Beyond the Slimy Wall: Deep Blue Sea
By Stephanie Star Smith
September 28, 2006
We here at BOP are an eclectic group, and our tastes in movies run from the serious cinephiles to the foreign-film aficionados to niche film lovers. Thus was born the idea for this weekly column, devoted to horror films of all shapes and sizes, but concentrating on those B- and C-grade films that mainstream reviewers disdain, but are the bread-and-butter of every spook-movie lover's viewing. So come with me as we venture Beyond the Slimy Wall, uncovering the treasures - and burying the time-wasting bombs - that await those who dare to love the scare.
Deep Blue Sea
Just about any nature show on predators will tell you that sharks are one of nature's most efficient killing machines. They can detect the tiniest drop of blood in water many miles from their position, they can pick up the most minute vibrations in the ocean that indicate there may be an injured fish yards away, and their teeth are designed for the dual tasks of tearing off flesh and crunching through bone. In fact, about the only things that keep humans higher up the food chain than these millennia-old hunters are our intelligence and the difference in, and rare intersection of, our habitats.
So what would happen if we eliminated either one or both of those impediments?
Such is the premise for Deep Blue Sea, one of the better AEPs released in the last few years. As is so often the case in the sub-genre, it is Man mucking about with Mother Nature that creates the eventual problem; this time around, it's scientists doing Alzheimer's research who've discovered an enzyme in the brains of sharks that has huge potential as a treatment for the debilitating disease. Through genetic manipulation, they increase the brain mass of sharks, theorizing that larger brains will produce more of the enzyme, thus facilitating the research and, it is hoped, making it easier to harvest the eventual cure. What the scientists overlook in this set-up, however, is that a larger brain mass just might make the sharks smarter. Much, much smarter, to the point where their intellect nearly matches that of their creators. So there goes the first barrier. And since the scientists are working with sea creatures, the combined need to keep them relatively corralled whilst still bathed in the salt water that they need to survive calls for an elaborate laboratory to be built in an isolated corner of one of the seven seas, complete with all the comforts necessary to maintain the human population, and a number of devices intended to not only prevent the escape of the test subjects but keep them away from the humans as well. Having now brought the near-intersection of habitats into constant play, this removes the second barrier, which also provides us with all the ingredients necessary for a good AEP: A group of characters for us to - hopefully - care about and for the animals to munch on, a variety of ways in which said animals can surprise the humans by getting at them in unexpected places, and the potential for acquiring weapons and/or finding escape routes just hanging around waiting for someone to notice them. Add just a touch of hubris as to the superiority of the intellect of homo sapiens, extreme overconfidence in the barriers that have been erected and that momentary lapse of concentration in a potentially dangerous situation, and voila! The animals are feeding, and the humans have to find a way to escape and, just as importantly, to keep the sharks from getting out of the research facility to roam free - and breed - amongst the greater ocean population.
Deep Blue Sea benefits from a couple of things not normally found in the average AEP, the foremost being a cast that is a cut above your average animal fodder. Led by Samuel L. Jackson and LL Cool J, plus a couple of "Hey, It's That Guy!"s and host of names you've never heard, the acting is uniformly excellent, a rarity in this genre. The other big plus for Deep Blue Sea is its script, which, whilst hewing to the conventions of the AEP, nevertheless manages a few twists and surprises by which even the most veteran horror-film watcher will be gobsmacked. The production values are top-drawer as well, and all these items together make for a movie that actually has some interest going for it other than playing Red-Shirt, Red-Shirt, Who's the Next Red-Shirt?.
So next time you're in the mood for a film where Mother Nature gets back some of her own against the species that is slowly destroying her, grab a copy of Deep Blue Sea off the shelf at your local rental emporium and settle in for an evening of good, old-fashioned human-chomping fun.
I see by the shadows falling from my bust of Pallas that our time is up. Until next time, then, when we will once again venture Beyond the Slimy Wall.