This summer marks the return of an emblematic monster of cinema, the shark, in “The Year of the Shark” by the Boukherma brothers, in theaters on August 3. But it’s not the only aquatic creature to have spooked viewers. Here are five films to think twice before taking a dip.
The masterpiece: “Jaws”, by Steven Spielberg (1975)
“No one dared to bathe anymore”. This quote comes directly to the mouth when talking about the masterpiece by Steven Spielberg. At a seaside resort on the east coast of the United States, a great white shark preys on swimmers. A simple pitch, but a very real terror for what is cataloged as the first “blockbuster” in the history of cinema. Despite a difficult production and a faulty animatronic shark, “Jaws” became the greatest success in the history of cinema, before being dethroned by “Star Wars”.
Rewarded by three Oscars (sound, editing and music for the unforgettable score by John Williams), the feature film owes its success to its precise staging and its remarkable sense of balance. Spielberg skillfully wields fear by only gradually revealing his underwater creature, making each of his appearances terrifying. The film is also characterized by its violence which finds its acme in its finale, during the attack of the shark on the boat, where the poor character of Robert Shaw is devoured facing the camera. A great horror film and an obvious catch-up for hot summer nights.
The Classic: “Strange Creature from the Black Lake”, by Jack Arnold (1954)
Among the artisans of Hollywood’s B series, Jack Arnold holds a particularly high place. Most of these films are based on a concept related to creatures or physical transformations: “Tarantula!”, “The Shrinking Man” and perhaps the most cult of them, “The Strange Creature from the Black Lake” . Produced and released in 3D in 1954, it uses the same narrative structure as the first “King Kong” film of 1933. A scientist sets up an expedition with scientists and his companion, thinking of finding proof of a link between Man and marine animals. What they will find there is a prehistoric amphibious creature, man-killer and woman-lover.
Provided with a destabilizing sexual atmosphere, “The Strange Creature from the Black Lake” depicts male perversion in its most monstrous aspect. The famous design of the creature, as lewd as it is mad, reinforces its disturbing aspect. Everything is reinforced by the marshy decorum in which the characters try to survive. It is also the use of 3D during underwater sequences – a feat for the time – which keeps the fear in the eyes of the spectator.
The irreverent: “Piranha 3D”, by Alexandre Aja (2010)
After a few French productions, Frenchman Alexandre Aja (son of director Alexandre Arcady) moved to the United States in order to more easily pursue his career in genre cinema. A success marked by “The Hill with Eyes” or “Crawl” (another brilliant production with an underwater monster: the alligator), but above all by one of the greatest successes of his career: “Piranha 3D “. During the American spring break, in an Arizona seaside resort, an underwater fault opens and lets out voracious prehistoric pirahnas fond of human meat.
Contrary to popular belief, “Piranha 3D” is not a remake of “Piranhas” by Joe Dante (also author of “Gremlins”). In any case, this is what Alexandre Aja assures us when he presents the film. And it is true that between the two productions, only the playful aspect seems to correspond. Because “Piranha 3D” is the funniest film on this list…And certainly the most gore!
In this concept assumed to the end, the French director allows himself all the excesses. From sexuality to ultraviolence, Aja seems to have fun with his characters as he would with toy soldiers. Result: a hemoglobin festival, with the added bonus of two actors from the Back to the Future saga: Christopher Lloyd and Elisabeth Shue. To be reserved all the same for a very informed public.
Politics: “The Host”, by BOng-Joon Ho (2006)
It is now unnecessary to introduce Bong-Joon Ho. The author of “Parasite”, a brilliant charge on capitalism and social inequalities, was awarded the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for best film the following year, a first for a South Korean film. Before that, the author was not at his first masterstroke, with “Memories of Murder”, “Snowpiercer” and also “The Host”. In Seoul, a giant monster emerges from the Han River and abducts the hero’s granddaughter (played by Song Kang-Ho, freshly awarded Best Actor at Cannes this year).
The Host is one of those unclassifiable films. At the same time comic, horrifying and spectacular, it skilfully mixes genres to involve us in the destiny of a family lost in the face of catastrophe. But behind this catastrophe hides a heavy criticism of American imperialism. Through several elements of the film, Bong-Joon Ho refers to the conflicts that hit Asia after World War II, in particular the Korean War.
If The Host remains a fantastic feature film, it is also inspired by a real event. In 2000, Albert McFarland, a contractor working for the American forces based in Korea, ordered the dumping of a toxic product, formaldehyde, into the Han River. The ecological consequences are catastrophic since agricultural land is polluted for miles. Korean public opinion was outraged and then questioned the American presence there. This story inspires the film’s prologue, which reworks this news item to integrate it into the concept of the aquatic monster. A hybrid and exciting feature film.
Le Nanar: “Apocalypse in the Red Ocean”, by Lamberto Bava (1984)
If you’re looking for examples of water monster movies, many of the results won’t measure up. In quest to release “the” successor to “Jaws”, the studios will produce monstrous quantities of mowed down ersatz. Thus, with the exception of a few successes (“Piranhas” by Joe Dante or “Lake Placid” by Steve Miner), the spectators were treated to their share of nanars (translation: films so bad that they become funny) underwater.
As such, Italian cinema, which began its long descent into hell in the 1980s, panicked the counters. It is in this context that “Apocalypse in the Red Ocean” was released, also released under the title “The Monster of the Red Ocean”. This is a “mockbuster”, the plagiarized and low-budget version of a big production, Jaws…3. At a Florida resort, boaters feed a tentacled sea monster.
“Apocalypse in the Red Ocean” thus ticks all the boxes of the Z series: freewheeling actors, cardboard creature and serial dialogues. Our colleague from Nanarland also details all these faults in their to analyse. But this one has a very special flavor. Its director, Lamberto Bava, son of Mario (one of the greatest masters of Italian horror cinema), has a field day on certain bloody sequences. A production bis joyful and entertaining, for lovers of nanars and available for free (and in French) on Youtube.
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Cinema: 5 films of aquatic monsters to deter bathing enthusiasts