Few things creep us out more than the endless, inky blackness of the ocean, and it’s exactly this primordial fear exploited by killer shark chiller, 47 Meters Down. Out now to download and from Monday on DVD and Blu-Ray, the film is based on a terrifying true story, as two sisters become trapped in a submerged shark cage whilst their oxygen supply begins to diminish and enormous Great Whites begin circling.
To mark the film’s release we’ve taken the plunge and selected some classic ocean-going thrillers that placed us right at the bottom of the food chain…
It started out with Steven Spielberg dipping his toe into adventure filmmaking. It became the movie that forever changed our perceptions of the sea, sharks and cinema marketing. Riddled with production problems including the three malfunctioning prop sharks nicknamed ‘Bruce’ (after Spielberg’s lawyer), no-one could have foreseen that Jaws would kickstart the summer blockbuster event craze. But the real reason it continues to resonate is the extraordinary storytelling on display, John Williams’ Oscar-winning score becoming the heartbeat of the beast itself.
Jaws 2 (1978)
No it doesn’t live up to the original, but this is still a ripping, flesh-tearing sequel that contrives some enjoyably tense set-pieces. With its annoying teenage ensemble ripe for the picking we see catamarans, helicopters and electric cables come into play as the ludicrousness escalates along with our adrenaline levels. Props to John Williams whose array of new themes and action material, not to mention the electrifying re-arrangements of the Jaws theme, is the best thing about the movie.
Licence to Kill (1989)
Many of the Bond movies have featured shark-related scrapes (including the keel-hauling scene from For Your Eyes Only), but we’ve opted for the darkest, most violent 007 adventure. When Bond’s best buddy Felix Leiter is horribly mauled by the beast, it prompts Timothy Dalton’s appreciably angry, ruthless 007 to dish out the same gruesome punishment to those responsible.
Austin Powers (1997)
Killer sharks are one thing; killer sharks equipped with frickin’ laser beams are really where it’s at. Mike Myers’ classic spy spoof contrives the sort of dastardly villains scheme of which Ian Fleming would have been proud (or maybe not), as Doctor Evil makes a big deal of leaving Austin to his not-so-inevitable fate. The only downside? They couldn’t actually get sharks but mutated, ill-tempered sea bass instead…
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Renny Harlin’s idiotically enjoyable creature feature is Jaws on steroids, although with its badly dated CGI effects it can’t hold a candle to the earlier film. Nevertheless the movie shows a pleasing commitment to killing off as many of its cast members as possible – and *that* scene involving one Samuel L. Jackson still continues to shock.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Who says sharks only ought to appear in violent movies for grown-ups? Pixar’s underwater masterpiece introduces us to the toothy, charismatic Bruce (voiced with great relish by Barry Humphries) who, along with his pals Anchor and Chum, is committed to the mantra, ‘Fish are friends, not food.’ Watching that philosophy implode in front of us makes for some of the movie’s funniest and most exciting moments.
Open Water (2004)
Imagine the ‘Blair Fish Project’ and you’re close to envisaging the induced-documentary approach of this ruthlessly tense thriller, based on the true story of Tom and Eileen Lonergan. When a couple are left stranded in the middle of the ocean it doesn’t take long before they pose a tasty snack for the waiting sharks… With its handheld, low-budget aesthetic and claustrophobic focus it ratchets up the suspense as we approach the inevitably horrifying end game.
Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (2009)
A whole sub-genre of jaw-droppingly awful mutated animal movies have hit our shelves in recent years. This was probably the one that kick-started it all, a movie where clearly the title got the green light whilst budget, script and actual entertainment value fell by the wayside. Even so it’s worth including for this staggeringly ludicrous moment that takes high-concept idiocy (and awful effects) to a whole new level.
The Reef (2010)
A sorely underrated and genuinely unnerving chiller, this Aussie offering deploys many of the tropes we’ve seen in other shark movies but hones them to perfection through plausible character development and a steady sense of pace. Andrew Traucki’s movie revolves around a group of people forced to make a dash for land when their boat capsizes, the harrowing nature of the eventual attacks, not to mention the expert use of actual shark footage as opposed to CGI, making the blood run cold.
The Shallows (2016)
A surprise summer box office hit this Blake Lively-starrer clearly offered up the kind of lo-fi, human v beast chills that audiences love. Lively plays a young surfer whose idyllic getaway on a secluded Mexican beach goes awry when she’s stranded on a rock just off the shoreline by an encircling shark. Even though it eventually goes overboard with a distracting CGI creature, flare guns and the like, Lively’s sense of escalating paranoia keeps us hooked.