Review : Jaws 4 (1987)

Directed by Joseph Sargent and released in 1987, Jaws : The Revenge was made solely upon the request of Universal’s owner to make money, which the studio desesperately needed at that time. With that in mind, it is not surprising that the film was destined to be a failure.

After a tragedy in the family, Ellen Brody, Chief Brody’s widow, goes to the Bahamas to spend time with her son, Michael. Michael is now a marine scientist working towards his PhD, which his mother disapproves of since it means he spends time on the ocean. When a monstruous shark appears, Ellen Brody is convinced the creature is targetting her family.

I cannot begin this review without addressing the stupidity of the plot. The shark travels from Amity Island to the Bahamas to stalk and attempt to murder the Brody family. You read that correctly : this film is about a stalker / serial killer shark ! And how the characters come to the conclusion that the sea creature is specifically after them is beyond me.

The characters’ motivations make no sense and are in absolute contradiction with their past experience. For instance, Ellen Brody says several times that she doesn’t want any member of the family to go into the water. Yet, she still in the beach house right by the ocean. Michael, who faced deadly sharks a few times before, spends countless hours on the ocean, diving in the deep…and studying sharks ! In what world such behavior makes any sense ? Apparently, three traumatic encounters with sharks are not enough to keep them away from the shore or out of the water.

The shark is atrocious. It looks like an oversized, permanently open-mouthed, plastic toy. And the attacks are plain awful. Either they are edited so fast that you barely see anything apart from close-ups on the monster’s teeth, or you see too much of the shark, which is so badly designed and animated that it is beyond hilarious. It is a lose-lose situation because whether you don’t see enough or you clearly see the action, it simply never works.

Jaws : The Revenge also has no shame in rehashing scenes from the original Jaws. The most notable one (asides from small variations on iconic quotes) is the scene in which the kid mimics the father. Except this time, it has zero emotional impact (and the music is comical and fails at creating the atmosphere of the scene).

Despite the low quality of Jaws : The Revenge, I will admit that, having heard so many bad things about the film, I was pleasantly surprised because I was expecting much worse. The acting is overall good and the climax is corny and illogical but at least a bit entertaining.

Though Jaws : The Revenge wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, it is indeed a poorly made movie. The only purpose of this film was to make money off the Jaws name and its motivation does show through its bad script and the lack of effort put into creating the shark. Obviously, I do not recommend this fourth installment.


Review : Jaws 3 (1983)

Jaws 3-D, directed by Joe Alves and released in the summer of 1983, has a very interesting production story. It was first conveived as a parody entitled Jaws 3 – People 0 but the project was (unfortunately) dropped by the studio in favor of a traditional sequel.

Several years after the events of the previous film, Mike Brody (the son of Chief Brody) is now all grown up and working at Sea World, in Florida. His brother, Sean, visits him while the park is preparing for the opening of a new underwater attraction. When a great white shark show up and eventually dies after being captured, the nightmare begins as its mother finds its way into Sea World.

This third installment in the franchise is not as good as the previous entries from a production standpoint but it is way more interesting than Jaws 2. Jaws 3-D falls into the category of so-bad-it’s-good movies and as such, it is highly entertaning and fun. The film is meant to be watched in 3-D but the inability to watch it as it was intended (at least, if you don’t own the newly released blu-ray edition) actually adds to the overall sillyness. The majority of the action and underwater scenes are specifically designed for 3-D so watching them in 2-D makes them appear even worse than they should. Is it a negative aspect ? Absolutely not ! I really enjoyed watching those 3-D scenes in 2-D, they are silly and very amusing. The most notable one is the famous scene in which the shark smashes through a window, it’s hilarious and you should definitely check it out !

The shark never looked good in the Jaws films but here, not only has it never looked this bad, it is an highly improbable creature. Nothing about this shark makes any sense, espcially its size : it is more a sea monster than a shark. However, without the decision to make the shark this gigantic, we wouldn’t have the most amazing kill of Jaws 3-D. I won’t say more not to spoil anything but you are in for a treat !

But Jaws 3-D shouldn’t be minimized to its so-bad-it’s-good features because it does have some qualities. First, setting the action of the film in Sea World was a great idea. Unlike Jaws 2, it doesn’t feel like watching the original again, this sequel actually tries to be its own movie and I really enjoyed that. Though, one question remains : did Sea World actually think that endorsing a film in which a shark penetrates into the park and kills people would be a good way to promote their brand ?

The characters are also very likable in Jaws 3-D, unlike the annoying teenagers of the previous film. The relationship between the Brody brothers was pleasant to watch, they seemed to get along as real brothers and they are both nice guys.

Though there is not enough shark action, Jaws 3-D is a very entertaining, cheesy, silly, fun movie and I enjoyed it more than Jaws 2. Though it is not a good movie, I cannot give it a low rating for the mere fact that I really enjoyed it and I see myself watching it again at some point. Give Jaws 3-D a chance, you will have a lot of fun !

Review : Jaws 2 (1978)

With the huge success of Jaws in the summer of 1975, it was obvious a sequel would see the light of day. Jaws 2 was directed by Jeannot Szwarc and released in 1978.

Four years after the events of the first film, Amity Island is back in business with the opening of a luxurious new hotel. A wave of mysterious incidents convince Chief Brody that another great white shark is once again threatening the people of Amity Island. Though he has a proof of the existence of the shark (a photograph taken by divers), officials still refuse to believe him and take the necessary measures. But when his own son is in danger, Chief Brody goes shark hunting one more time !

Though incorporating new elements to avoid being redundant, the film is way too similar to Jaws. It has a different vibe, but that is barely enough not to feel like you’re simply watching a slightly different version of the original Jaws. The plot is almost identical to the first film and that is a major problem : Jaws 2 takes place only 4 years after the events of the previous film and somehow, the mayor and all the people of Amity seem oblivious to what happened. Did they all suffer severe trauma causing memory loss ? In this context, it feels silly that Chief Brody has to once again take matters into his own hands, against the stupid decisions made by…everybody else !

The characters are also not interesting enough to keep the viewer invested. The only person worth caring about is Chief Brody, thanks to Roy Sheider’s performance. The film either focuses too much or not enough on the teenagers. Had it focused more on those characters, watching them unknowingly go towards danger would have had more impact and would have been engaging. Instead, they are just annoying teens and you are almost rooting for the shark to get rid of them.

Jaws 2 is less suspensful than the first film but it has more thrills. There is more action in this sequel but the story does suffer from it and the plot is nothing more than a rehash of a classic masterpiece ! Although I liked how the shark was treated like a slasher villain, Jaws 2 is indeed a boring sequel.

Review : Jaws (1975)

Directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1975, Jaws is a groundbreaking film which is widely considered as the movie which created summer blockbusters.

Amity Island is a town by the ocean whose economy revolves around tourism. One night, a woman goes swimming and is yanked underwater, never to return. When pieces of her body are found, Police Chief Brody suspects an unusually brutal shark attack. However, the mayor refuses to put the town on shark alert, not to hurt the town’s lucrative summer season. When the shark attacks more people, the mayor asks local fishermen to catch the killer creature. Satisfied with the shark they eventually kill, they think their problem is solved. But when one more fatality occurs, Chief Brody, a marine scientist and a local fisherman embark on “The Orca” to face the enemy.

Jaws is more than a movie, it is a piece of cinema history. Its impact on pop culture is undeniable : not only did it spun every type of merchandising you can imagine, it also created what is almost a genre in itself : Jaws rip-offs (the most famous one being Piranha, directed by Joe Dante)

The film has scared people out of the water for decades and the reason is not its gruesome nature (it is quite tamed and not extremely gory) but the way Steven Spielberg brilliantly uses our primal fear of the unknown. Jaws is the perfect example why showing the monster is not required to created fear (quite the contrary in this case). Though emanating from technical difficulties, Spielberg uses a variety of techniques and shots to hide the shark, thus increasing the menace. Not seeing Bruce (the shark was named after one of Steven Spielberg’s lawyers) makes him much scarier.

The underwater shots are incredible and the opening sequence is just sublime. The film starts in almost complete silence with the endless sea before our eyes. Suddenly, the shark attacks Chrissie. It is sudden, brutal and very effective at establishing the tension that will increase throughout the film.

The famous soundtrack is, of course, iconic. It gets under your skin and helps creating the tension and atmosphere of Jaws.

There are several scenes that stand out. I particularly enjoy the reveal of the shark and Chief Brody’s reaction to it. This scene doesn’t happen too soon and is simply perfect. Another scene that is very well composed is the father and son scene in which the little boy mimics his dad, creating a very touching moment.

There is not much to say about Jaws that hasn’t been said before. It absolutely deserves its cult status and is a movie to watch every summer. There’s only one last thing to say : that’s a bad hat, Harry !

Review : Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)

Count Yorga, Vampire was directed by Bob Kelljan and was released in 1970. This exploitation film stars Robert Quarry as the mysterious Count Yorga. First conceived as a softcore porn and entitled The Loves Of Count Iorga, the end result is a straight horror film, thanks to Robert Quarry.

Count Yorga is a vampire living in a Los Angeles mansion with his brides. To hide his true nature, he presents himself as an expert on séances. A group of friends invite Count Yorga to perform a séance in order to contact Donna’s recently deceased mother. After giving the Count a ride home, Michael and Erica’s van gets stuck in the mud and they end up spending the night on Count Yorga’s property. After being attacked by Count Yorga, Erica develops unusual symptoms. When she disappears, her friends confront the Count, who they suspect is a creature of the night !

Count Yorga, Vampire is 1970’s exploitation at its finest ! It remains in the tradition of classic vampire films of previous decades while adapting the story to modern settings. I found the movie to be a very refreshing take on the vampire genre. Furthermore, it doesn’t feel like a rehash of the story we have seen a thousand times before but instead, the film is an entertaining modernized version of this classic tale.

The highlight of the film is Robert Quarry’s performance as Count Yorga. He portrays a charismatic and enigmatic character. Very charming and refined, it is not surprising that female characters fall under his spell. I especially enjoyed his interactions with human characters ; all the confrontation scenes are well written with very good dialogue.

Though the female characters are very weak, the supporting cast does a decent job. I especially liked the characters’ reaction to the doctor’s theory that Count Yorga might be a vampire. It’s very realistic, going from surprised looks of disbelief to mockery.

The strenght of the film resides in its third act, where most of the action takes place. Though there is no real tension throughout, it has a great atmosphere and ends on a high note. The shocking ending is going to surprise you and you will definitely remember it (along with a famous kitten scene which was heavily edited upon release because of its content).

With its lot of fake teeth and bright red blood, Count Yorga, Vampire is an extremely entertaining vampire film. If you enjoy exploitation films, this one is a must-see.

Arrow Video is releasing the film in a double-feature with its sequel on August 8th, 2016. This edition includes two audio commentaries (one for each film) by David Del Valle, a journalist and film historian. The most interesting feature is an interview with critic and author Kim Newman in which he gives a lot of details on the production of the films and Robert Quarry’s career. A must-see to better understand these exploitation delights !