Shark Week is back, celebrating the critical and commercial success of Steven Speilberg’s Jaws released in 1975 which sparked mass interest in the sub-genre known as Sharksploitation.
The popularity soon dwindled, likely due to the critical undoing of the three Jaws sequels that failed to match the original’s momentum.
Making a splash in 1999 Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea reintroduced the genre to commercial and popular success, this film will not be making an appearance on this list because it is not so bad it’s good, it is just plain old good.
Similarly, The Meg, starring Jason Statham does not feature on this list, because much like Deep Blue Sea, it is considered a film so good it is great.
Over the years the genre has seen some questionable entries both on the silver and small screen, with filmmakers relying on scare tactics and everybody’s love of the apex predators.
But who doesn’t love a bad shark film? So in celebration of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week here are our Top 5 Jaw-somely Bad Shark Films, so bad they’re good.
5. Deep Blue Sea 3
Directed by John Pogue in 2020, this sci-fi horror film follows a group of researchers to Little Happy Island, an old fishing town off the coast, reminiscent of Amity Island to study the effects climate change is having on the local population of great white sharks.
Their research is disrupted when a team of scientists arrive on the hunt for three bull sharks.
Unlike Jaws, this entry’s association with the original in its series offers no rose-tinted nostalgia and merely overshadows the moderately decent narrative.
If this film and its predecessor Deep Blue Sea 2 released in 2018 were singular story films with no association with the 1999 film, they would likely have performed better.
Like many on this list celebrating the best of shark week, the film is let down by over-dramatic delivery from weak actors unable to carry the film. Despite this, the film does offer a compelling narrative that despite your better judgement, you can not pull yourself away from.
Between white sharks and bull sharks, bulls are typically known to be more aggressive in nature, while the white sharks are seen to be scarier due to their negative portrayal in cinema and sheer size.
A large majority of shark films centre around great whites as they are coined the apex predator of the sea, this film’s focus on bull sharks is a unique take but offers little in the way of awe when compared to other species.
This film offers enough enjoyment and suspense to warrant this film’s place on our list, the cinematography and framing of the final confrontation with one of the sharks is truly a stand-out moment across the genre, we won’t spoil this moment for you so go check it out for yourself.
4. Jaws: The Revenge
The final nail in the coffin for the Jaws franchise, Jaws: The Revenge released in 1987 and is a direct sequel to Jaws 2, ignores the events of Jaws 3-D.
Lorraine Gary reprised her role as a now widowed Ellen Brody who is convinced her family is being stalked by a ravenous great white shark after her son is killed by the predator.
The film’s biggest mistake was killing iconic character Chief Brody off-screen, his cause of death being a heart attack, an underwhelming conclusion for a silver screen legend.
The appearance of iconic actors such as Lorraine Gary and Michael Caine was not enough to stop this film from becoming a direct parody of the original, whose boots no shark film will ever fill.
Despite this, the film’s affiliation with the first two instalments offers enough nostalgic rose tint to make this an enjoyable watch, so long as you forget the monumental excellence of the original.
5. Sharknado Series (2013 – 2018)
We’re bending the rules here for this entry, as we’ll be focusing on the series as a whole and not a singular entry because it was difficult picking just one.
Sharknado is a made-for-television sci-fi comedy horror series consisting of six entries, spanning over 5 years. The series centres around a freak natural anomaly whereby as the name suggests a tornado wreaks havoc on the land while raining down sharks, with each entry pushing the absurdity one step further.
Recognised for its absurd premise and ridiculous CGI, the Sharknado series breached new heights for the Sharksploitation and Mockbuster genres.
A stand-out feature for this series is the continuous return of Ian Ziering as the lead role of Fin Shepard, commonly among this genre lead actors do not return out of either shame or fear of ruining the original’s legacy, but we are grateful Ziering also bent the rules on this one because no one else could pull off the unironic wackiness of this series in such a compelling and entertaining way.
Despite the first entries polarising success and justifying a budget increase for CGI, the series continues its use of laughable special effects.
The film lover in me wants to believe this was a creative choice that gave the film its marketability and recognition, whereas the cynic in me would say the creators saw from the first instalment they did not need to invest copious amounts of money into the film’s visuals to get butts into cinema seats.
The film series continuously pushes the boundaries of the unexpected, leaving the audiences humorously pondering what they could possibly do next, believe us when we say do not even try to guess, just watch them all.
2. Bait 3D
Directed by Kimble Rendall, this 2012 horror disaster centres around a group of survivors trying to escape from a submerged supermarket after they become trapped in the store by a tsunami. Their escape is made exponentially harder by the presence of a great white shark, carried in by the waves. The film plays up to audiences two major morbid curiosities, natural disasters and ravenous sharks.
Bait 3D makes an earnest attempt at severity with the close proximity single location heightening the tension, if not for the low-budget CGI shark this would have made for some truly terrifying attack scenes.
Lead actor Xavier Samuel who many will recognise as Riley from the third instalment in the Twilight series, puts on a genuine performance of heroism and terror, his convincing and reserved delivery is out of place amongst the genre of Sharkspolitation genre, but a welcome refreshment.
There are a staggering six credited writers to this film, with that many fingers in the chum bucket it is unsurprising that the film’s primary downfall is its inconsistent tone. The jump from severity and horror to cheesy attempts at comedy is atmospherically jarring.
Ultimately this film had the potential to cement itself as one of the genre’s milestones, or at least a cult classic, but was let down by inconsistencies and low-budget CGI.
Lastly, the use of 3D in a film’s title (of any genre) needs to stop, it has never worked and it never will work.
1. Ghost Shark
This made-for-television horror film was released on the Syfy television network in 2013 directed by Griff Furst and was panned by critics for a multitude of reasons but it found success on social media due to its outlandish plot.
When a fisherman sadistically kills a great white shark out of petty revenge, the shark’s body is resurrected and begins terrorizing the nearby town with the power to attack from the smallest amount of water, making for some hilariously imaginative kills that we can only imagine were quite fun for the writers to create.
Despite the absurdity in the premise this film makes for an enjoyable and hilarious watch like most of the films on this list and is well worth 84 minutes of your time, we guarantee you’ll find yourself watching it more than once.
The film symbolises in an absurd way the harsh killing of sharks and the repercussions this might have, now we’re not saying you would get haunted by the fish, but it does highlight a critical disruption in the ocean kingdom when a man gets involved.
Look at us trying to find meaning in a film that depicts a man drinking a shark’s ghost from a cup, which then proceeds to tear the man apart trying to escape. Cinema is a marvellous thing.
The Sharksploitation genre periodically goes through a resurgence despite their continuous descent from grace in the film history books.
Ultimately audiences will always be fascinated by shark flicks for a multitude of reasons, we love to be scared and feel the tension that these oceanic creatures bring, and we thrive off bad cinema, both self and unaware.
Lastly, every film on this list is an exaggerated and unrealistic portrayal of sharks, particularly the great white, whose reputation was demonised upon the release of Jaws.
The film swept fear across the world, resulting in increased shark hunting, many species of shark are now considered endangered and this senseless trend did not help.
However, the film did bring the spotlight onto these beautiful creatures which saw an uptake in shark research that has given us incredible insights and documentaries on the creatures, which we would also highly recommend watching.
We’re not saying they hold no danger so please do not go swimming with them outside of a professional setting, but remember the ocean is their home, not ours. In the words of Disney Pixar’s Bruce from Finding Nemo, “Fish are friends, not food.”
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