WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Sigh… Summer of the Shark 2016 is turning into a rather masochistic affair for yours truly Vault Dwellers. After struggling through UP FROM THE DEPTHS and SHARK KILL, I figured I was overdue for a better killer fish film. Mulling over several titles, I ended up selecting 1989’s DEEP BLOOD. It sounded promising, and its plot description seemed to offer up something different from the other genre films I’ve been watching up to this point!
A bit of Native American mythology is sprinkled in to what is essentially a coming-of-age story about a group of childhood friends, working through some adult issues while questing to kill a Great White Shark. Sound odd? Well it is. And that peculiar mix of drama and mysticism could have resulted in something worth watching. Instead, it was a recipe for disaster, and I now find myself once again cursing director Joe D’Amato’s name.
DEEP BLOOD begins with four young boys frying up some hotdogs on a beach, until an old Native American (played by a very white actor named Van Jensens) happens by and spins a yarn about his tribe’s past battles with a mythical sea beast. Only a group of tightly knit warriors would be able to defeat such a creature if it were to return, so the four children proceed to slash their wrists open with their pocket knives and form a blood pact! (What in the hell?!)
The old man then gifts them an “arrow box” (a quiver?) with special carvings on it, and the kids bury it in a shallow hole near the water’s edge, just in case they’d need it in the future. (Yeah, there’s no way the tide would eventually uncover it and sweep it out to sea, right?) The film leaps ahead years later where the four boys are all “teenagers.” Ben is planning on attending college, because no one else in his family ever had. However he’s not super keen on the idea because he’d rather be a pro golfer.
Allan is the son of the town’s mayor, and is currently in military school, with officer school on the horizon. He’s not particularly happy about it, as he’s only doing it to please his father. Finally there’s Miki and John, two “preppie” kids that don’t have jobs, drive around in a shi*tty Toyota truck, and pick fights with a local gang, led by a punk named Jason.
These guys have all reunited for the Summer, but their plans are about to be ruined by the arrival of a black-finned Great White Shark. The shark snacks on a ginger kid’s mom (in one of the most hilariously inept shark attack sequences ever committed to film), ruins Ben’s bonding time with his estranged father, and dines upon John when he goes spearfishing.
Miki attempts to notify Chief Cody (not Brody) of his best friend’s death, but has his story dismissed by the lazy lawman. Unperturbed, Miki tells his tale to Allan’s father, and after one call from the mayor, the authorities finally take action. Using a sharpshooter, the Coast Guard manages to kill a large shark, leading to a short-lived celebration. Knowing that the real culprit is still lurking somewhere offshore, Miki and his friends take matters into their own hands. They dig up the “arrow box” they buried when they were kids, then head out on a boat to avenge John’s death.
After their efforts are thwarted by authorities, Miki, Ben, Allan, Shelby (and even former foe, Jason), head out the following day for a final confrontation with their finned adversary. Armed with numerous cases of TNT, they plan on setting a trap for the Great White. Will they be able to destroy a creature that may be host to a vengeful Native American spirit, or will their plan literally blow up in their faces?
Don’t bother watching to find out, I’ll save you the trouble: YES, THEY PULL IT OFF! THEY SUCCESSFULLY BLOW UP THE SHARK, JUST LIKE NEARLY EVERY SINGLE KILLER SHARK FLICK RELEASED SINCE JAWS!
Admittedly, I haven’t seen many of Joe D’Amato’s films. Though I’ve only experienced a small number of movies from his enormous filmography, I can easily say D’Amato has caused me more grief than any other filmmaker. While many people may consider MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE or THE ROOM as the worst movies they’ve ever seen, D’Amato’s THE CRAWLERS is my personal kryptonite. God that movie is awful…. (cue traumatic flashbacks)
DEEP BLOOD is marginally better than the absurdly terrible THE CRAWLERS, which is the most backhanded compliment I can give any film. To be fair, I will give screenwriter George Nelson Ott a little credit for trying to spice things up by making the shark a quasi-supernatural threat. And I’ll even give him a nod for trying to develop characters with backstories, but that’s as far as I’ll go with niceties!
DEEP BLOOD was initially going to be directed by Rafaelle Donato, but he apparently handed the reigns over to D’Amato after shooting just a few scenes. Not one to shirk time behind a camera lens, D’Amato crafted a film that just seems… off. You never feel like you’re watching real people interact in a real setting. It’s almost like a being from another world tried to recreate what life is like in a small American town. I believe this is most likely a result of an Italian director working with an inexperienced American cast and crew.
It’s a pitfall I’ve seen numerous times, most famously in Claudio Fragasso’s brilliant cinematic trainwreck, TROLL 2. (Which actually worked in that film’s favor!) But the end result here is a lot of stiff interaction between actors, and numerous scenes where another take might not have been a bad idea. Case in point: There’s a sequence in DEEP BLOOD where Ben and his dad go fishing, and Ben looks like he has no idea how a rod and reel work.
Shelby is cheering-on his son and giving him pointers, while Ben awkwardly yanks his fishing rod around. What makes this so off-kilter is that Ben begged his dad to go fishing “like they used to” and then acts like the entire act of reeling in a fish is alien to him! Why?! If you went fishing a lot when you were a kid, you’d still know how to do it years later! You just don’t forget how because you golf a lot! (GAH! F*CK THIS MOVIE!)
The film’s biggest sin however is that it focuses too much on the unappealing characters, and not enough on the real star: The shark! The Great White only appears a handful of times in the movie, and was “brought to life” using a mechanical shark head (that was used in maybe two brief shots), a big fake fin, snippets of scenes cribbed from THE LAST SHARK, and lots of nature footage. However, none of said footage is utilized well, and the shark rapidly begins to feel like an afterthought.
DEEP BLOOD is a catastrophe, and will prove to be a real endurance run for even the most ardent fans of bad movies. It completely wastes its most interesting aspects, and assaults viewers with pointless drama, bad acting, and a soundtrack that is often out of place. (Courtesy of Carla Maria Cordio, who incidentally did the music for TROLL 2 and THE CRAWLERS…. which is why this movie’s soundtrack seemed so familiar! ARGH!)
Stay away from DEEP BLOOD Vault Dwellers; I can’t be any more clear on that. I know some of you will see this as a challenge of sorts and will readily seek it out, but I implore you to avoid this movie. If you deem it necessary to watch it, then I highly suggest you do so with a group of friends, and a healthy dose of alcohol. Nothing good can come of watching it by yourself, and stone cold sober. (Like I did.) For the crime of stealing away ninety minutes of my life, I hereby give this Joe D’Amato “classic” a rating of:
ONE AND-A-HALF ‘RADS’