Greek myth tells the story of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, the three brothers who overthrew their father, who drew lots to divide up dominion of the mortal world. Zeus made the best draw, with Poseidon coming in second, but Poseidon wasn’t worried: he knew that Zeus would pick the lofty (but empty) sky to rule, allowing Poseidon to choose what he wanted all along. That was, of course, the ocean, bounding with mysteries and teeming with life. Poseidon’s realm is, of course, still a largely mysterious one to us humans; we rely so heavily on our eyesight that the notion of a world beneath the waves, where no light ever penetrates and ruled by huge and deadly creatures, is almost preternaturally horrifying. Don't even get me started on those goddamn sharks in Half-Life.
The unknowable-ness of the ocean makes for a pretty good horror film, as Hollywood has gone to great lengths to prove, with varying degrees of success. There have been, of course, any number of films that have terrorized their actors with varying kinds of ocean-dwelling horrors, including the four progressively worse Jaws films, Deep Blue Sea, Lake Placid, and so on. If the fear of the unknown makes us terrified of sharks, though, it can also be reinforced by...well, by stuff that’s actually unknown, leading to such films as The Abyss, Sphere, and Deepstar Six. I somehow doubt we’ll be considering this weekend’s Shark Night 3D in the same league as The Abyss (or even Deepstar Six), but that doesn’t mean we can’t mooch on its (very, very short) coattails to talk about some of the weirder films that have mined the ocean depths to generate their scares.
As such, you can expect a few nautically-themed features to pop up on Screened this week. In addition to a Half-Good on Deep Blue Sea, Floratos will also take a comparative look at how Deep Blue Sea and Jaws contrast in their portrayal of sharks as horror instruments. Andrew Gray will get voluminous on the subject of films that portray sea “monsters” as somewhat sympathetic, but I’m not going to spoil any of them for you. Godoski will be taking a look at the script for the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. Alex will be examining both an apparently decent Instant Streaming film called The Reef and write something on the neglected classic Deep Rising. Whatever happened to Treat Williams, anyway?
There’s all this and more coming your way this week, and we will of course have a review of Shark Night 3D this Friday, alongside reviews of The Debt and Apollo 18. We’ll also have a look forward at the rest of the busy September release schedule, guest-starring Joey! Stay tuned for another wild week of Screened here on Screened, which you can find at Screened.com.
In the meantime, leaving Jaws aside for the moment, what’s your favorite scene from a film set underwater or on a boat? I confess that I’ve always had a fondness for the scene in Deepstar Six where Miguel Ferrer decides to leave his underwater facility and head for the ocean surface without bothering to go through decompression, with predictably Scanners-esque results for his cranium. I love it when heads pop! How about you?