Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

This time it’s personal

Years after the original attacks on Amity Island, another shark has staked a claim in the local waters and kills Sean, the son of now-deceased Chief Brody. Older brother Michael, now a marine biologist in the Bahamas, convinces his distraught mother, Ellen, to come with him to the Caribbean for a much needed holiday. Ellen maintains that the shark specifically targeted her son but no one believes her and reluctantly agrees to go with Michael. However the shark follows her to the Bahamas to finish the job.

 

Perhaps the most universally reviled sequel in film history, Jaws: The Revenge is, in short, an absolute abomination of a film which totally ruins the classic legacy of the first film. It is ridiculous on pretty much all counts. For a start who can take the idea of a shark taking personal revenge seriously? The shark in the original film was killed yet this film suggests that this is either the same shark, somehow reincarnated and hungry for revenge or simply a relative looking to settle a family feud. The film never explains why this particular shark is so single-minded in it’s pursuit of Ellen Brody, not that we really care though. There are many other random things that this shark does like being able to swim thousands of miles within a day from Amity to the Caribbean, being able to roar and being able to jump through the air and maintain it’s jump. Great whites have been filmed vaulting into the air to attack prey but not majestically gliding through the air and pose for photos like this one does.

There’s also some bizarre telepathic link that Ellen Brody has with the shark as she constantly feels its presence. She has flashbacks to scenes that she was not present in from the original which is just plain dumb. One problem I’ve always had with the story is why she chooses to go to the Caribbean. I mean if she feels like a shark is after her blood, why does she go to an island? Why not take refuge as far inland as possible?

You’d have thought that all of this time after the original, they would have come up with a remotely realistic shark. But the sequels have all showcased progressively worse model sharks, so much so that at the end of this one, a tiny miniature shark is used during a re-filmed ending. Depending on which version you watch, there are two endings and both as pathetically rendered as each other. In one version, the shark explodes when being impaled by the boat’s broken pole on the front. In the other one it simply roars a bit, blood spurting from its mouth, and then slowly sinks down into the depths, ripping the front half of the boat off and causing it to sink. The exploding shark ending contains one of the most unconvincing ‘special’ effects that I can recall. Like Jaws 2, the film suffers greatly due to the fact that the shark is given more screen time than it should do. There’s not nearly enough shark action in the film but you still see it way more than needed. In some widescreen edits of the film, you can see the moving mechanism protruding from a gaping hole in its stomach. You can probably see ‘made in Taiwan’ if you look closely. The fact that they are filming in the crystal clear water of the Bahamas doesn’t help the shark’s cause either. There are a couple of random shots of the shark swimming underwater thrown around during the film just to remind you that it’s still there. It only serves to see how cheap the whole mechanical monster looks.

The opening ten minutes promise a lot more than it delivers, with the horrific attack on Sean Brody being one of the most violent in the series as he gets an arm bitten off first and then dragged off the boat and into the water before he’s pulled under permanently. It’s a rather haunting scene with inter-cut shots of the carol singers drowning out his cries for help. The attack on the banana boat also earns the film some brownie points as you see the shark chomping down on its female victim with the now-deflating banana boat speeding off towards the beach.

But, depending on which version you see and whether Jake lives or dies, the film has a feeble body count of two. Some revenge huh? These two scenes represent the highlight of the film and it’s a shame because they work well. The rest of the film does not. The film is bogged down with too much pointless melodramatic piffle on land. The first worked well due to the interactions of Chief Brody, Matt Hooper, the Mayor and the other characters before they finally set out to sea. This one features a dreary love angle with Ellen Brody and Hoagie, a pilot she falls for, as well as sexual frustrations with Michael Brody and his wife. Through in the token Rasta character Jake to make sure that you know this is set in the Caribbean and you’ve got idiotic drama which wouldn’t even wash for a Monday morning daytime soap. John Williams’ infamous score is recycled here to lesser effect although it’s still a useful component to create a bit of tension during the opening credits. However that soon fizzles out.

Roy Scheider did the right thing by refusing to reprise his role for even a cameo and so the writers crudely kill him off-screen, saying that Martin Brody was a victim of a heart attack brought on by “the fear of the thing.” Whether this refers to the shark or the script remains to be seen. Lorraine Gary reprises her role as Ellen Brody so at least the film has some continuity from the earlier sequels but she’s really bad in this. Watching her and Caine attempt to inject some vitality into their supposed romance is cringe-worthy. Michael Caine could not accept his Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters because he was filming this. I love his famous quote “I have never seen it but by all accounts, it’s terrible. However I have seen the house that it built and it’s terrific” and, as you can clearly see, you know what Caine was thinking about when he took the role. He phones it in and must have had a clause in his contract stating that he wouldn’t be killed despite suffering the film’s closest shave with the shark.

 

Jaws: The Revenge is bad. The only question is just how bad. It’s a terrible, incompetent film full of glaring deficiencies and ridiculous ideas that should never have been given the light of day. But I prefer it over Jaws 3 any day. Although that’s like saying I’d rather eat out of the toilet than the sewer.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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