Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Universal Pictures.  Director: John Sargent.

Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Not as Bad as Everybody Says

While there is certainly room for improvement, “Jaws: The Revenge” isn’t all that terrible of a movie.  Honestly, the most annoying part of it is probably the incessant caroling during the opening scenes of Amity Island at Christmastime.  The film’s major shortcoming is that it lacks a big bang to make it interesting.  Consequently, it rates as a run-of-the-mill, unmemorable sharksploitation film by my standards.  For the record, I know I’m tackling the “Jaws” movies out of order, but “Jaws 3-D” doesn’t impact the storyline of “Jaws: The Revenge” in any way.  A passing familiarity with “Jaws” is all you need to enjoy this film.  Well, familiarity, several thousand dollars, and a ticket to see a good movie afterwards.

Several years have passed since the events of “Jaws 2,” and so has Amity Island’s chief of police, Martin Brody.  His son Sean (Mitchell Anderson) now works for the police department and lives with his mother, Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary, reprising her role from the first two films).  When a shark eats Sean, Ellen nearly has a break-down, so her other son Michael (Lance Guest) invites her to stay with him in the Bahamas.  Some weird old pilot named Hoagie (Michael Caine) flies them there and begins to hit on Ellen.  She can’t shake the conviction that the sharks are coming after her and her family, but of course— per the Brody family’s now-hilariously implausible “Boy Who Cried Wolf” curse— no one listens to her.  When a shark appears off the coast, though, the others start to reconsider.  Could Ellen have been right all along?  (I’ll give you two guesses).

The DVD Cover

As a connoisseur of incredibly cruddy cinematic creations, I take issue with all the hoopla about how terrible “Jaws: The Revenge” is.  Roger Ebert gave the film zero stars, Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 0%, and Wikipedia includes it on the “List of films considered the worst.”  In addition, the film was nominated for numerous Golden Raspberry Awards, winning Worst Visual Effects.  I hate to admit it, but based on this evidence I’m guessing that none of these rating services has read The Creature Feature Bleachers.  I’d probably place “Jaws: The Revenge” in the top half of the sharksploitation films I’ve seen so far.  The fake shark is pretty fake-looking and the revenge premise is a little unbelievable, but the main problem with this film is that it’s sort of boring and uneventful.

Totally a real shark.

Expectations are the key to the whole thing.  Since “Jaws: The Revenge” officially belongs to the “Jaws” canon (and stars the original Ellen Brody), we expect more from it.  Even though we’ve already seen “Jaws 2” and “Jaws 3-D,” for some reason we still expect the fourth installment to be as good as the original.  With such high expectations, the film’s failure seems much more spectacular than it actually is.  Watch “Tintorera” or “Night of the Sharks” or “Cyclone” and then tell me how bad you think “Jaws: The Revenge” is.  The furor over this film obviously stems from the fact that people live cinematically sheltered lives.  The situation reminds me in many ways of the outrage over the “Twilight” series.  If you think “New Moon” is the worst vampire film ever made, you’ve obviously never seen “Scream Blacula Scream” or “Dracula 3000” (“In Space There is no Daylight“).  The only difference is, “Twilight” and the “Jaws” sequels bring with them the expectations of well-funded, strongly-marketed Hollywood blockbusters.

For a movie to be truly atrocious, the filmmakers have to attempt something far beyond their means (like trying to depict interstellar travel when their budget only covers a dinner bowl, a black sheet, and some string).  Only those who try hard can fail hard.  These failures are what produce the spectacular displays of ineptitude that we call “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” “Catwoman,” and “Raging Sharks.”  For better or for worse, “Jaws: The Revenge” simply doesn’t try.  Criticizing it for being an awful movie is like blaming C-Span for being boring television; if you think it’s going to “wow” you, you’re obviously expecting too much.

Well, some parts of the film might elicit a “wow”:

“I’ve always wanted to make love to an angry welder.”  Seriously, that’s actually a line from the movie.

Nonetheless, “Jaws: The Revenge” presents the viewer with many puzzling mysteries.  In both “Jaws” and “Jaws 2,” the shark is killed at the end of the film.  This begs the question: How exactly can this fourth installment be considered “the revenge”?  In “Jaws 2,” Brody suggests that maybe sharks can communicate and get revenge for each other, but it’s never conclusively proven.

Furthermore, how does the shark know to target members of the Brody family?  Chief Brody was the only one who ever killed a shark, so how would the avenging shark recognize the other family members?  If the shark has locked onto the genes of Chief Brody and his offspring, how would it know to target Ellen, his wife?  For that matter, how can Ellen have flashbacks to events from “Jaws” and “Jaws 2” which she never witnessed?  The questions never cease!

The trailer is most notable for its punchline, I mean tagline:

“Jaws: The Revenge” is available on Amazon.

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