While people point to Jaws as ushering in the summer blockbuster, they neglect to also mention its complicity in the creation of the Jawsploitation genre. You know, the endless parade of movies where some sort of seabound creature is terrorizing a park or resort, and a scientist, sheriff, and a shark hunter (or lobster hunter, or whatever creature it happens to be that week) join forces to blow up the monster. Meanwhile, truckloads of victims happen upon the monster’s abode right before it decides to go on a rampage, and all of these potential victims are strategically uninformed that they will soon be eaten (usually the “if we tell these people that they are going to die, they will leave and we will not get their money” gag). It should be noted that I consider the “Jawsploitation” genre a subgenre of the “nature runs amok” genre. Both have killer animals, but Jawsploitation films (like Alligator and Orca) dutifully copy the setup and form I just mentioned. Take, for example, Grizzly, which is really a landbound Jawsploitation film, being that the plot is basically the same as Jaws; you know, the scientist, the crazy bear hunter, and the sheriff team up to take out the furball while trying not to startle the park visitors and the local residents. Meanwhile, the bear is running around, ripping people’s arms off. After all, you can’t create forest fires by lighting matches if you don’t have any arms.
The “nature runs amok” genre was already firmly in place before Jaws came out (like Frogs and Squirm and many others), and proudly continues to this day, while the Jawsploitation genre continues to stumble forward while piggybacking off of Steven Spielberg (with the exception of Grizzly, the genre’s high point, and Alligator, which nails the subtly satirical route). Where as there are endless possibilities when nature decides it has had enough and wants to screw with humanity, there is only one possibility when a fish monkey (that’s a giant fish monster that wears a monkey suit, if you follow) claims a victim at the beginning of the film, and the three stooges team up to very slowly figure things out while making sure not to alert any potential victims. It’s just fucking TIRED at this point. Apparently, the filmmakers think that people love Jaws SO much, that they’ll still enjoy a tenth rate homage. Any tenth rate homage is a twentieth rate insult as far as I’m concerned, a ripoff pissing in the face of Jaws himself.
If you’re gonna copy the setup, at least do something interesting with it instead of checking off every box on the Jawsploitation checklist. Maybe have a lake resort in Minnesota that is experiencing trouble with a Loch Ness monster (Nessie got sick of Scotland and transferred lakes, I guess), and the three stooges show up to investigate. Maybe instead of ripping off Jaws point by point, you have someone get on a PA system and say “there’s a Loch Ness monster in the lake and it’s eating people! You know…eating YOU! So, everyone, listen closely…GO THE FUCK HOME! We will be dropping an atomic bomb in the lake in exactly thirty minutes, and if you’re still wading at that point…tough tooties.” If you go Nagasaki on Nessie right off the bat, your movie is not gonna be very long, but hey, that’s okay. Entertain the people with something original and/or interesting and get their asses out of the theater so they can get on with their busy lives. Who am I kidding, that movie is not going to be playing in a theater. Well, still, you entertain the people who illegally download your movie so they can get on with their internet porn festival. That’s more like it.
Of course, as Grizzly proves, its possible to make something good that is a note for note ripoff of Jaws. The key is to not be shitty. Not being shitty has saved many a movie, no matter how derivative, from being mostly unwatchable. Sadly, Razortooth fails this test. The monster is a giant CGI eel that I SWEAR was a boss I defeated in a Playstation 1 game, but I’m blanking on the title. Wasn’t there an aquatic knockoff of "Silent Hill"? I don’t remember. The initial victims are “police officers” who are chasing two escaped convicts through the Everglades, where the eel lives. While we’re on the topic, I’ll note that the Everglades make for a nice location, but that’s hardly to the credit of the filmmakers, but rather, to whomever is responsible for not allowing oil companies to buy up the Everglades and blindly drill, hoping to hit crude. Anyway, I put “police officers” in quotations because these guys are just wearing police t-shirts. Not the band, mind you (although that would be pretty fucking funny if the police uniform was a t-shirt featuring Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland). No, these are shirts with the word “police” printed on them. I know police funding has been getting cut over the past ten years or so, but this is getting ridiculous. The vast array of potential victims that show up all of a sudden include the two convicts, as well as a “canoe club” and a group of college students investigating eel overpopulation as extra credit for a biology class (that sounds more like a final project than extra credit, but whatever). After all, if an eel is hungry in the forest and no one is there to be eaten, there is no movie.
There’s also a local fat redneck who looks like the poor man’s Larry the Cable Guy (maybe Larry the Spackle Assistant), and he carries around a bucket of chicken and a beer at all times. He enters an outhouse to go about his business, and you can figure out what happens next if you’ve ever seen a shitty monster movie (pun not intended in any way). That’s another thing…this “eel” can pop up anywhere to attack people, whether hiding underneath a house waiting for a victim to saunter by, or breaking through tile (?) to get to the requisite girl taking a shower. It also seems to change shape at will. Jaws successfully played on primal fears by featuring a menace hidden in the water, as primitive man was horrified of the sea, and that carries through to this day due to the magic of evolution (and Jaws certainly helped out). The eel never achieves anything akin to this because it follows no realistic rules, and just shows up anywhere to bite people.
Also, a cheapo CGI monster doesn’t inspire fear, and doesn’t even integrate into the movie. Say what you want about the paper mache Loch Ness monster witnessed in the above trailer, at least it’s a physical representation of something. Imagine a play where a monster is represented by two dudes wearing a fancy piece of cardboard. The actor treats the cardboard monster as real, and you go along with it within the reality of the play. A crappy CGI eel seems to come in from another medium entirely (old video games), running through the film without actually interacting with the actors. How about you show some balls and have four actors wearing a paper mache eel costume. When the eel is chasing a victim and one of the dudes trips and falls out of the costume and scurries back inside, just leave it in. Nobody give’s a shit. Your movie couldn’t possibly be any more laughable, and maybe you’ll actually entertain some people that way. Of course, what do I know. Maybe I just don’t like eels. That might be it.
P.S. This was written as part of "Project Terrible", a festival of foolishness hosted by Mondo Bizarro. This particular movie was selected for me to review by Michelle over at The Girl Who Loves Horror. Check out both blogs you big dummy.