Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Village Roadshow Pictures.  Director: Renny Harlin.

Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Actually A Good Movie

You might want to sit down for this.  It turns out that “Jaws” isn’t the only good shark movie.  I know, I wouldn’t have believed it myself, but “Deep Blue Sea” is a legitimately enjoyable film.  Even people who don’t like sharksploitation films will probably come away from it with fond memories of two hours well spent.  For those people who only enjoy bad movies—and honestly, why else would you be here?—“Deep Blue Sea” does not disappoint, either.  This movie is about LL Cool J and Samuel L. Jackson fighting super-smart sharks, after all.  In short, it offers something for everyone.  Unless of course you only watch these films for the bikinis, in which case you will be let down.  The film’s R rating is for shark violence, not hanky panky.  And shame on you anyway, creep.

Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) heads the research firm Aquatica, which has been doing groundbreaking work using shark brain enzymes to fight Alzheimer’s disease.  When a test shark escapes and nearly kills some boaters, however, Aquatica’s corporate backers send Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) to investigate the underwater facility.  He and the scientists discover that the experiments have accidentally been making the sharks smarter.  But their discovery is too late!  While most of the Aquatica staff is away for the weekend, the killer sharks manage to escape their pens and partially flood the facility.  The scientists, Franklin, and their top chef Preacher (LL Cool J) must find a way to kill the sharks and get to the surface before being drowned or eaten.

The DVD Cover

Part of what makes this movie enjoyable is that it draws on the successful elements of other blockbuster hits.  The setting—an isolated scientific facility which most of the staff have left for the weekend—brings “Jurassic Park” to mind.  In terms of action, the characters basically repeat the events of “The Poseidon Adventure,” taking access stairways and traveling through kitchens in their attempt to reach the surface before being drowned.  And finally, the suspense element leaps straight out of “Alien,” with deadly hunters lurking around every dimly-lit corner.  While the accidental creation of super-smart, killer animals during an attempt to cure Alzheimer’s also sounds familiar, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” must have swiped it from “Deep Blue Sea,” which came out twelve years earlier.

Speaking of the Alzheimer’s cure, this film contains one of my favorite explanations for a shark attack crisis: in order to harvest more brain proteins for their experiments, the scientists have quintupled the size of the sharks’ brains.  First off, even if brain size doesn’t necessarily correlate to mental ability, does it sound like a good idea to quintuple the mass of a shark’s brain?  And second, how exactly will shark brain proteins cure Alzheimer’s?  Someone mentions that sharks never go blind or get cancer or become senile, but I’m still skeptical about this alleged cure.

Which apparently consists of dripping shark brain proteins onto blobs of human brains.

I understand that this is just a preliminary test, and that the cure would presumably go through several refinements before being released to the general public.  Still, I don’t think I’d be the first person in line to have my skull opened so doctors can pour shark brains in my head and restore my mental functions for 6.56 seconds.

Yep, that’s how long the shark brain juice is effective, according to the film.

I have to admit, I was surprised to find that LL Cool J was my favorite character in “Deep Blue Sea.”  For being a half-drunk cook who oscillates between professing religiosity and hitting the bottle, he’s probably the smartest character in the film.  On top of that, his crass pet parrot is voiced by Frank Welker (Fred from “Scooby Doo”).  LL also contributes a shark rap that plays during the credits (“Unh!  Deepest bluest, my hat is like a shark’s fin!”).  I’m starting to think I should put together a compilation CD of the songs made for sharksploitation films…

I am also beginning to suspect a conspiracy.  You may remember that Kristy Swanson of “Swamp Shark” fame also starred as Buffy in the 1992 “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” movie.  Thomas Jane, one of the leads in “Deep Blue Sea,” played a role (Zeph) in the Buffy film as well.  The set of that movie was a veritable breeding ground for future sharksploitation actors.

When I bought this DVD a few weeks ago, I was very excited by its promised DVD-ROM features: “Access to exclusive website, special web events, chat room, and genre essays.”  Sadly, a journey to http://www.deepbluesea.net is disappointingly mundane these days.  At present, all you can do there is buy the film on Blu-ray from Warner Brothers.  Fortunately, through the wonder of the Internet Archive, you can travel back to see what the site looked like in better times, specifically on October 18, 2000.  And don’t worry, if your “personal computer” (or “PC” as the whiz kids call it) does not yet have “the flash player,” there’s a lite version of the “web-site.”  What I find most intriguing is that the “recipes” section actually contains not one but three honest-to-goodness recipes for preparing shark meat: shark steaks, shark stew, and grilled shark.  If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.

The trailer has no shark recipes, but is enjoyable nonetheless:

“Deep Blue Sea” is available on Amazon.

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