We dive into the waters of “Cruel Jaws” to see if we can uncover a pearl or two on our B-movie deep-sea dive. Spoiler alert: we don’t.
Fall may be upon us, and there’s a cornucopia of great horror to ring in the spooky season. But I’m feeling nostalgic for some summer scares and attempting to satiate my B-movie bloodlust. What could be better than the ultimate shark exploitation film, Cruel Jaws (aka Jaws 5), renowned amongst genre buffs as the last word in sharktastic films?
You can stay safe surfing the web with a reliable VPN like Surfshark VPN, but no one is safe surfing the waters of Cruel Jaws. And if you’re a horror fan surfing the streaming universe for a great genre gem to thrill and entertain you, you’re definitely not safe watching this one!
The plot concerns the wreck of a military ship, explosives, and a territorial Tiger Shark that has laid claim to the waters around that area. Add into the mix a shady property developer and an Aqua center 30 days from foreclosure, and you have all the ingredients of a classic B-movie.
The villains are in the ‘boo, hiss’ pantomime mold, with their mannerisms and motivation taken straight from classic mobster villains 101. The heroes are clean-cut, with proper white teeth, clean living, and probably god-fearing. There is also a touch of the Baywatch about them, which is unsurprising when you consider it was released in 1995.
Did I mention the cute girl in a wheelchair? Ah, Suze…
This is not by any stretch of the imagination a good film.
Let’s get that out in the open right from the start. I’ve read that it was suggested that it was a kind of homage to Jaws. But this isn’t just a homage; this is out-and-out plagiarism of the highest caliber.
I love the pure audacity of it as they churn (chum?) out dialogue that comes from the first two Jaws films (Francis Shoal, anyone?) and even lift key scenes from both.
The setup kind of follows the start of Jaws 2; two divers, one red and one black, looking for lost explosives in the wreck somehow aggravate a very Great white-looking shark (this is important later) into making a meal of them.
That’s not the only recognizable thing because the sharp-eyed amongst you will pick up on the actual footage used in Jaws 2.
This opening sequence works well enough – murky water to hide the shark until we see it ram the boat from below, and then the credits roll.
And from here, we sort of bounce from one scene to the next, with a kind of tick-list of ‘what happens in Jaws’ approach.
This fills the screen time so that the required shark footage is reduced, but then you are in the hands of the assembled cast to keep you engaged. This is where we fall down.
I get that this was never going to be in contention for an Oscar, but the cast is just on autopilot.
Billy (played by Gregg Hood with all the charisma of an oak tree) manages to mangle his way through some of the iconic moments borrowed from Jaws where they riff on that ‘it’s a perfect killing machine’ with the Sheriff, and it’s almost word for word. Delivery ranges from stiff and flat to OVER THE TOP SHOUTING for no reason.
Special mention should go to Dag (Richard Dew, if you ordered Hulk Hogan from Wish) for that mustache and for being a more wholesome version of Quint, a family man who blames himself for the death of his wife and for little Suzy being in a wheelchair.
Billy is once more responsible for a hitherto unknown level of emoting when trying to rescue Vanessa (Norma J. Nesheim) from a collapsed jetty where she appears to be no deeper than the average bath.
Footage from Jaws 2 shoehorned in for good measure, with the Great Tiger attacking from every angle possible before the attack.
It’s just painful to watch, and there is no resulting payoff in blood — just tears.
I know I’m picking on Billy, but he gets the best dialogue to chew through but is seemingly unable to change expression and bases acting on VOLUME. But even with this, it’s flat and misses its intended mark.
In all honesty, you could play an excellent game of Jaws Bingo for every reference you get.
You would be legless halfway through (Slang, for drunk, UK).
Of course, all’s well that ends well as our intrepid group realizes where the shark lives (at the wreck) and is not just any old Tiger Shark. It’s… no, that is one spoiler too far.
If you look up Shameless in the Oxford Dictionary (others are available), it will say refer to William Snyder.
Genre fans may know him as Bruno Mattei, an Italian director who has made a film in every exploitation genre you can think of, with zero expense spent. He’s responsible for Hell of the Living Dead as well as the post-apocalyptic Rats: Night of Terror (and that has an ending that you have to see to believe).
In the former, the signs are there that no film is safe, and he certainly sets in place his reputation as being the ‘King of all rip-off artists’ with a no-shame approach to making his films.
The two films mentioned above are worth watching if you’re a B-movie fan like me, but CRUEL JAWS is unfortunately tedious and devoid of any excitement or moments of terror.
Somehow, he has managed to combine the first three Jaws films, the novelization of the second one (Mob Influence on Amity Island), and take footage from just about every shark film ever made up to that point. He even used footage from La Ultimo Squallo, which was another rip-off of Jaws (but is great fun) — delivering a film that is just lazy on every front.
What annoys me is the use of stock footage of Great White Sharks and calling it a Tiger Shark, which is on top of the blatant theft that appears on screen.
Some films sit in the ‘so bad they’re good’ space; this is not one of them.
I could live with the use of footage from elsewhere if they had tried to do something new or different with the story. The characters are just cookie-cutter copy-and-paste jobs that do nothing to make you interested in them. I would recommend instead picking up The Last Shark, which at least tries and is far more entertaining than this.