In mid-April, the north shore of Kauai was pummelled by a tropical storm that unleashed over 71 centimetres of rain in 24 hours. Thankfully, no human lives were lost in the disaster, but amidst the massive flooding and destruction, many of the island's farm animals were drowned and washed out to sea. Even after the rains subsided, the waters off Kauai's north coast remained murky, muddy, and punctuated with the bloating corpses of livestock bobbing along in the currents.
And then the tiger sharks showed up ...
Despite the fact that in the real world, sharks aren't actually that interested in eating humans (they mostly do it by accident), the ocean's greatest predators command a massive cross-section of cinematic horror. On the silver screen, the world's scariest fish is most often portrayed as a bloodthirsty, psychopathic, killing machine that will chew through a boat to get at the cute woman in a bikini.
And since I am currently on vacation in Kauai, here are some of the best shark movies of all time. Enjoy!
There are multiple generations of people afraid to go in the water because of this one. Jaws is not only the greatest shark movie of all time, but also one of the scariest horror films, period. Monster flicks were considered B-movie fare until Steven Spielberg put the monster in the water and supported it with an A-grade cast and a John Williams score that always instills sensations of lurking doom every, and any time, you hear it. Jaws is patient-zero for the shark-attack genre.
Blue Water, White Death (1971)
But wait! This documentary, released four years earlier, is said to be one of the major inspirations for Jaws. Following a 10-diver crew on a mission to "confront, not kill" the then-highly elusive great white shark, Blue Water, White Death covers six months, and voyages from South Africa to Ceylon to Australia, in search of what filmmakers called, "The ultimate shark. It's a perfect eating machine, 2,000 lbs of streamlined death." So yes, a bit of a sensationalized flick, but still freaky and, considering the times, a hell of an odyssey.
Open Water (2003)
So many movies flaunt the "based on a true story" tagline these days, but this premise—a tourist dive trip boat screws up a headcount and leaves two divers behind—definitely happened. The real couple was never seen again, but this cinematic version of their imagined plight is among the most intense shark thrillers of all time. The filmmakers used real sharks and strove for actual, shark-like behaviour. Which, in a based-on-true story, only makes it that much freakier.
The Reef (2010)
The second film from Aussie director Andrew Traucki (Black Water was his first; it's good, too), this one is about a group of buds that capsize their boat on a reef and decide to chance a 19-kilometre swim to the nearest island. Guess how far they get before a pissed-off great white comes along? Like all the best shark flicks, The Reef is all claustrophobia and unseen doom, but with dodgy group dynamics thrown in for good times. The Aussies know sharks, and Traucki delivers.
Jaws 2 (1978)
Underappreciated and overlooked, Jaws 2 brings another pissed-off, boat-chewing, nautical killer into the quiet seaside town of the original movie. This time out, in classic horror sequel fashion, teenagers and young lovers seem to be at the top of the menu and while the tagline, "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water..." is Jaws 2's most recognizable legacy, it's also worth noting this was the first time a shark took down a helicopter! Which can totally happen, so be careful out there.
Other notable shark movie moments include Samuel L. Jackson getting eaten in Deep Blue Sea, Blake Lively vs. the Shark in The Shallows, and the most classic movie pick-up line ever in Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (a sub-par film, but that one cunning line salvages the whole thing.) Speaking of Megalodons (giant prehistoric sharks) this summer watch out for The Meg, in which a 23-metre shark attacks a deep-sea submarine. Jason Statham stars alongside Ruby Rose. It hits screens in August.
Huge thanks to my shark-expert buddy Scotty for his help with this list. "Notes from the Back Row" will resume trashing contemporary flicks next week. Until then I'll be here on Kauai, hiking.