Everything you’ve heard is true…
Kicking someone when they’re down. That’s how I feel about slagging off Jaws the Revenge, which has already had more than enough excess slaggage without me prodding its corpse with a dirty stick. The thing is, I have to write about it, because I’ve already written about the first three, so here we go…
The Jaws series had critically and culturally become a laughing stock by 1987, even if the much maligned Jaws 3-D did make its money back at the box office. The only necessity for making a fourth one would be to get everything back on track in regards to credibility. After all, the third one felt like a total anomaly, not feeling like a Jaws film at all, despite the presence of a couple of characters in the form of the two Brody sons. Different actors played them, mind you. The biggest jolt in the third one was there being no Roy Scheider. Also, we had a different composer. A different location. Jaws III just felt like a different kettle of fish. I suppose sometimes anomalies like this can work, but even though I have a guilty-pleasured soft-spot for the third film, it felt more like a cash-in rip-off than an actual Jaws chapter.
At the time, the fourth film would have appeared to be a return to tradition, bringing it (temporarily) back to Amity Island, avoiding the whole 3-D gimmick, and even having Chief Brody’s wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary again) in on the action. Roy Scheider wouldn’t be back, so the writers decided to have Brody dead (of a heart attack brought on his anxiety over his fear of sharks) before the story even began. So overall, an attempt to get things back on track maybe, but its trailer hinted at the problems to come. The relaxing voice-over man almost seems like he’s taking the piss, going on about the natural beauty of the ocean before inevitably warning us of the dangers that lurk beneath the waves. Then, he declares that ‘Man’s Deepest Fear Has Risen Again’, a little unnecessarily given that what he’s also saying is also written out in huge letters on screen. Then there’s the use of that ‘again’. Again. You know, it’s all a bit, ‘here we go… is it that time of year already?’ Then we get a quick shot of Jaws IV leaping out of the sea, a bit gummy just like the third shark was, but overall a more convincing menace than its predecessor. In classic trailer-tease style, that’s all we get to see for a second before the title snaps shut on screen, and cinema’s all-time definitive bad-movie tag-line gets its airing:
‘This time…it’s personal.’
Think of Martin Lawrence’s declaration that ‘this shit just got real’ about five hours into Bad Boys II – you thought what had happened before was fucking heavy? Believe me pal, you ain’t seen shit yet. This is it. The Jaws series was about to enter a whole new level. And it did. But not in a good way. Jaws the Revenge is a colossally bad movie, a further desecration of the Jaws legend so bad that I’m tempted to feel sorry for Spielberg except the man himself would voluntarily desecrate a couple of his own series with the fourth and second instalments of Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park respectively. No, the people I’m feeling more sorry for are us, the fans, who love and hold the first film to their hearts. Us, who even have some love for the second one, the kind of affection we would have towards our second favourite child. Jaws III was an aberration, but mistakes happen. The thing is, Jaws the Revenge is possibly a slightly better or slightly worse film than the third one, depending if you’re rating it on things like hilarity or overall Jaws-ness, but the failure of this one hurts more because it feels like it was partly an effort to get the record straight. Jaws III can be happily erased from the series timeline because it never felt very connected to the others anyway, but this one clearly wants to be a genuine addition to the canon. We even get the mother who slapped Brody after her kid got eaten from the first film make a reappearance! You can’t buy that kind of continuity. Oh wait, you call the same actress and pay her to reappear, so I guess you can.
So like all the Jaws films, we start underwater, and the first credit we get is that this is ‘A Joseph Sargent’ film. No ‘Universal presents’ or anything like that – Sargent directed the original version of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, which was great, and this instantly puts him ahead of the other two directors in the series who aren’t called Steven Spielberg. After all, Jeannot Szwarc also made Supergirl and Joe Alves made no other films, so at least this guy has at least one gem under his belt. You always have to start a Jaws film underwater, and you always have to start with the shark in question eating someone or something, so it’s remarkable that this film waits about eight or so minutes before it gets its teeth bloody. The music in this film was composed by Michael Small, who unsurprisingly co-opts John Williams’ shark theme, but during this credit sequence at least, the new take on the theme is pretty effective – quite dark, quite suspenseful. The cast credits reveals the star power of Lance Guest (the amiable Jimmy in Halloween II and the amiable Last Starfighter himself), Mario Van Peebles (the bad guy in the third Highlander film, and more impressively, the director of New Jack City a few years later) and Michael Caine! Now, Caine was taking the money and running with it through plenty of the eighties, despite the odd film like Hannah and Her Sisters, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Mona Lisa. Caine’s credit boasts that he stars ‘as Hoagie’, which is a funny name – more so, I imagine in the US, where it is a term used for a sub sandwich. Odd that some actors get to have the character name they play emphasised like this – maybe it’s a privilege for recent Oscar winners, like when Louis Gossett Jr got his ‘as Calvin Bouchard’ credit in Jaws III.
The credit music builds and builds until we fade into a close-up of a shark’s eye – SHIT! – oh wait, it’s just a teensy, harmless dead fish being cooked by Ellen Brody, happy in her domesticity in Amity, and there’s some banter between her and Sean Brody, the younger son. Sean got off quite lightly in the first film, happily singing about the Muffin Man on the beach whilst elder brother Michael nearly got killed. The second film really put him through the grinder, culminating in a horrible moment where he directly witnesses the girl who just saved his life eaten whole by a grinning shark. The third film didn’t really know what to do with him, and apart from a bit where he gets knocked off a little tugboat and his girlfriend gets bitten, he didn’t have too bad a time of things. The fourth film however, decides once and for all what to do with him. Before that though, we hear but don’t see older son Michael as we get some handy exposition delivered over the phone. Turns out he’s a full-blown marine biologist, and he has a five-year old daughter, who sounds insufferably cute over the phone. It’s all so sweet, but when Sean checks in at work (the police station, where a picture of Roy Scheider hangs up to remind us of better times) it turns out there’s a bit of flotsam floating by the harbour, so Sean has to deal with it, because the coastguard is busy and ‘Lenny’, whoever he is, is dealing with some cow-tipping that’s occurring somewhere. Cow-tipping. You know, where wankers push over cows so they can’t get up. I think the jocks did this in Heathers. Now that’s a good movie. However, we know that Jaws IV has set all of this up – the flotsam, the cow tipping decoy – so that he can get to Sean. Seriously. This time it’s personal. For the shark. For Sean. For Ellen. For Michael. Not for Hoagie though, he’s just in it for the money.
The death of Sean Brody is one of genre cinema’s cruellest moves – even though this character has been played by three different actors in as many films, the decision to callously kill him in the first ten minutes, after all he’s been through in the first three, comes off as exceptionally mean. He was even engaged, for God’s sake, although not to Lea Thompson, because in Jaws the Revenge land there was no third film. Plus, it’s CHRISTMAS! Sean’s demise is also uncomfortably lingered on – when I watched it on its premiere on BBC1 one lonely Saturday night, it must have been severely edited – but in its complete form it’s a long, unpleasant affair, taking the time to emphasise that he’s just had his arm bitten off. At least David Fincher had the restraint to not show Hicks and Newt being killed at the start of Alien 3. However, a great deal of potential queasiness you might experience from this nasty scene is compromised by the sheer ineptitude of the editing, which features an already bloody-mouthed Jaws emerge from the already-bloody waves before he’s even had his first chomp of Sean. Now it’s true that he might have already had a snack before this main course, but I ruddy well doubt it. The main bulk of the attack is so frenetically edited it just comes across as a random mish-mash of shots that’s only given any kind of impact by the eternally effective score. To pour salt in the wound, this attack of editing doesn’t even kill Sean, as we see him grasping on the flotsam, screaming for help, but no one can hear him because of all the blissful Christmas caroling taking place on land. Oh, the irony! The juxtaposition of goodwill and evil death! Anyway, he sinks and doesn’t come back up.
Luckily we’re spared the grisly sight of Sean’s corpse in the morgue (though we do get to see it opaquely through the body bag), where poor Ellen is there to presumably ID the body. I’ll give Jaws the Revenge this – it’s very rare to see a film where a grandmother is the lead character. Of course, if Roy Scheider had decided to come back she would have been relegated instantly, and there’s also the argument of Michael being the real protagonist, but it’s interesting nonetheless. When Michael and family show up, the film starts to enter very strange territory. Potentially amazing territory, too. Ellen is convinced that Jaws IV, or THE shark, deliberately went for Sean. She refers to THE shark as ‘it’, as though all sharks are one and the same. One thing’s clear, this is definitely not any of the sharks who were blown up or electrocuted before. This is a newbie, but Ellen think it still operates under the same collective mind that caused all the shit before, as though sharks are the Borg or something. It’s utterly preposterous, and clearly the imaginings of an exhausted, troubled mind, but the thing is, the film decides to back up her theory! We don’t have the perfectly sensible logic of the scientist in Jaws 2 who declares that ‘sharks don’t take things personally’, no – we have a film where all sharks are arseholes, all of them know each other, all of them take on revenge missions…. this could have been a film that delved into the mind of someone who has, quite understandably cracked, but the film makes all of her paranoia true, and becomes unforgettably awful as a result.
Michael has a beard, and this makes the erstwhile youthful-looking Lance Guest look so much older, even though The Last Starfighter was only a few years earlier. His daughter, Thea, is just as annoying as she sounded on the phone, and his wife is pleasant enough not to be too memorable. There’s a funeral intercut with sepia-tinged flashbacks to the first Jaws – the adorable bit where Brody and Sean mimic each other to be specific, a genuinely lovely moment, but here it’s utterly cheapened, not least by the fact that her flashbacks don’t even seem to be taking place from her point of view. They’re the exact same shots from the original. Of course, Spielberg would have had no clue that a fourth Jaws film would be requiring Ellen’s POV shots, but then maybe the smartest thing the Jaws the Revenge crew could have done was not have any flashbacks at all. It’s a horrible moment. We see Sean’s fiancee cry at the funeral, but the plot doesn’t bother to bring her along with the family for their upcoming holiday. Harsh.
So it’s decided that Ellen will join Michael and family to the Bahamas, which is, erm… by the sea, so hardly the best place for this poor woman to get away from it all. They take the ferry (more water!) and here I must say that overall, the chemistry between the family is quite natural, well acted and, by default, quite annoying. I mean, watching happy families being happy is annoying, with their own little things and quirks and ticks and whatnot. Besides, they’re not really happy, as Ellen breaks down in the midst of all this forced jollity. Meanwhile, the bit of flotsam that was supposedly caught up earlier drifts innocuously onto Amity’s shore. Hmm. Does that mean that it was never really trapped in the first place and that this was another of THE shark’s elaborate traps? Well, maybe it came loose during all that killing. That I’m willing to entertain the former theory is further proof of the madness of this film.
Anyway, thank you for your patience, for now we are introduced to HOAGIE. Michael Caine. Caine, who blags the film’s best line, one which isn’t even in the film, but merely related to it, uttered by Caine himself, when questioned about the film’s wretchedness. Here goes:
“I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it was terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
Now that is just amazing. However, much of what follows is so much doodling about. So here we go. Hoagie has gambling debts. Hoagie shows the kid how to fly a plane. The cabbies in the Bahamas sing to you over the intercom. There’s another bit like in the first film where the kid is playing near the water and a concerned Brody family member tells them to stay away, even though the kid loves the water. Michael’s wife is a sculptor, and her latest piece looks like an abstract shark, which Ellen doesn’t like. Ellen has a dream about being attacked by a shark. Oh wait no, THE shark. Michael does some underwater exploration, soundtracked by a wisecracking Mario Van Peebles, the token best friend. Michael and Jake argue about something do with with fish. Jake is annoyed that he has to work on Christmas Eve and how dare Michael leave him earlier with all the workload so that he could attend his brother’s funeral. I mean really, how dare he? Then they do that rough-and-tumble wrestling thing that macho alpha men do in films to show that they’re really cool. Then we get to spend Christmas with the Brodys and the er…Jakes. I don’t know his surname. This is about as much fun as you’d imagine watching someone else’s Christmas would be like. Michael comforts a distraught Ellen, who can’t really handle all the good times. Ellen wants her son to drop his marine biology, because of THE shark. Even though his work is perfectly safe, and there’s no chance of THE shark visiting him. The thing is, it’s difficult to go along with the rationality of Michael, because the film sides with the paranoia.
The next bit is quite a shocker, in that after a quick establishing shot underwater, we see THE shark in all its glory, right there! Alright, we’ve had some teases of it during Sean’s death and the nightmare bit, but this is quite sudden nonetheless. No gradual, careful build up of shots, editing, whatnot during this sequence, no – it’s here! Even Jaws III knew how to reveal its monster with a little bit of rudimentary technique. Actually, the sudden appearance does kind of work in its sheer randomness, and it doesn’t look that bad at all. Now, I guess we’re meant to assume that this is THE shark, because, what are the odds? Actually, they’re miniscule, but within the logic of this film, they’re pretty high. Still, its reappearance hasn’t exactly been confirmed with say, earlier shots of it outswimming Hoagie’s plane, maybe say a POV shot where it looks up, sees the plane and says, ‘fuck it, let’s DO IT!’ and revs itself to top speed. It’s just here, right there, right by the bit of beach where Ellen and the kid are building sandcastles. Ellen absent-mindedly walks backwards into the sea and when she realises this she loses herself in thought, and I’m thinking, really, REALLY? Was a place by the sea really the best place to get away from it all? I know that you should confront your fears, but this is way too much, too soon. Oh, and what was with that shot of the shark at the start of this bit? It hasn’t directly led to anything.
Hoagie shows up, Michael Caine counts the dollars during the process, we cut to Jake and Michael talking and talking, and I realise nothing of note has happened for quite some time. All this dialogue isn’t helping. Oh, I guess things happen, like Ellen and Hoagie take a walk on the beach, Michael watches them and feels awkward, Michael looks down a microscope, Jake talks, Ellen flies a plane, Ellen’s talks about THE shark and how it deliberately went for her son, there’s some Christmas festivities, more banter on the research facility and then, there’s THE shark, just hanging out beside Jake’s sub. It’s there, just like that! This is the second time it’s just shown up in the film without any real build-up. It looks quite cute there, just nestling up to the side of the sub. Then it emerges from the waves, Michael flinches, and Ellen just KNOWS. She stops in the middle of the festivities and she just KNOWS. THE shark takes a bite of the side of the research boat and then retreats, but what’s odd is that there’s blood in the water. Did the shark cut his gums on the wood? Or is this another case of blood in the water that shouldn’t be there? Anyway, none of this is as scary as Caine’s ‘concerned acting’, or Ellen shaking off her paranoia and having a dance, looking quite frightful with those shoulder pads of hers. Hoagie tells her to move on with her life and forget all things sharky, and now I’m getting restless. I want more death. More blood. Not inexplicable blood, I want blood from actual characters. Also, I don’t want anymore pop-psychology about confronting your demons, no more sharks eating wood and whatnot. The latest twist where Michael agrees not to mention anything about the shark to his mum is especially repellent, because if he did, then, well…the film would stop dead. Actually, the film does just stop dead because we get some boring smoochy stuff between Michael and the wife, some awakward pauses between Ellen and Hoagie, and then a whole sequence in a casino where Hoagie gambles, Jake talks, drinks are raised, people tell jokes, there’s some slow-dancing… now listen, I like spending time with characters, getting to know them and all, but there’s just a little too much of it in this film. I’m not asking for non-stop shark attacks, but if you’re do insist on delving into your characters, then delve into the interesting stuff, not stuff like if Michael wants a new stepdad or not. Anyway, Ellen has decided to give up her bonkers theory about THE shark, but we know, don’t we?
Next up, more talk from Jake, some crap about monitoring the shark’s heart rate, brain waves, favourite films and sexual turn-ons so that he can publish the definitive guide on Great White sharks – he and Michael bicker about whether or not this is a good idea, and obviously we’re meant to feel Michael’s frustration about chasing fortune and glory but wanting to respect his mum’s wishes at the same time. The thing is, I’m not really feeling the push-and-pull tension here. We cut to an argument between Michael and the wife, which is officially Not Very Interesting, but there is that bit where he declares that ‘I’ve always wanted to make love to angry welder…I’m dreamed of nothing else since I was a small boy’, which would be one of the worst lines ever, but he’s taking the piss and you know it. The only problem is that the line exists in one of the worst films ever, so it has become slightly notorious as a result.
After those two great scenes, Michael and Jake go shark-fishing, and I have to retract my earlier statement that the shark didn’t look that bad – it looks bloody awful here. It’s just a chunk of rubber. When it goes nuts and starts gnawing at all the free chunks of meat its been offered, the resulting chaos looks awkward to say the least. After Jake’s sonar/radar/monitor has been successfully stuck in the shark, it just slowly falls underwater in a way that is less than graceful. This happens a few times, where the shark doesn’t swim beneath the waves but drops instead. Well, there was almost some tension there, so how’s about we ratchet up the terror with a scene where Hoagie relays some more anecdotes about his wild past and then declares his intentions towards Ellen. Back to the waves, please – where one of the film’s few successful conceits starts to occur on the soundtrack. Yes, it’s Jake’s recording of the shark’s heartbeat, which has a kind of trippy, hypnotic effect when repeated. Seriously, it sounds great! Even better, you can tune into that rather than listen to more worry from Michael about whether Hoagie will be a good enough stepdad. The problem with theses moments is that this film feels so far removed from the original Jaws that I forget that Michael’s father was Martin Brody. Jaws the Revenge still feels closer to a Jaws film than the last one, but not close enough. So in the end I don’t care about all this family shite. Ellen tells the wife that she’s dizzy in love, but is playa and all-round hustla Hoagie the right fit? The wife tells her stepmum that all she wants is a long, happy sex life. Bleurgh. The kid shows up, tells them dinner is ready, and we cut to our second dream sequence – a short one this, simply a bit where the shark emerges from the waves, causing Michael to wake up. He’s got the shark on his mind. It’s beginning to consume him. Not literally of course, he’d be dead. Then the worst scene in the film follows, one which outdoes the nerve of the earlier bit where we flashed back to Sean and Martin’s mimicry from the first film by having Michael and the kid do the same thing in the present day. You know, I’d forgotten that the kid was actually Michael’s daughter, so little time we’ve actually seen them together. This is a repulsive moment, just 100% wrong, just a hopeless riffing and desecrating of an earlier classic. Move on.
It’s the next day, and Michael has agreed with Jake that he gets to spend half of the day working on his original research on snails, with the other half dedicated to THE shark. Of course, THE shark don’t give two shits about timetables and decides to intrude on Michael’s underwater research. Michael’s in his tiny, pathetic sub when THE shark arrives to destroy it within seconds of the heartbeat being picked up by Jake, even though he just said there would be a three-mile distance between original detection and eventual arrival on the scene. Michael swims out and enters a sunken ship, which THE shark also enters in order to find its prey. Despite the ridiculousness of this scene, it’s probably the best bit in the film as we actually get an imaginative set-piece – a shark chasing you inside a sunken ship? Brilliant! There’s actually some legitimate tension as THE shark almost gets Michael by cornering him against a rusty door, after which he breaks down one of the walls of the ship for a closer bite and it’s only when Michael uses his oxygen supply to rocket him up to the surface that he manages to escape – it’s pretty good! We’ll try and forget about how THE shark could have possibly followed Michael up the small hole above the ladder. By this stage the film is clearly more about Michael – Ellen has been well and truly sidelined. We cut to the next day, and Michael is preparing to go back underwater, and even Jake is reluctant to pursue this course of action, but narratively we’re starting to get rather samey here with its run of looking for the shark, shark appearing, close call, go to bed, look for snails, shark appearing, close call, go to bed, look for the shark….when’s someone going to get eaten? Soon, my friends, soon.
Back on the beach, the wife’s art sculpture is getting a grand unveiling, while the kid is nagging the family to go on the banana boat, which is basically an inflatable boat made to look like a banana. Ellen’s slightly unsure, but off the kid goes. But oh no! THE shark has decided to ignore Michael and hit him where it hurts, through his KID! Ellen sees the fin and resorts back to her old, paranoid (although paranoid-justified) self and screams out for her. THE shark then arises from the waves, right at the banana boat, right for the KID, maybe? Oh wait, the poor woman behind her gets it. Well, I say poor woman – she seems to sign her own death warrant by purposefully putting her leg inside her killer’s mouth! The boat rides off while this – only the second victim in the film – is left to be eaten, and there is a good shot from the boat’s point of view as we ride off helplessly as she continues to be devoured. Then there’s another shot of THE shark just ‘dropping’ underwater, this time with his prey still in its gob.
Well, this is IT. This time, it’s PERSONAL. Ellen looks determined, one-track-minded and out for revenge as she sees the fin happily, contentedly swim off. She starts up a boat and heads off to chase it. Michael comes back, sees the kid suffering in shock back at home and this is where he has to confess that he knew there was a shark out there all along. Now there are parallels here with his dad keeping his mouth shut in the first one, but whereas that withholding of information was very convincingly handled, here it’s a case of Michael getting a right old bollocking and him truly deserving it. True, Martin made the wrong call in the first film, but he was under pressure and messed up, right? Here, who cares?
After some clunky dialogue between Michael, Jake and Hoagie about what’s just happened which comes off like an even funnier version of ‘Hurry! We’re trying to save Han from the bounty hunter!’ from The Empire Strikes Back, we take to the skies and try to catch up with Ellen using wings. You know, using Hoagie’s plane. The cast didn’t just grow wings, though at this stage anything’s possible. Michael’s now convinced that the shark will find his mum, and there’s an odd bit where Hoagie states that THE shark killed Sean and Martin. I know we’re meant to believe that the fear of sharks killed Martin (preposterous), but now the film is believing its own bullshit and stating outright that THE shark actually killed him! Maybe it’s the way Ellen told it to Hoagie, but the film’s slipping further into madness at this point. I mean, THE shark actually does go for Ellen, as if it’s gearing itself for the ultimate showdown, the culmination of four films worth of drama, three of which it wasn’t actually present for. ‘Come and get me you son of a bitch’, Ellen mutters, staring the fin down, and meanwhile The Flying Hoagie has arrived to just to see the moment when the shark rises from the waves to take a snap out of his arch-nemesis, which is, er…clunky to say the least.
Hoagie lands the plane next to Ellen’s boat, but there’s something about the way he reassures Michael and Jake that he can do this safely that’s somewhat distant and removed, like he (and I really mean Caine) doesn’t really care what’s going on. Caine’s acting during this film is…perfunctory to say the least. There’s almost some warmth to the scenes he plays with Lorraine Gary, but he’s particularly bad whenever he’s flying the plane. Maybe it’s something to do with being stuck in a confined space and he’s ended up stilting his lines in the process? Might be claustrophobia. It definitely isn’t aviophobia, as the interior plane scenes are clearly not filmed up in the air. Michael and Jake swim from the plane to the boat and make it out alright, but Hoagie’s not so lucky – in the midst of one of his laconic ramblings, THE shark emerges from the waves and goes right for him. ‘Oh shit!’ yells Hoagie. The s-word is probably uttered in this film more than any other I can remember. It used to be the acceptable PG-rated swearword, but since the arrival of the PG-13 made the PG film less likely to have such mild profanities, it was the turn of the teenage rating to push the amount of times ‘shit’ could be mentioned in the space of a film. PG-13 films did this. It was either that or save your naughty language for a single, non-sexual use of the word ‘fuck’, which this film thankfully doesn’t do. Some swearwords just don’t belong in a franchise. Like when M says ‘fucked’ in Skyfall, the first use of the word in the whole of the James Bond series. That was more of a jolt than than all that gore in Licence to Kill or when we actually see Bond have sex in Die Another Day.
Sorry about that diversion. So Hoagie’s dead, I suppose, which is good as the body count in the film has been distressingly low. Caine won’t mind, the house that the film is paying for is almost completed and he can move in this weekend. Oh wait, he’s still alive. And true to form, the first thing he says when he climbs aboard is some wry aside or jokey reference to stinky shark breath. Hoagie is just so positive, he’s so cool, he’s so….dry? Yep, it’s one of the film’s more notorious goofs, as Caine’s shirt is completely parched as he stumbles on deck.
Jake is rigging up some electrical device wotsit that’ll hurt it via remote control, but Hoagie doesn’t think it’ll work as its probably already got indigestion from eating so much of his plane. Ellen, quite straight-faced, says: ‘It’s not food he’s after’. Soundtracking most of this is that weird heart-beat radar, which as I said earlier, does sound great. Jake stumbles onto the mast with his wotsit so that he can get it inside THE shark’s mouth, but it doesn’t end well. Well, it does and it doesn’t. Depends on which version you’re watching. More on that later. Then, in silent slow-motion, THE shark bursts from the waves, stands on its back tail, takes the wotsit, and then takes Jake! The bit when the shark drops underwater with Jake still stuck in his gob and all we hear is the heart-beat echoing on the soundtrack is a great use of audio though. Michael’s scream of ‘JAAAAAAAAKKKKE!’ is remarkable for not being as hilarious as it could have been. Er, good job, I suppose?
Michael starts to set-up Jake’s wotsit remote in order to send PAIN to the shark. Ellen starts to have flashbacks, but not merely to scenes that she was there for but didn’t have the correct point-of-view for, oh no. These are flashbacks to scenes she wasn’t even present at. Like her son’s death. Eh? I’ll say it again. Fucking ‘EH? The thing is, Sean’s death has the same sepia-tinge that the flashback to the nicer, earlier flashback did. I thought the use of sepia was meant to convey warm, golden nostalgia. If it does, Ellen’s got a messed-up way with dealing with tragic events. Michael delivers the remote pain, and the shark screams in agony. Sharks have no vocal chords, so this utterance is utterly unexpected. Still, scream you SUCKA! Such is the way in bad films, the device starts to fail as soon as the shark gets really pissed off, but Ellen won’t back down. She’s aiming the damn boat right towards it! The device does start working again, THE shark screams in pain, the boat gets closer, the flashbacks are leading directly to ‘SMILE YOU SON OF A BITCH!’ and what follows is so fucking insane you might end up with severe stomach pains trying to make sense of it all. Again, depending on what version you see. Now when I saw this on UK TV, the broken mast is rammed into THE shark and impales it, killing it in the process. It looks bad, it looks ropey, but nothing to drive you over the edge. This, it turns out, is the original ending, which was eventualy scrapped because it wasn’t dramatic enough. The ending they replaced it with, the one that’s widely distributed, the one that even UK screenings resort to showing, is one of such incompetence that it’s been scientifically proven that you get stupider the more you watch it. There’s no proof of this, but it is a scientific fact. Get this, the broken mast impales THE shark…..and IT EXPLODES.
Also, it explodes through the means of minature effects so hilariously feeble that we must thank the Lord for perfect-pause DVD, just so we can see how shite it looks. Check this:
Shots of the shark sinking are nicked straight from the original – at this point the film should have carried a warning saying ‘Only 99% original footage’ – and everybody else emerges from the waves (sorry, forgot to mention that they fall into water during all this madness, maybe to try and end it all after what they and we have just seen). The thing is, the backdrop to all of this looks very, very fake, and this is all to do with the reshoots in order to get this revised ending in. This new ending was filmed on a stage, and you can tell that the horizon in the distance is just wallpaper. We also get the shock return of Jake, who was written back into the story when test audiences voiced their disapproval of his death. Fucking test audiences. Boo-hoo, you didn’t like it when a character died? Well you’re supposed to get upset! His return is even accompanied with triumphant music, and if ever an ending stunk more of obvious reshooting, it’s this one. The UK TV version I saw did not see the return of Jake. When I was younger, I must say I did like Jaws the Revenge a lot. I don’t know why, as nearly nothing happens between the beginning and the end. It must be to do with the fact that I had exhausted the first two, the third one was never on telly and I wanted more Jaws action. And this film isn’t entirely devoid of that. The opening death of Sean, distasteful as it is, is nonetheless an effective scene, and certainly looks brilliant compared to what follows. I used to get upset at Jake’s death, something I wouldn’t have been if I’d watched the revised version. Think about it, in the revised version, there are only two deaths. Sean and the banana boat lady. Even Jaws III, which was really lacking on the body count, feels more substantially well-fed than this.
So it’s a really happy ending. Michael and Jake will study snails, the family will come over to Amity some time, and Ellen flies off into the horizon with Hoagie. All’s well until the next one. Oh wait, this film really did kill the series. Roll credits – I double take when I see that Melvin Van Peebles, Mario’s dad, played Mr. Witherspoon. He was the bloke who presented the award for Best Sculpture to the wife before all that banana boat shit.
PS: it’s nice to see Amity in wintertime during the early scenes, and by that I mean Martha’s Vineyard, where it was filmed. Pity they didn’t make the most of this, but the film moves away early on. Maybe we all should have.
EDIT: Since writing this I learned about the absolutely horrible tragedy of actress Judith Barsi, who played daughter Thea Brody. She was murdered along with her mother by her father in 1988. Her IMDb page is at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0058279/