for the most part, look really well done. The effects in the movie look remarkable taking into account it's release window, but that isn't to say there aren't a decent amount of also pretty not great shark effects as well. All I'm saying is that it's nice to not see Asylum-grade CG through the entire movie, as there are plenty of moments when they look quite like a real shark to help balance them out. Various other effects are met with the same amount of polish - some explosions look spectacular, some not quite as much. Overall, it's certainly not enough to make the movie less likeable - although certainly some of them aren't going to keep the pickier folk immersed.
The setting of being in an underwater facility provides plenty of opportunity to have cramped hallways and larger rooms - such as the main lab - while also helping to spook things up. As the place slowly starts flooding with more and more water, threat levels begin to rise as even a normal hallway becomes a tense game of guessing if a shark is in it. As thing progress further and further, plenty of different rooms also see some use, preventing the structure from feeling really stagnant as if they used only a few hallways from different angles would have felt. It gives some things a bit of a fancy pass with all sorts of equipment and the likes around, but it puts enough thought into it as to have moments that showcase super-thick glass to withstand pressure, or very generalized and industrial looking kitchen furnishings, and even taking into account plot-wise what the effects of things depressurizing and slowly filling with what would do.
There's quite a bit going on here, and it really helps to set it towards the top of the list in the whole shark sub-genre of horror in my opinion. Some of those things kind of work against it as well - such as the characters not really having a whole lot of development - but largely this thing plays out in ways that you sometimes just don't expect. The setup is all natural feeling - quickly allowing you to gather that this place is isolated and going to be somewhat cut off, that there is a lot of pressure on the lead scientist to push out results that will most likely end up undercutting safety and helping to lead to the situation we are about to get. Super-smart sharks that can plot out all the things these ones do aren't exactly something we'd like to relate to, but even that largely science fiction element gets reigned in by simple things like acknowledging through dialogue and action that even though it might be super smart, it's still just an animal and drawn to animal things (like the draw of a free meal). In all honesty, the shark's can often play out as the smarter of the two species in here, and that just helps add to the threat of them regardless of how unbelievable you might find the sharks to be. Combine all of that with the pacing that keeps you engaged without spoiling the tension or letting you get too bogged down in boredom waiting for something to happen, and it ends up coming out of the mix very enjoyable.
I'd wager that anyone who could watch this (what with rating and whatnot) would enjoy it. It has plenty of fun moments, with some impressive (at times) effects and a bunch of names you should recognize in the actor list. It's an enjoyable time and enough of a step away from the Jaws and Sharknado type movies that it still feels fresh for the subject matter at hand, even if it largely might not be anything completely new to behold. It holds tension well when it wants to, and undercuts it with burst of danger-filled action and well acted humor. It might not be the best movie to ever exist, but it's certainly up there in the list of fun shark movies.