Friday, August 14, 2020

Fin Flick ‘Deep Blue Sea’ Was the Last of a Dying Breed of Creature Features [We Love ’90s Horror]

The ‘90s often get a bad rap with horror fans. After the numerous successful slashers and creature effects films of the ’80s, the ‘90s offered a different variety of horror fare. Though there were plenty of hits, hidden gems, and misunderstood classics, the ‘90s usually don’t get the kind of love that other decades get when it comes to horror. It’s time to change that.

When looking at the majority of shark cinema – which we do over at Fin Flicks if you’re interested – there are very few films that jump out as truly incredible achievements. Most either have their tongues jutting through their cheeks or are too ineptly made to leave a lasting impression. But, the ‘90s wasn’t a time for those approaches to creature features. As this column has proven many times with films like Tremors, Anaconda, Deep Rising, and many others, the decade was punctuated with monster horror that knew how to have fun while never undercutting itself. And maybe the most expert example of this came at the end of the decade with Deep Blue Sea.

Director Renny Harlin had become well-known for bringing stylish action bombast to his movies, but he also had a focus on pushing the boundaries of effects work. This was evident in his earliest forays into horror with Prison and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. With Deep Blue Sea, Harlin employed animatronics wizard Walt Conti and his company Edge Innovations – who also worked on Anaconda – to create the most incredible shark puppets that have ever been seen on the big screen. To this day, the mako sharks of Deep Blue Sea stand as the pinnacle of practical shark effects in film history. Jaws certainly remains the most game-changing and iconic, but Deep Blue Sea is the high watermark of shark effects in cinema.

Beyond the jaw-dropping effects, Deep Blue Sea is a masterclass in how to manage tone. The high adventure, horror, action, and drama of the entire piece all work in tandem to create an experience that feels wholly satisfying. The character conflicts and relationships are treated with the same weight as the shark horror, and no element feels underwritten or underutilized. The script, credited to Duncan Kennedy and Donna Powers & Wayne Powers, takes itself seriously without ever tipping over into being po-faced. At the same time, it has all the fun it can with its premise but never has to resort to poking fun at itself. The sincerity of the script and its execution is what makes the entire experience work.

Add to that an ensemble cast of the highest caliber. Saffron Burrows is perfection as chilly lead scientist Dr. Susan McAlester. Thomas Jane radiates bad boy sex appeal as shark wrangler Carter Blake. Samuel L. Jackson brings an immediate authority and sense of leadership to the role of pharmacological company head Russell Franklin. And damn if LL Cool J doesn’t nearly run away with the movie as the charismatic, funny, and badass cook named Preacher. There are also fantastic turns from Jacqueline McKenzie – her delivery of the line, “You stupid bitch!” is a genuine highlight of the film – Michael Rappaport, Aida Turturro, and Stellan Skarsgård. Everyone is operating on the movie’s wavelength and clicking together in harmony. It’s an impeccable assembly of actors that deserves far more praise than it gets.

But, with a shark movie, folks are going to mostly be clued into the shark aspects of Deep Blue Sea. Even without the stellar effects, the film utilizes the sharks in exceptionally exciting ways. The plot revolves around increasing the brain mass of the sharks in order to harvest a special protein that can be used to fight Alzheimer’s. As a side effect, the sharks become more intelligent. Yes, the idea of “smart sharks” sounds ludicrous, but Deep Blue Sea knows exactly how serious to take the premise. The sharks in this are awesome villains, never once appearing as jokes. They are threatening, calculating, and utilized perfectly throughout the course of the movie. Every attack scene is memorable and the sharks should be viewed as some of the best antagonists in ‘90s horror.

Besides all that, Deep Blue Sea was the last of a dying breed of creature features. This was a big-budget blockbuster with a reported budget of $60 million. Some tallies go as high as $82 million, meaning it would cost between $94 million and $129 million today to make Deep Blue Sea. Today, these kinds of movies are mostly relegated to home video release, and even the ones that get theatrical distribution are all lower-budget affairs. Seeing a studio put this much money and polish behind a mass-appeal creature feature is unheard of. Yes, we can rarely see something like The Meg get made, but even that doesn’t quite capture the particular vibe and sense of confidence that Deep Blue Sea has.

More than twenty years later, it’s time to recognize Deep Blue Sea as a masterpiece of fin flick cinema and a phenomenal piece of blockbuster horror in its own right. The effects alone are astonishing, but the fact that the rest of the movie works so incredibly well is worth praise. Thankfully, Deep Blue Sea has been gaining well-deserved reappraisal and that should only become even more vociferous. This isn’t a film that deserves to live in the shadow of Jaws simply because it’s a shark movie. It’s operating on its own terms and stands on its own two fins. Deep Blue Sea is one of the best blockbusters of the ‘90s and shouldn’t be looked down upon for its apparently B-movie premise. This movie succeeds in every arena and has only gotten better with age.

And yes, I can rap the entirety of “Deepest Bluest (Shark’s Fin)” if you really want me to.

If you’d like to hear more about Deep Blue Sea, check out the Fin Flicks episode with special guest appearances! And you can listen to our review on Deep Blue Sea 3, available for rental on VOD!


No comments:

Post a Comment

Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!


Some of Scary Horror Stuff's Freakiest Short Horror Film Features!

The latest on the horror genre, everything you need to know, from Freddy Krueger to Edgar Allan Poe.

How Plausible Is It to Have the "Hocus Pocus" Kids Back for Some More Halloween Hijinks?

Potentially very good. See below. It turns out that the announcement is official according to the Carrie Bradshaw of the Sanderson bunch (Sarah Jessica Parker): there will be a "Hocus Pocus" sequel, premiering on Disney+.