Ginger Nuts of Horror
Written by Kayleigh Marie Edwards
Ola horror amigos! I once claimed that I love horror so much that I can find merit it any horror film, no matter how poor others may consider it. With that, this page was born. I’m undefeated as of yet, but if you manage to thwart me with a terrible film, many prizes will come your way. I’m on a ten-film victory at the moment, so I now also send out consolation prizes if you lose.
So, Jaws 4. What did I make of it? – I hear you whale (sea pun… oh yeah). Well, it’s not my favourite horror film, but it’s deFINitely not the worst film I’ve seen. It’s not swimming in disaster or anything……
Actually, I genuinely don’t even think it’s bad at all. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. George Llett Anderson, I’m afraid that you’ve not bested me this time, but don’t be disheartened, I reckon you’ll think of something terrible to hit back at me with, and you still get a little prize for posing a challenge in the first place
(Just get in touch with either myself or Jimmy McNuts with your contact info).
The Revenge takes a new direction in the Jaws franchise, as our protagonist is no longer Chief Brody, but his widow, Ellen (Lorraine Gary). Our chief has tragically suffered a fatal heart attack, which Ellen believes was brought on by the fear of his Great White nemesis. The Brody kids, Mike and Sean, are all grown up. Sean still lives in Amity, and Mike is working towards a PhD studying sea snails in the Bahamas.
Whilst repairing a buoy, a beastly shark sneaks up on Sean, and it kills him until he is quite verily dead. Most just consider this a tragedy, but Ellen has a bad feeling in her waters that this is a shark that her family has encountered before, and that it’s out for revenge against them.
As we know (if you’ve seen the Jaws movies), poor Ellen has been through a lot, and what I noticed quickly is that this particular installment of the franchise actually tackles the nature of PTSD. Anyone who suffers a trauma could fall victim to this horrid disorder, and Ellen is firmly within its grasp in the beginning. She begs Mike to quit his job and insists several times that she doesn’t want anyone in her family going in the water again. She voices her concern that the shark is out to get them, and of course, she’s treated like her cheese is sliding off its cracker.
People who have suffered PTSD may know all too well the frustration that comes with how other people treat you when you have an anxiety problem. Since you’re prone to stress, you’re not taken seriously. People think you’re overreacting, and maybe sometimes you are. But that doesn’t mean that you’ve lost all common sense and are just riding a doom slide with no coherent thought – it means you’re more sensitive to things that other people haven’t had to worry about. Like impending death, for example. Someone who has, say, been involved in a serious car accident may no longer breeze through life assuming that a car accident will never happen to them – because it has, and it could again. People who haven’t had such misfortune find it difficult to understand why all of a sudden a car ride is a traumatic, nerve-wracking event to said trauma survivor. Since Ellen has a history with this particular Great White’s family of sharks, a history that involves more than one incident so, in fact, it’s quite reasonable of her to fear the worst. It’s happened to her family before, then it happened again, and now her son has been chomped to death. The conclusion she’s drawing from this comes from past experience, not hysteria.
The way this movie handles this disorder is subtle and, in my opinion, tasteful. Ellen isn’t presented as a raving, paranoid lunatic, but as someone we can understand and sympathise with. We’re also privy to the fact quite early on that she’s right, because we see Toothy McTootherson roaming around in the water.
Mike, his wife, and his child, take Ellen to their home in the Bahamas, where she meets a charming pilot played by Michael Caine, which is a plus point for any movie. At first, she is plagued by her fear. She has nightmares about swimming in the sea and getting attacked by the shark, only to wake up bathed in her own sweat (which, by the way, is a beautiful use of visual metaphor; her greatest fear is what lies beneath the salty depths, and then she wakes up just as soaked in salty sweat as she is soaked in the salty sea in the dream, as if the nightmare left a residue on her. The message is that she is trapped and unable to escape her fear, which is part of the problem for a PTSD sufferer).
Soon, Ellen begins to relax; all seems well in the Bahamas, and there’s potential for a new romance with Michael Caine. At this point, we’re heading into the second act of the story, where Ellen appears to be getting what she wants (to lose the fear), but not what she needs (certainty that the shark is no threat).
Meanwhile, Mike is out looking at snails with his research partner, who encounters the shark. The shark isn’t interested in him though, and goes right for the boat in an attempt to gobble down Mike. Now we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Ellen has been right all along. Mike knows this too, so he decides not to tell anyone in his family about it for fear of setting his mother off. This backfires on him when the shark targets his daughter whilst she’s enjoying a lovely banana boat ride. Luckily, she escapes unscathed, but a lesson has been learned by all.
We shift into the third act, where Ellen decides to take action. The attack on her granddaughter was her call to arms, and she takes it up, deciding to tackle the shark alone by stealing her son’s boat and heading out to sea. I’m not sure what she’s actually planning to do with the shark when she finds it, since she knows that like an apache helicopter, it is a total death machine. What I imagine is that she’s planning on giving it a stern talking to, in that way that only mothers can do. She’s probably planning on hitting it with that ‘I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed’ line.
Things don’t pan out that way for her though, because her son and his sidekicks swoop in (literally, in a plane) to save the day. A bunch of stuff happens, but in short, Ellen has a moment of vengeance and manages to impale the sea beast with the broken front end thingy of the boat. This was my favourite moment of the movie because it’s where you realise that the title – The Revenge – doesn’t refer to the shark, but to the Brodys, who finally get theirs.
This movie follows your regular three-act structure, contains some entertaining new characters, as well as one of the beloved originals, and is shot in the most beautiful location. It doesn’t go off on a bizarre tangent the way a lot of sequels a few movies down the line tend to, and the narrative is straightforward and cohesive. Furthermore, you don’t necessarily need to have seen the previous three movies to understand what’s happening, so it works for seasoned and new audiences alike.
Overall, I’m giving this one a thumbs up. I enjoyed it!
On to the next challenge!