Every so often, a major studio allots a reasonable budget and a decent cast to a project that might have seemed destined to be a cheapie. Alien is basically a Roger Corman script that wound up getting de luxe treatment, for instance – though more typical results of the process are Predator, Anaconda, Species or Lake Placid. Or Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea (1999), everyone’s second fave mainstream terror-by-shark movie. For some reason, that didn’t have a disappointing theatrical sequel, direct-to-SyFY shot-back-to-back-in-Bulgaria Parts 3 and 4 and a splicing with another franchise to produce, say, Deep Blue Sea vs Tremors. Only now, nearly twenty years on, does DBS2 turn up – and it’s one of those direct-to-DVD/streaming pale shadows that essentially remakes the first film but with a no-name cast and a vastly reduced budget.
If Deep Blue Sea was a jumped-up B picture, then this is a scaled-down knock-off and doesn’t deliver the pleasure of seeing familiar faces like Samuel L. Jackson, Saffron Burrows, Stellan Skarsgaard and LL Cool J pursued and/or chomped by supersmart sharks … sadly, the chum here are several degrees less charismatic. Scripted by Erik Patterson and Jessica Scott (Love at First Bark), from a ‘story’ by Hans Rodionoff (the Lost Boys sequels, Man-Thing, Skulls II) with a credit to the writers of the first film, this boasts some of the funnier character names in recent memory – the shark-loving marine biologist heroine who spends a lot of time showing decolletage in a half-zipped wet suit is ‘Misty Calhoun’ (Danielle Savre, who you’ll know from such sequels as Boogeyman 2 and Jarhead 2 Field of Fire) and the porkily macho hair product guy who plays action hero is ‘Trent Slater’ (Rob Mayes, from the Ice Castles remake) while the Samuel J. Jackson gazillionaire who’s addicted to his own shark brain-extract is ‘Carl Durant’ (Michael Beach). The dialogue has some finely-crafted howlers too … ‘I did not get into science to get rich.’ … ‘I’ve been swimming with sharks since I was seven years old. I know a knocked-up shark when I see one.’ … ‘I’m South African. I live for this crazy shit. Those sharks can suck my ass.’ … ‘I help people see that sharks aren’t monsters – but your sharks, you turned them into monsters!’ … ‘You might want to tell that to Mike, but you can’t – you know why? Because a shark ate his head!’ … ‘Okay, okay, if you guys don’t stop arguing I’m gonna feed myself to the sharks.’
Director Darin Scott has a schizoid track record in producing schlock (The Offspring, Stepfather II) and African-American-themed indie cinema (To Sleep With Anger, Menace II Society) and once spliced those together (Tales From the Hood) … as a director, he’s done more mundane work (Something Wicked, Dark House) though I like the sound of Megachurch Murder. Scott’s work on this gig is professional, but no more – not quite camp (the whining comedy relief undoes any cult posibility), but not quite serious either. Durant is deriving a serum from shark brains at a floating lab somewhere off the coast of South Africa, a major exporter of cheap sequels, and brings in a bunch of edible experts to approve of a program whis is plainly just about to go catastrophically wrong. Bella, his scarred alpha female shark, overhears him planning to kill all the lab animals – a great shot has her nodding and plotting as he’s ranting – and the killing starts, with the relatively new wrinkle of a bunch of super-intelligent sharkspawn swimming around like piranha and eating through supporting nerds, scientists, etc. It’s no worse than the average SyFy shark flick, and does eventually spring a couple of half-decent gory effects … but I saw Deep Blue Sea in a crowded, raucous cinema and had a great time, and this, sir, is no Deep Blue Sea.