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Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Turn On Your TV: The Top Ten Shark Attack Movies By Amanda Reyes

August 2nd, 2014 · 3 Comments

That Was Then: I originally wrote this article in 2008 for a website that is no more. Since then, Asylum Films has literally vomited up a new breed of direct-to-video shark movies. And while I do not care for their output, I do appreciate the cold hard fact that it is impossible to keep a good killer fish down. With that in mind, I feel fairly confident that I wouldn’t change too much about what I wrote (although I did add an addendum and tweaked my original piece a bit to release it of some unfortunate jibes… I was far more bitter in 2008, apparently). Also, I should note, at this point, I had missed a classic or two that probably should have made the list. I’ve already been scolded for omitting Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976), so please that keep that mind!

And away we go…

People have always been fascinated with sharks, although film audiences may not have recognized that until 1974 when Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was released. The film was so popular that the term blockbuster was created to define its chartbusting success. Since then, many a filmmaker has tried their hand at undersea terror.

The stories generally remained the same, even if the creatures changed. Piranha 2 for example, follows the blueprint of Jaws almost verbatim but instead we get tiny but toothy flying fish. OK, so that one didn’t really work out (don’t misunderstand me though, I love that movie!) and truth be told, it was the shark movies people kept coming back to. Jaws itself spawned three sequels and countless rip-offs that continue to this day. And, since we are #2 on the old food chain, why not sink your teeth into some of the best, and some of the not-the-best-but-pretty-damn-fun shark movies ever imprinted on celluloid?

1. Jaws (1975) – Without a doubt, Jaws is the greatest shark film ever made and one of the most cherished horror films of our time. The success of Jaws is partially due to the fact that it transcends the typical man vs. nature plot and becomes a human drama about men facing their fascination, fears and objects of revenge. If you haven’t seen this film then you’ve either been living under a rock, or have a terrible fear of sharks. Essential viewing for anyone who loves great filmmaking.

2. Jaws 2 (1978) – However, Jaws 2 was probably not made for lovers of great filmmaking, but fans still ate it up. It never comes close to being better than its predecessor but as a lover of slasher films, I find that this movie is basically a version of Friday the 13th featuring a shark as an unstoppable killer. We’ve got beer guzzling teens, girls in cut off shorts, isolation and one scary creature! Made purely for the love of entertainment, this movie succeeds at that on every level. (Confession: I watch Jaws 2 way more than the original. It’s how I roll.)

3. Open Water (2003) – Yeah, yeah, yeah, Open Water is not really a shark movie, it’s a metaphor about the disintegration of a marriage and about how self-importance can lead to one’s downfall. But let’s face it, that’s not what drove the masses to the Cineplex. We came to see lots of sharks terrorize a good-looking couple that find themselves cast away into the brutal ocean. The mixture of art and horror works beautifully and it made Open Water one of the most thoroughly haunting pieces of guerrilla filmmaking I have ever seen.

4. Shark Attack 3 (2002) – To date, this is the mutha of Megaladon movies and is also the best entry in the Shark Attack series. It’s a non-stop ride for fans of MST3K and is not without its share of surprises either. One of the best lines ever put in a movie is here and it’s a doozy. And the awesomely bad CGI only adds to its charm.

5. Deep Blue Sea (1999) – High budget Hollywood all the way, Deep Blue Sea is one of the few films in the recent onslaught of shark movies that made its way into the theaters (recent being relative of course, I forgot this movie came out in the 90s!). It’s certainly one of the better nature gone amok films of recent memory and frankly was far more entertaining than most people gave it credit for. It’s deliciously over the top, especially Stellan Skarsgard’s hilariously serious performance, and it has enough truly suspenseful moments that it just had to make the list (Hollywood haters be damned!). Plus its got the beautiful Thomas Jane proving that he’s often a bit better than the material he’s saddled with.

6. Spring Break Shark Attack (2005) – This made for TV movie is just great. OK, it’s not ‘great’ by normal standards, but it’s far cheekier and more entertaining than most TVMs of late. There was no reason for CBS to have aired this, since their audiences seem drawn to cerebral police procedural fare. But hey, slap a bikini on a couple of pretty girls, sink some CGI teeth into a few obnoxious teens, and somehow convince Bryan Brown to show up for a small cameo and you’ve got yourself a winner!

7. Blue Demon (2004) – It’s a dream come true! A shark attack comedy. I mean it’s an intentional comedy! And it’s actually funny! Although not well received when it was released (PG13 shark movies are usually a no-no), there are enough funny moments, including an incredibly hilarious turn by Jeff Fahey that the admittedly bad CGI doesn’t hurt nearly as much.

8. Up From the Depths (1979) – Well, it’s a monster fish and not really a shark, but I qualified it because it’s just too much fun not to mention. Made for the drive-in audiences of the 70s, this is a pure popcorn thriller complete with a giant gilled fiend that can attack in three feet of water! Check out the older couple blaming the hotel manager for ruining their good time when he tries to rescue them from a con artist! Good stuff.

9. Cruel Jaws (1995) – OK, this movie gets points for ripping off every shark movie ever made. I don’t merely mean they lift the story either – they plagiarize dialog, music and re-use footage (most of the extra footage came from L’ultimo Squalo aka The Last Shark)! If you’re a shark attack movie connoisseur you’re sure to pick out every pilfered moment – and you’ll love every second of it!

10. Shark Attack 2 (2000) – OK, it’s not quite as jaw dropping as Shark Attack III, but there are enough what-the-heck moments to make it one of the more entertaining attack films to have been released of late. The best scene features our heroes, who, supposedly beside themselves with worry about the killer sharks, take time for a sightseeing tour of the island! Good times.

Honorable Mentions:

Dark Waters (2003) – This didn’t quite make the list, but I have to include any Lorenzo Lamas extravaganza featuring our brunette beefcake going toe to fin with some killer fishes. It’s a surprisingly engaging film. Or I’m an easy sell.

Megaladon (2002) – This is a serious attempt at making a suspenseful shark attack movie and minus the utterly horrible special effects, it’s actually a very good little film. The acting is top notch; it’s just too bad the shark looks a bit like Jabberjaw. Still, it’s not a bad way to kill an evening.

L’ultimo Squalo (aka The Last Shark, 1981) – Just because James Franciscus is so cute.

This is Now: Well, it’s 2014 and here I am reliving my favorite shark moments, and wondering if I’ve missed anything. Since I wrote this I have seen Mediterranean Shark Attack (2004), Sharks in Venice (2008) Shark Night 3D (2011), and Bait (2012), all of which I’ve enjoyed on some level (and I’m wondering why I haven’t seen The Reef (2010)… and I still haven’t seen Jaws of Death either! Argh!). Of those, I think only Bait would make a new top 10, but since I’m a sucker for the toothy water creatures, I will add them all to the honorable mentions list. I’m like that – everyone gets an award!

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Tags: Amanda By Night

Special Report :: Amanda By Night Uncovers The Rape of Monroe!

June 8th, 2011 · 19 Comments

UNK SEZ: When situation comedies transform into situation trauma-dies it’s time to call for backup! Let us now join intrepid roving reporter/T.V. aficionado AMANDA BY NIGHT of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM as she investigates the elusive but not elusive enough for my comfort TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT episode “For Every Man, There’s Two Women”

The Night Monroe was Rah-Rah-Rah-Raped!!!

Like many urban legends, the infamous TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT featuring Monroe’s rape is a bit like the alligator in the sewer or having a kidney stolen. It’s one of those whispered things where you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who saw it. The fifth season episode of TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT titled “For Every Man, There’s Two Women” should really be called “For Every Man, There’s One Woman and a Huge Guy in Drag”, but we’ll get to that. From what little I was able to garner about this episode, Ted Knight refused to do it during the fourth season, because he probably felt there was no place for it in such a lightweight sitcom (he was right), but he must have been coerced into it because it was finally shot and aired in November of 1985, during the fifth year of the show.

When TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT finished its original run and went into syndication, this controversial episode was dropped from its package and the world continued on as though Monroe (Jim J. Bullock) had never experienced any true acts of violence. As the years passed, and the internet became a great tool for connecting the hazy dots of childhood, the “Monroe rape” episode began to catch some attention. I came to know about it through the excellent site THE RETROIST, and I became almost as obsessed with seeing it as the person running that site did. My timing was a bit better though because I had much less of a wait. The greatest T.V. station in the world, Antenna TV had been airing TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT and I began to monitor the episodes more closely. Lo and behold, they actually re-ran it last week!

If I had not been prepared for what I was about to see, I’m not sure how I would have reacted. The canned laughter at the male rape jokes was disturbingly reminiscent of that crazy Rodney Dangerfield segment of NATURAL BORN KILLERS and I felt like I was watching a sick parody of the show (it should be noted the R word is never used). Monroe reveals to everyone that he was abducted by two women and blindfolded in the back of a van while the “big one” sat on him. They took him back to their place and had their way with him all night. The joke about breaking his beeper elicits a round of applause from the laugh track machine. The female leads act completely out of character, tossing about insulting remarks about rape and in general, stereotyping men and sex while giving Monroe not one iota of sympathy.

Jackie (Debra Van Valkenburgh) finally admits that she just simply doesn’t know how to react, which may be the most honest moment of the show (and probably was the exact feeling the actress had when she read the script). The women on the show seem frustrated and disgustingly nonchalant about the whole ordeal. They mostly disappear after the first half and after a much needed commercial break, this becomes Monroe and Henry’s show as they head off to confront Monroe’s attackers. Henry (Ted Knight) comes off a lot better, but he bounces around from being thoughtful and concerned to acting bothered because Monroe interrupted Henry and Muriel (Nancy Dussault) during a tryst. Apparently dealing with a rape victim all day must make you all hot and stuff.

Once they get to the women’s apartment, the audience is treated to an overweight woman aggressively forcing herself on Henry and a giant man in drag. The first woman is credited simply as Charlene and the drag queen has no credit at all, making the whole affair even more disturbed. Does this gargantuan man still walk the streets and could I possibly be hanging out in a bar one night and overhear, “Yeah, I played one of Monroe’s rapists.” It’s enough to make me never leave the house again!

This infamous episode aired just months after the made for TV movie THE RAPE OF RICHARD BACK which is a Golden Globe nominated film starring Richard Crenna as a gruff cop who is assaulted by an even gruffer assailant. If I wasn’t going to laugh at Mr. Beck’s horrifying encounter, why did the crew behind this TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT think anyone would be chuckling at Monroe’s unfortunate evening of violence? Seriously, guys. 1985 was all kinds of awesome, but this is really reaching into neon-dripping madness! When I think about male rape in pop culture (I know, why should I be thinking about that?!?), I recall stuff like OZ and DELIVERANCE… you know… stuff that isn’t funny. Now that this demented episode has recently re-aired – for the first time in years – some beautiful soul took the time to upload it onto YouTube! Those of you who caught Monroe’s rape during the original run can now relive the nightmare while us newbies can create new, lurid memories of our own. Sweet dreams!

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Tags: Amanda By Night · Great Moments In Kindertrauma History · I Have No Idea What This Is · Kinder-Topix · Kindertrauma Investigates! · Telenasties

“TV Movie Inspired: Insidious” by Amanda Reyes

April 16th, 2011 · 1 Comment

UNK SEZ: We seldom have two reviews for the same movie going on around these parts but after hearing pal AMANDA REYES‘ personal take on INSIDIOUS that had to change. I pleaded and eventually bribed her to jot her thoughts down so that all you fine folks could check them out and the results are below. Enjoy and remember to visit AMANDA MADE FOR TV MAYHEMREYES at her home joint frequently HERE!

Being the retro film/television nut I am, I tend to be a little late to the game. Luckily, I was only off by days, as compared to years, when it came to catching Insidious. It was a fittingly rainy night and with plans for drinks afterwards, my evening was set. I wasn’t particularly surprised by how much I enjoyed Insidious, but I was definitely taken by what I felt were some nifty TV movie references.

I should say that there may be some spoilers here. So if you haven’t seen the movie yet… go now!

I won’t speak for either Leigh Whannel or James Wan, the superb crafters of a ghost story that employs the whole less-is-more strategy so well it can’t help but give you the willies, but I am pretty sure I felt a little small screen love in the theater. Perhaps the more obvious nod to the wonderful world of T.V. movies came attached to that creepy old woman. Appropriately named Old Woman (and played by Philip Friedman), she was eerily reminiscent of that spine-chilling gal from the 1989 British chiller The Woman in Black. Sure they added a veil and made her, like, more dead, but that detached feeling of inexplicable dread permeates both characters in much the same way. It’s pretty interesting then that both movies deal with children. Well, Insidious deals with the calamity of everyday parenting while the Woman in Black deals with the lack thereof (and eventually Insidious heads in that direction). Theories abound that the black-clad, T.V.-movie mistress and high child mortality rate are not coincidental (and it’s probably no mistake the lead character’s last name is Kidd).

While both stories are about saving a child and then paying the price for it in the end, the filmmakers behind Insidious give a deeper connection to the Old Woman and the family she terrorizes. There are small scenes featuring Josh (Patrick Wilson) plucking gray hairs and applying eye cream to those sexy fines lines of his. Josh’s repressed memories appear in the most innocuous moments in the film, adding a nice kick to my post film coffee talk discussion! It’s been years since I’ve seen the excellent Woman in Black, but it’s hard to deny the resemblance of those two characters. Black has recently been remade with Daniel Radcliffe and should hopefully be hitting our shores soon. I can’t wait!

The other hit-me-over-the-head reference I got regards the overall film. I believe James Wan and Leigh Whannel were inspired more by Fox’s 1991 tele-pic The Haunted than Poltergeist. In some ways they are noticeably similar, but I was most struck by the association with the baby monitor incident in Insidious and that creepy talking pillow in The Haunted. The 1991 film is based on the Smurls, a devout family who are haunted by some less devout manifestations. And perhaps it’s simply by the very nature of small screen horror that Insidious’ deftly intimate atmosphere can’t help but to harness good vibes from any audience member heavily reared on television terror, i.e. me!

Made for very little money, Insidious manages to creep inside and wring your guts. There are so many touches, such as the constant ticking sound beginning with the grandfather clock, moving to the metronome to the EKG machine and finally back to that dang metronome, that prove those fabulous men behind the curtain were meticulous with crafting what I think is the best damn horror film to come in far too long. The atmosphere alone makes it a fine companion with such small screen fare as The House That Would Not Die (1970), Something Evil (1972), The Possessed (1977) and Don’t Go to Sleep (1982). Wherever the inspiration arose from and whatever I am putting into it myself, I was pleased to finally come across a new horror movie that wanted my imagination to work as hard as the filmmakers’.


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Tags: Amanda By Night · Telenasties

Kindertrauma Funhouse :: More Made For TV Mayhem!

February 5th, 2010 · 16 Comments

UNK SEZ: We had so much fun with our pal Amanda by Night last week that we asked her to stop by and host the Kindertrauma Funhouse once again. She’s got some real toughies for you kids this time. After you’ve made some guesses, make sure you stop by her home base MADE FOR TV MAYHEM for even more made for television fun!

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Tags: Kindertrauma Funhouse

Kindertrauma Funhouse :: Made For TV Mayhem!

January 29th, 2010 · 20 Comments

UNK SEZ: You kids are in for a special treat! Today’s Kindertrauma Funhouse is being hosted by the glamorous queen of television AMANDA BY NIGHT of the beyond spectacular MADE FOR TV MAYHEM!!! Amanda has supplied us with ten televisions on which can be seen ten images from ten made-for-television masterpieces. How many can you name?

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Tags: Kindertrauma Funhouse