Ever since Steven Spielberg’s Jaws made huge waves in 1975, summer has belonged to sharks. For decades there’s been sequels, copycats, and some very weird iterations of the aquatic predator. Ghost sharks, zombie sharks, two-headed sharks, shark hybrids, and even a series with goofy shark-infested tornados; there’s a shark film for just about every situation and every budget.
Hollywood keeps making them because our fear and fascination with sharks runs deep. Discovery Channel runs an annual summer programming series, dubbed Shark Week, that began in the late ‘80s out of a desire to drive conservation efforts and educate on common misconceptions. We eat that up, too. For better or worse, shark movies still win on pure entertainment value alone. That’s something I’m not sure any other subgenre of horror can boast.
Jason Statham is set to face off against a 70-foot prehistoric shark on August 10 in The Meg, in what looks to be thrilling summer Blockbuster adventure. Let’s face it, all we need is some intense shark action and the sight of unwitting summer vacationers becoming shark snacks to deliver on expectations, and The Meg looks like it’ll be a crowd pleaser.
While we get amped up for prehistoric shark carnage, here are 8 more shark attack films to revisit before The Meg arrives in theaters…
Compared to most shark films, this one is a bit more sedate. It spends much of its runtime getting to know couple Susan and Daniel as they head out to their scuba vacation. Out at sea, their scuba tour boat leaves them, unwittingly counting another pair twice while the couple is still underwater. Susan and Daniel undergo the various stages of shock and grief at being left behind, even fighting with each other, while slowly the sharks begin to circle for dinner. Open Water opts for more realistic shark behavior and uses real sharks, which means the shark attacks are a lot less flashy than just about every other shark movie. If you’re afraid of the open water, though, this one is quite effective. Bleak and based on a true story, Open Water is one of the more unique shark movies out there.
Shark Night 3D
What happens when the director of Snakes on a Plane takes on sharks in a lake? This. This is what happens. Sadly, it was director David R. Ellis’ final film before he passed away. Is Shark Night 3D a good movie? Not at all. It could’ve used more shark carnage, and it made the biggest shark movie sin of all; the true villains of the film weren’t the sharks, but humans. It also had the misfortune of being released a year after Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D, an aquatic horror comedy in similar tone but with actual gore. There’s no gore here at all, but there is a variety of animatronic sharks and ridiculous shark attack scenes. Even with the script problems, Ellis injected his sense of fun here. This is the perfect pizza and beer with friends type of movie.
47 Meters Down
As if hungry sharks aren’t enough to contend with, sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) must contend with oxygen deprivation too. On a spontaneous dive trip post-break-up, the sisters are trapped below when the cable to their dive cage snaps. It’s sharks that prevent an easy rescue, thwarting their chances for survival as narcosis becomes a serious problem. 47 Meters Down boasts one of the most terrifying shark scares in recent memory and isn’t afraid to go dark. This one is worth watching in preparation of The Meg, but also for its forthcoming sequel 48 Meters Down.
Chances are you’ve already watched Jaws this summer; it’s a perfect 4th of July horror film after all. Otherwise, add that to the list. But this sequel is a worthwhile follow up to the granddaddy of all shark horror films. Roy Scheider returns as Chief Martin Brody, and once again the Mayor doesn’t believe him when he realizes a great white shark is terrorizing Amity Island. This time, Brody’s battle with the shark is much more personal; it’s his family that winds up in peril. A little less suspenseful than the first, this sequel ups the ante in terms of shark attacks. Not even a helicopter is safe from the shark this time.
The very premise of this one sounds so much sillier than it turned out to be; a tsunami traps a group of people inside a coastal supermarket along with great white sharks. Let that sink in. Sharks. In a supermarket. Yet it works. This Singaporean-Australian co-production has familiar horror faces, namely Sharni Vinson (You’re Next) and Xavier Samuel (The Loved Ones) as the leads. Save for a few poor CG scenes and a suspension of disbelief, there’s a lot of cool animatronic shark sequences and moments of breathless suspense. In short, Bait is a lot of fun and better than it’s been given credit for.
If you liked the concept of Open Water but perhaps found it a bit too slow, The Reef should be more your speed. This Australian horror film follows a group of people who decide to make a lengthy swim to a nearby island when their boat capsizes in a coral reef. The swim is daunting enough, as the island is 12 miles away, but the waters are also infested with sharks. Like Open Water, this one is also based on a true story and uses actual shark footage over special effects. Unlike Open Water, this one has a higher body count and even more nail-biting suspense.
One of horror’s most underrated directors is Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, Orphan). His talent for building suspense works well for a feature length thriller that has only three main characters: Nancy Adams (Blake Lively), a monstrous great white shark, and injured bird Steven Seagull. While surfing at an isolated, hidden beach in Mexico, a shark attack leaves Nancy stranded, injured, and alone while the shark lurks nearby. Collet-Serra takes a less is more approach, keeping Nancy’s survival at the forefront of the story. The shark is menacing and cunning, and the finale is over the top entertaining. The Shallows takes a small scale story and turns it into an epic summer horror film with B-movie flair. It works.
Deep Blue Sea
Often dubbed as the best shark movie since Jaws, director Renny Harlin’s big-budget action horror is a total blast. Instead of tried-and-true great white sharks, the genetically enhanced sharks at the center of this one are massive mako sharks. Set in an underwater research facility out in the deep blue, these mako sharks are tired of being research subjects and want out. So, naturally, they team up to break out, destroying anyone in their path. A special effects spectacle with unexpected deaths and high body count, Deep Blue Sea is definitive summer blockbuster entertainment. If The Meg manages to be even half as entertaining as this one, we should be in for a treat.