Archive for the ‘Sharks’ Category


Lindsay Lohan almost ran me over once.  It’s not my greatest Hollywood anecdote, but it happened.  At the time, I was working as a production assistant on the set of a TV show in Los Angeles.  My job was to corral all the background extras for the scene into a break area in an alleyway behind this jewelry store where we were shooting.  It was a wide alley, leading out to the street — big enough for cars to drive through though narrow enough that they’d need to do so cautiously.  I stepped out in the alley to address the group, back to the street.

Suddenly, a car sped right past my left shoulder, not more than six inches from me, fast enough to be dangerous but slow enough for me to spin around and spot the familiar face in the drivers’ seat.  It was like that scene in JAWS where Brody is shoveling chum and grumbling to Quint and while his back is turned, the great white zooms right past him – only instead of a shark it was the cute redhead from MEAN GIRLS.


I should say “allegedly” regarding all of the above, since there were no cameras recording the incident.  Easily deniable.  As it happened, I doubt she even noticed.  So you’re free to doubt me.  But please know that character assassination is not my thing.  That’s not the goal.  Near-accidents happen.  No big deal to me, really.  I don’t hold any personal grudges against Ms. Lohan.  I’ve been almost-killed by all sorts of people, many of whom are my greatest friends. 

I only brought this up in the interest of full disclosure, because I wrote about Lindsay Lohan and the Lifetime TV movie LIZ & DICK for Daily Grindhouse and my unvarnished opinion may read to some like an act of vengeance. I can only hope that you take my word for it when I say that it was done entirely without malice.

Well, not entirely.  I mean, I hated the movie.  But I gave it my best shot.  And I don’t hate anyone who made it.  I just wish they wouldn’t have. 

Click on the picture or on this link for >>>LIZ & DICK<<< !!!

Go here for me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb



I fell in love once.  It was just about perfect for a while, but then it ended.  I took the loss hard, ending up in increasingly seedier neighborhoods, experiencing increasingly trashier replacements in my desperate search to fill the void left empty after that one perfect moment.

That story could be a description of my love life… or I could just be talking about great-white-shark movies.  When I first wrote about JAWS on my site, I argued that it’s the one great great-white-shark movie, the monarch in its genre.  It’s not the hardest argument to win, really.  After JAWS, the pool of competitors is pretty shallow.  Just about every aspiring horror filmmaker feels up to taking a crack at a zombie movie or a vampire movie, but hardly anyone wants to touch the great-white-shark genre.  Part of that is no doubt a budgetary concern, as the legend behind the troubled JAWS shoot is almost as well-known to cineastes as the movie itself.  CGI sharks don’t look right, but we all know the probable pitfalls of having a practical shark model too.

The other problem is that having a man-eating shark as the villain of your movie is limited by circumstance and the boundaries of imagination; in other words, as long as the characters stay on land or on the boat, there’s no movie.  You need reasons to get people into the water, and there are theoretically only so many ways to do that.

To that end, Australia’s BAIT (3D) has a decent high-concept, at once supremely silly and once you think about it a little, weirdly believable.  A tsunami batters the Australian coastline, destroying a supermarket and killing most of the people in it, and stranding the small group of survivors inside with a great white shark washed in from the ocean.  It could happen!  The odds are about as likely as a Victoria’s Secret model personally delivering a pizza to me sometime this evening, but it is physically possible to occur upon this realm of reality.  The best horror movies are able to convince an audience of the believability of their extreme concepts.  BAIT is not among the best horror movies, but one could do plenty worse as a starting point than JAWS meets DAWN OF THE DEAD.  It’s a great set-up for a joke, anyway.

The problem with BAIT is that its makers seem undecided as to whether to treat their premise with solemnity or camp.  The initial script for BAIT was co-written and meant to be directed by Russell Mulcahy, who managed the tonal balance better in the 1984 killer-boar movie RAZORBACK.  I’m not fully aware of the circumstances behind Kimble Rendall (second-unit director on movies such as 2007’s GHOST RIDER) replacing Mulcahy, and it’s unclear as it is with most movies where to apportion credit or blame, but let’s just say that BAIT is a movie of mixed pleasures.

The cast of characters who serve as the titular fodder are part of the issue.  The main pair of protagonists, Xavier Samuel and Sharni Vinson, as an estranged couple of lifeguards brought together by fate and nature, are certainly pretty and likable enough, but a more callow couple trapped underwater with their yipping pet lapdog are probably more obnoxious than intended.  More interesting, at least on paper, are a pair of armed robbers played by Dan Wyllie and Julian McMahon (who played Doctor Doom in the recent FANTASTIC FOUR movies and is now almost entirely done morphing into Kevin Spacey.)  For me anyway, I didn’t love anyone enough to worry too much about them (not the way I do about, say, Quint in you-know-what), but nor did I loathe anyone enough to want to see them munched on by sharkteeth.  It’s the oldest criticism in the book but it’s a mistake movies like this one keep on making:  If the characters aren’t worth caring about, the movie isn’t worth remembering.

Still, BAIT has engaging moments.  The shark CGI isn’t great, but the tsunami scenes are actually convincing.  The main sets — the submerged parking garage and the flooded supermarket — are believably-rendered environments.  One of the early character deaths isn’t the fault of the shark and is surprisingly effective for it.  (It’s reminiscent of a similar scene in THE GREY, though not as well-executed.)  The final scene, with its real-world implications, tries to give the movie an emotional resonance it hasn’t really earned, but at least it indicates that someone somewhere was thinking about issues other than mangled viscera.  Thinking is the fun part of a movie like BAIT — it’s not remotely as gripping as the movie it compares to unfavorably, but like that movie, it makes you think twice about getting in the water.  At the very least, it leads you to imagine what you might do in a situation like this one, and if it’s better to have a movie that wraps you up in its every moment, it’s some small consolation to have a premise that sparks the imagination.

Word of warning, however:  Whatever you do, don’t make this movie a double-feature with THE MASTER.


More sharp-toothed wordplay on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

Listen to this song while you read — it’s a rendition of the Jaws theme by the great film composer Lalo Schifrin (Enter The Dragon).  This instrumental allows me to imagine a roomful of great white sharks dancing to disco music, which is so fucking funny to me that I can’t even laugh at a level adequate to what it deserves.

Anyway, this is a collection of the Tweets I transmitted to the waking world at 3am this morning, when I couldn’t sleep and decided to test-drive my new Jaws Blu-Ray.  I had a bit of an ethical connundrum on my hands when Jaws, Shaft, and The Raid were all released on Blu-Ray on the same day and there was no way for me to justify purchasing all three on my budget, despite wanting them all almost equally.  Here’s how it all shook out:









Guys, who was I kidding? I picked this up too, of course.

Putting this insomnia to good use and watching my new JAWS Blu-Ray. It’s beautiful.


I’ve seen this movie a hundred times, seen it projected several more. I know it by heart. So, a fact: This restoration is immaculate.



One of the greatest line readings in all of #JAWS: “A whaaaaaat?”

Unsung villain of #JAWS: Mr. Kintner. Where was that motherfucker at? Deadbeat dads are the worst.

“You’ve still got a hell of a fish out there. With a mouth this big.” Hooper way undersells it.

Most charming thing about Quint, I find, is how he refers to a 25-foot great white as a “bird.”

#JAWS ate Ben Gardner’s eyeball. That’s some mad aggro shit.


Anybody else ever look at Michael and Sean Brody in #JAWS and think; Those poor kids are gonna grow up to be in some BAD sequels?

If #JAWS were made ten years later, Hooper might have been played by Curtis Armstrong.




Odd how they head out to open water to go shark-hunting, despite all the attacks having happened near shore. #JAWS #suspensionofdisbelief


Talking writing technique now: Whoever came up with the barrels as a storytelling device was really, really smart.

A great and subtle character bit is when Hooper and Quint are comparing scars and Brody looks down, stops, then decides to keep quiet.

Also notice how Quint keeps a baseball bat on board the Orca — possible tribute to his friend Herbie Robinson, the baseball player?

Unfortunate foreshadowing of JAWS 4 — the shark does seem to roar a little bit.

“Show me the tank… Show me the tank… Blow up!” — something I’ve been known to chant when I’m with a lady.

Okay, good night.

More from me, day and night, on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb


Related Posts:

My Top 50 Movies Of All Time.

Jaws (1975).

Zombie 2 (1979) — where a shark fights a zombie!

Soul Surfer (2011).

Dark Tide (2012).

13 Horror Movies Everyone Should See.

Top Ten Most Unforgettable Facts About Sharks.

My Blu-Ray Library.

Jaws was released on this date in 1975. 37 years ago! 37 years of great-white supremacy. 37 years, and not a single legitimate challenger to the throne. What’s the last watchable great-white-shark movie to be released into theaters and truly strike a chord with movie lovers? There really, really aren’t many to even consider.

Deep Blue Sea? Those are makos, my friend.

Open Water? Promising, but overrated, and too modest either way. (Too much water, not enough shark.)

The Reef? Pretty good, but also modest, and besides, few have seen it.

Shark Night 3D? Still not sure that movie actually happened.

Dark Tide? Be serious now.

Of course I’m discounting ten years of no-budget SyFy movies (I may watch them but I’ll not count them) and, more conspicuously, the three Jaws sequels, but I’m fairly sure that the point is already made:

Not great.

REALLY not great.

Just about as “not great” as it gets.

In addition to being the tremendous and influential box-office success that it was upon release in the summer of 1975, Jaws is an uncontested champion in its genre. In fact, the genre field is as limited as it is because of Jaws. Everybody and their inbred Mormon cousin thinks they can take a crack at a vampire movie or a zombie movie, but few dare to jump in the pool of great-white-shark movies. And the only reason is that almost everyone with half a brain cell knows that their attempt will be unfavorably compared. The original Jaws is just plain that good a movie.

When I listed Jaws as one of the 13 movies every horror fan should see, I brought up the question of whether Jaws really does count as a horror movie. A great white shark is a very unlikely threat, especially as it behaves in this movie, but it obviously isn’t a supernatural one. There are great white sharks out there — though unfortunately, less and less of them every day. There are great white sharks, and in exceedingly rare circumstances, they have been known to bite people. (I recommend this account, concerning the true events that partially inspired Jaws.) But as large as its imagery still looms in the public imagination, Jaws is heavy fiction. You’re in greater danger from your next-door neighbor than you ever are from a great white shark, a fact many horror movies happily exploit. Peter Benchley and Steven Spielberg have both admitted to profoundly ambiguous feelings over Jaws being a smear job against sharks.

But what I’m getting to is a point I made much more concisely in my list of thirteen — that point being, that some fears lock into us on a primal level. There’s not much need for humanity to fear great white sharks, but on a basic, molecular, evolutionary level, both literally and figuratively, we’re all afraid of what we can’t see. We’re all afraid of being eaten. We can feel superior to animals all we want to, but when you come right down to it, in our basest instincts — we’re them. We rarely admit it, but we know it. People are animals, and all animals are food for somebody. Jaws speaks directly to this fear, way more than pretty much any other big-name monster movie. King Kong and Godzilla, The Wolfman and The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Predator and The Alien and those creepy cave fuckers from The Descent, all of them might have teeth to bare at you, but ain’t none of ’em known to swallow a man whole. That, I argue, is why Jaws still remains at the top of the horror-movie food chain. It’s a 37-year-old movie so as effects and film stocks have changed it can’t help but have lost some of its potency, but it’s the rare 37-year-old movie that retains so much of that original impact.

So yes, Jaws, is a horror movie. Just think of all of its tremendous horror moments — that opening skinny-dipping attack (its exploitation of the vulnerability we feel when nude subtly drawing a line to Psycho); the ominously-dim scene where the two fishermen cheat death (“Take my word for it and don’t look back!“); the daytime death of Alex Kintner and how it corroborates Chief Brody’s every last fear; the William Castle jump-scare that is the discovery of Ben Gardner’s boat; that horrible, almost slow-motion moment in the estuary when we finally get to see those titular jaws, right as they’re closing around a man; the brilliant tonal shift that is Quint’s Indianapolis speech; and so on.

The genius of Jaws, and what director Steven Spielberg and his writers (including Carl Gottlieb, Howard Sackler, and John Milius) and composer (John Williams) and cinematographer (Bill Butler) did with Peter Benchley’s book, was not only that they managed to wring every last horror moment out of the killer-shark scenario, but also the way that they welded it onto the American nautical-adventure tradition that goes all the way back to Melville’s Moby Dick but also includes all of the swashbuckling pirate movies of the 1940s, with the unlikely Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss standing in for Errol Flynn. There are genuinely rousing moments in that final third of Jaws, when Robert Shaw is barking out orders from the bow of the Orca, that feel like the horror is at our backs and we’re chasing the big fish. These moments of the movie make Spielberg’s subsequent Indiana Jones films feel like a natural artistic progression (which they are). It’s the basis of Spielberg’s phenomenal career — that he can juggle genre so effectively even within a single movie. He’s modern cinema’s foremost utility player: He can find the horror moments in an action film, or a sci-fi, or even a historical drama, and he can balance all those with moments of comedy and pathos and big ideas and spectacle, and in the smooth transitions lies the key to why his movies work so well for so many people.

Jaws was a miracle moment for movies, where great writing and filmmaking (and perfect performances from Scheider and Shaw) all collide with a perfect premise, and together manages to brush up against the feel of myth. Even the cynics recognize it as a pivotal film in American culture. It’s a movie so mythic in our collective mindzones that even the behind-the-scenes stories remain endlessly fascinating to a legion of film fanatics — myself obviously included.

Here’s a short piece I once wrote about the real-life inspiration for Robert Shaw’s character Quint, a man named Frank Mundus: [DA-DUM!]

And here’s the super-fun article from Gothamist that reminded me I finally needed to say a few words to mark this occasion: [DA-DUM!]

Fish around for me on Twitter: @jonnyabomb

“Oh God, something’s rubbing against my leg!”

P.S. Assuming no one will notice that I posted this article on June 21st, not June 20th. If you read it on June 22nd or anytime after, it won’t matter, right? Reality is malleable. Death is but a door. Time is but a window. You are getting very sleepy…

Leave your high-concepts on your smartphones, eggheads:  All you really have to do to arch my eyebrows is to combine the phrases “great white sharks” and “Halle Berry” into the same sentence.

Dark Tide is the newest movie from star Halle Berry and director John Stockwell, and it’s not great news for either of them (or a good sign to the rest of us) that it went straight to DVD without a theatrical release.  Halle Berry is, of course, a world-famous movie star, but you might not know who John Stockwell is.  In addition to being an actor himself (Top Gun, Christine, My Science Project) and apparently the uncle of Florence from Florence + The Machine, he’s successfully transitioned into a career as a director of some note.  I was really into his movie Crazy/Beautiful, not so much Into The Blue — see, it takes more than Jessica Alba in a bikini to get me excited about a movie!

It takes Halle Berry in a bikini.  And great white sharks.

My history with Dark Tide is A) featuring it in my Top 50 Most Awaited of 2012 list, B) making fun of the poster (the more moody one above is much better), and C) finally watching the movie.  Despite its attention-getting elements — again, those being Halle Berry and great white sharks, as I will keep repeating because it gives me joy — the movie couldn’t fully hold my attention.  The following is what happened when I took to Twitter during Dark Tide.  (Watch as the enthusiasm is bludgeoned out of me, in real-time!)

(Note the hilariously non-self-aware tagline.  No character in this film exhibits courage at any point during the events depicted.)


Watching the shit out of Dark Tide, the movie where Halle Berry cavorts with great white sharks at Seal Island. It’s my kind of bad movie.  [OR SO I THOUGHT AT FIRST…]

  • Serious film scholars would weep at the numbers of great films I haven’t bothered to see just because they don’t have Halle Berry or great white sharks.

“The funny thing about memories is, you remember the good ones, and forget the shitty.” — Halle Berry as “Kate Mathiesen”, #DarkTide

  • No offense, but “Kate Mathiesen” is scarcely plausible as the name of a character played by Halle Berry.

In real life, Halle Berry has apparently shacked up with her Dark Tide costar, Olivier Martinez (who is very French). They must have bonded over their career-worst acting in this flick.

That isn’t to say that this Olivier Martinez guy could necessarily point us to an example of his career-best acting.

  • “Jeff Mathieson” is scarcely plausible as the name of a character played by Olivier Martinez.

It’s a legitimate cruelty, what this French guy is doing to the English language. It was funny at first but now my ears ache.

CREEP FACTOR:  A shot lasting a minute has Halle Berry bending over in a bikini while some guy off-camera goes, “Now that’s more like it.”  #skeevy

Two characters watching a shark swim past the boat.

“He’s huge…”

“She’s a he.”

“How do you know it’s a male?”

“I can see his claspers on his anal fins. Essentially that’s like two penises.” #DarkTide

SAFETY NOTE:  If you’re ever at the beach and you hear the word “claspers”, get the fuck out of the water immediately and don’t ever look back.

  • ON A PERSONAL NOTE:  The only character more unbearable than the French guy is the dude driving the boat. He’s the Afrikaaner Robin Williams. #accents

CINEMATIC BLACK-GUY DEATH TOLL 2012: So far the only two shark victims in this movie have been black.  What the hell is it with this particular cliche?  Every single white character is completely insufferable, yet the sharks only hunger for the brothers. I hate movies sometimes.

RIP, guy on Halle’s right.

  • Innovative overboard vomiting shot. #check

“He wants to see big ones? I’ll show him big ones.” — Halle Berry, #DarkTide

  • It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film with a complete absence of story.  This is one of them.  Despite all the bikini stuff, believe it or not, I’d actually like to have a story too.

I’m sure it sounds like I’m not enjoying this movie much, and I’m not, but they’re periodically showing GWS footage so I continue.

The Australians call that a Yoooge shaaahhk!

  • We were promised the movie would end after an hour & 34 minutes. We’re well past that. Occasionally #IMDb and #Netflix will lie.

The moral of #DarkTide is: Do not get into a shark cage at Seal Island in the middle of a typhoon. Anybody on earth considering doing that?

Find me on Twitter, where this kind of thing happens all the time: @jonnyabomb

I probably should be doing about 50 other things at this very moment, but I saw this great top-50 list today and was inspired it to immediately answer it.  I made my list very, very quickly, so in plenty of ways it’s the most honest form a list like this could ever arrive in.  While the numbering is fairly arbitrary (until the top five, where shit gets definite) and while the contents could easily change as soon as five minutes from now, this is still a fairly good representation of what a top fifty movies list from me should look like.  Anyway, let’s hit it.  Links where they fit.  I eagerly await any and all comments you might make!

50. Watermelon Man (1970).

49. Fletch (1985).

48. The Great Silence (1968).

47. Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954).

46. The Hit (1984).

45. Knightriders (1981).

44. The Night Of The Hunter (1955).

43. Of Unknown Origin (1983).

42. Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973).

41. Prime Cut (1972).

40. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997).

39. Coffy (1973).

38. Trainspotting (1996).

37. In Bruges (2008).

36. Quick Change (1990).

35. Collateral (2004).

34. Out Of Sight (1998).

33. Halloween (1978).

32. Magnolia (1999).

31. Raising Arizona (1987).

30. Escape From New York (1981).

29. Shogun Assassin (1980).

28. Goodfellas (1990).

27. Purple Rain (1984).

26. True Grit (2010).

25. The Unholy Three (1925).

24. My Darling Clementine (1946).

23. The Insider (1999).

22. Alligator (1980).

21. Animal House (1978).

20. High Plains Drifter (1973).

19. Freaks (1932).

18. Beverly Hills Cop (1984).

17. An American Werewolf In London (1981).


16. Predator (1987).


15. Jaws (1975).

14. Shaft (1971).

13. Evil Dead 2 (1987).


12. The Wild Bunch (1969).

11. Manhunter (1986).

10. Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976).

9. Heat (1995).

8. King Kong (1933).

7. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).

6. Big Trouble In Little China (1986).

5. Unforgiven (1992).

4. Dawn Of The Dead (1978).

3. Ghostbusters (1984).

2. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968).


1. The Good The Bad & The Ugly (1966).


This poster exceeds the allowable limit of inspirational taglines.




For an example of a king in its own genre, there’s no beating Jaws.  Spielberg’s shark-horror movie was so iconic that it scared off almost all potential competitors.  Sure, every once in a while you’ll see a Deep Blue Sea or an Open Water or even a Sharks In Venice, but the field is comparatively puny.  Look at how many haunted-house movies or demonic-possession movies or vampire movies there are, and you’ll have to agree.  Human beings have a potent and primal fear of sharks, to this day, even though our species has virtually decimated theirs – it’s an irrational fear, but it still persists.  Normally anything that scares this many human beings gets dramatized on film more frequently, but not sharks.  And that mostly because Jaws was so damn good.  Most filmmakers don’t want their movies to live in that shadow.

Soul Surfer is a shark movie, technically, but of course I know it’s not meant to be a horror movie.  It has a shark in it, but only for about thirty seconds.  Soul Surfer is meant to be an inspirational sports movie, based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, the teenaged competitive surfer who made headlines first by having her left arm bitten off by a tiger shark and then by returning to the world of competitive surfing (and the daytime talk show circuit).

I’m not such a monster that I would ever poke fun at Bethany Hamilton – however, she did license her life story to writers and producers of Baywatch, and if I can’t make fun of that, then what’s the point of having a sense of humor in the first place?  Writer-director Sean McNamara didn’t work on Baywatch – he directed the Alba-free Into The Blue 2 and many episodes of That’s So Raven – but he did work on the script along with nine (!) other credited writers, most prominently the ones who brought the world, especially Germany, many great works including Baywatch Hawaiian Wedding and the Hulk Hogan series Thunder In Paradise.

This story doesn’t have to be maudlin to be inspirational – look no further than 127 Hours.  Real life doesn’t need ghosts or goblins to be terrifying; mortal danger exists all around us at all times, and horror is just one tool we use to conquer our fears just so we can get through the day.  The loss of a limb is a much more common occurrence than a shark attack, it’s a legitimate phobia, chilling to the bone, and this disturbing notion has been cinematically exploited in movies as varied as Evil Dead 2, The Empire Strikes Back, Saving Private Ryan, Predator, Robocop, oh okay, and Jaws 4.  By harnessing the awful intensity of the shark attack, Soul Surfer could have capitalized on that primal fear to make audiences sympathize with Bethany, the way that Danny Boyle brought audiences directly inside the experience of Aron Ralston in 127 Hours.  Then, her recovery and her eventual return to the ocean would have had a true sense of triumph.  Instead, the shark attack lasts less than a minute, and nearly off-screen – it’s just a fin and a splash, basically.  I know this thing is a PG, but come on, so was Jaws.  Now I’m not made of stone, so admittedly, it’s a harrowing three or four minutes as the poor girl is rushed to the hospital.  But it’s really not long before the onscreen Bethany is on her feet and looking towards the waves again.  Then the tears of joy start rolling and the pop-country song plays, and anything the movie had going for it is long gone.  Missed opportunity.

But not if you leave the movie right after the shark attack…

That’s how I watched Soul Surfer, and it’s the only way to do it, assuming you want to see a harsh, uncompromising horror film tucked away in a treacly, preachy family film.  Soul Surfer up to and including the shark attack, or Soul Surfer: Redux to shorten the terminology, is a profoundly unsettling parable of man versus nature – or, more specifically, man brutally victimized by the whims of nature.

Bethany (AnnaSophia Robb) is a pretty blond teenager who loves her family almost as much as she loves to surf.  She loves her blond parents (Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt, looking like they spent a lot of time in the sun preparing for the role) and her two brothers, and she loves her local church youth group, the leader of whom is played by American Idol star Carrie Underwood.  All these people live in an idyllic sun-world also known as Kauai, Hawaii, a truly beautiful place which is photographed here without much inspiration by journeyman cinematographer John Leonetti (Piranha 3D).  The location is pretty, but there’s something not quite perfect about this world – everything looks a little too blond, a little too made-for-cable, not at all ugly, but frankly kind of dull.  That doesn’t deter our protagonist, who bounds out into the surf with her board and her friends, cheered on by her family, with all of the promise of life, untroubled by any of its complexity or dark poetry.

One overcast morning, Bethany goes out surfing from a remote location with a friend and her father (Kevin Sorbo, TV’s Hercules).  The musical score is done by horror-film composer Marco Beltrami (Scream, The Faculty, Blade 2).  We’re a ways from a Carrie Underwood campfire sing-in.  The surfers paddle out into the murky water, some distance from shore.  The waves lap quietly at the boards.  Bethany dips an arm into the water.  Something dark, large, and sleek briefly submerges, then disappears back under the surface.  Bethany’s arm is gone.  She goes into shock, bleeding mortally.  Her friends and Mr. Sorbo leap into desperate action, using Bethany’s surfboard as a makeshift battlefield gurney.  They load her into the car and race for the hospital.  Elsewhere, Mr. and Mrs. Quaid get the call, and rush to meet the car at the hospital, where Bethany is being wheeled into the emergency room.  The unforgiving drones of overworked medical equipment drown out the soundtrack.

Now leave.

What Soul Surfer: Redux tells the viewer is that the universe is random, unpredictable, and horribly cruel.  It will literally attack you, without any warning, even in a moment of peace or happiness, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  You can be a pretty blond white girl with pretty blond parents living on an island paradise, living a life of sport and prayer with all the possibilities in the world wide open to you – and then the sea will rise up and take your arm.  And there’s nothing you can do about it.  There’s nothing anybody can do about it:  Not your movie-star parents, not your handsome friends, not Carrie Underwood and her prayers, not God, not Jesus, not even mighty Hercules himself.  This is real life, and it can end at any minute.

It’s an alarming thought.  It’s probably true.  It’s as dark an ending as any movie I can think of off-hand that isn’t The Exorcist, Seven, or The Great Silence.  It’s a bold statement for the God-fearing, Baywatch-making imagineers behind a family movie like Soul Surfer to make, except of course that they totally didn’t.


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Admittedly, when my friends and I turn our debates to the more philosophical questions in life, it usually goes like this:  “Who do you think would win in a fight: A grizzly bear, or a great white shark?”

We figure that the battle would take place in an enclosed space, in shallow waters, where there’d be enough depth for the bear to stand and the shark to swim.  My own argument tends to emphasize the underrated fearsomeness of bears — bears catch fish, it’s what they do — but see, I’m already getting off topic.

As the resident film-obsessive, I’ve been inevitably asked the question, “Has there ever been a movie where zombies attacked a great white shark?” It’s a great idea – mindless undead eating machines taking on the world’s oldest and most perfect toothy eater from the sea.

Well, to my knowledge, there’s never been that exactly. That’s the bad news.

The good news: There has, in fact, been a movie where a zombie fought a tiger shark.

Next best thing, right?

It happened in a movie directed by Lucio Fulci, Italian horror icon of the 1970s and 1980s, known as Zombi 2. (Also known, somewhat amazingly, as Zombie. Oh, and also Zombie Flesh Eaters, Island Of The Flesh Eaters, Island Of The Living Dead – Italian horror movies go by a lot of names.)

I can’t rightly recommend a beginning-to-end screening of the movie. Here’s what it does have to recommend it: Some interesting, grisly, zombie make-up, a legendarily-gross scene of eyeball damage (not really my thing, sorry), a cool shot of zombies ambling across the Brooklyn Bridge, and a great, eerie title theme by composer Fabio Frizzi. Besides that, crucify me if you dare, but I don’t think Zombi 2 is all that good.  There’s a major disconnect between what the movie’s fans seem to want it to be and what it actually is.  It happens.

Also, as you’re about to see, the marquee fight is not as stellar as you’ve been dreaming about. The shark’s teeth have clearly been removed entirely (where was the ASPCA on this?) and the zombie just kind of grabs onto the shark and hugs at him, at one point bloodily chomping on what’s supposed to be a fistful of sharkhide, but so obviously isn’t.

So sadly, it’s not much of a fight. But for fans of interspecies underwater ballet, you’ve hit paydirt!  This scene is slow, weird, almost dreamy – certainly worth watching if you’re so inclined.

But there’s still room in cinema for this scene to be topped. Some freak somewhere is thinking up the ultimate shark/zombie battle. Guaranteed. That freak might even be me… although right now I’ve kind of shifted my attention to the idea of a polar bear fighting a ninja.

Zombi 2 is playing on October 21st and 22nd in limited cities across the country, including NYC’s Landmark Sunshine Theater, LA’s New Beverly, and Yellow Springs, Ohio’s Little Art Theatre. (Look for showtimes here.) A repackaged DVD from the great Blue Underground label follows on October 25th.  Portions of the preceding article have appeared elsewhere on the internet, believe it or not.

Awwww!  That’s so sweet!

It’s Shark Week, so here are my top ten favorite shark facts, most of which come courtesy of The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey.

10. Great whites suntan. Their hides start out already dark on the top, and can be made darker still by the sun. Great white sharks are only actually white on their undersides. (I guess if you have the cojones to get under one, you can name it whatever you like.)

9. At 8 inches long, the deepwater dogfish shark is likely the smallest shark, and most likely the kind that Ice-T has in his home aquarium.

8. The largest shark to ever have lived is likely the megalodon, which was over 3 times as big as the largest great white. Luckily, extinct.

7. The largest shark on earth is the whale shark, which can grow to 60 feet long. Whale sharks only eat plankton, so quit whining.  Dolphins are meaner.

6. The only sharks who have ever attacked humans are the Great White shark, the Tiger shark, the Bull shark, & the Great Hammerhead shark.  Every other kind of shark (and there are over 400) is virtually harmless to human beings.

5. In millions of years, the single greatest threat to sharks has always been us. And the nasty, disgusting things we do to our oceans.

4. Still scared of sharks?  Look at it this way:  Statistically speaking, you have better chances of getting hit by a car, getting arrested, or hooking up with Kim Kardashian (learn to dribble first), than of being attacked by a shark.

3. Weirdest things ever found inside the bellies of great whites: A buffalo head, a man in a suit of armor, a reindeer, and Mario Van Peebles.

2. Shark skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. The only fossils they leave are teeth — that’s why we don’t know how big they can get.

1. Sharks have been on the planet for more than 420 million years.  Trees have existed for 360 million years.  Do that math: Sharks are so old they predate TREES.

That’s some pretty badass science right there.

You’ve heard about the Jesus Fish?

I hereby submit the Jesus Shark.

More of this kind of behavior on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb


Zoe Saldana. Guns. Explosions. Sharks. Lollipops.

I really can’t think of what else a movie needs for me to be ready and willing to see it, like yesterday.