A Professor’s Opening Lecture for “Intermediate Killer Shark Genre.”
BY SAM O'BRIEN
[Originally published September 2, 2011.]
So you all think you know a thing or two about killer shark films, hmm? Well, take out your notebooks because here’s your first lesson: you fucking don’t know shit about killer shark films. Write that down three times. Then circle it and draw some jagged teeth protruding from the top and bottom so it looks like a shark is eating your notes. That is the format all of your essays should be in, by the way, with little teeth and dorsal fins all over the place. I don’t care if Word doesn’t have a shark font. Make it happen.
Let me be clear: if anyone thinks they can bullshit their way through this course and coast with a remedial knowledge of the original Jaws, they are sorely fucking mistaken. We are living in a renaissance of killer shark cinema, my friends. Filmmakers are taking unprecedented risks: venturing into freshwater, genetic modification, the reappearance of extinct megalodons, and more. If you’re ready to work, this class will open up a whole new world for you, a world full of bipedal hammerheads that attack gondolas.
Aside from complete commitment to these films, I expect you to abide by a few ground rules:
- If I catch you texting during a key dismemberment, you will receive an F.
- If I catch you questioning the “science” of any scene, you will receive an F.
- If I catch you teasing one another by placing a perpendicular open palm on your head and humming a certain John Williams score, you will be punched in the face. You will also receive an F.
Over the next few months, you will be eating, sleeping, and breathing killer shark films. Will it put a strain on your relationships? Absolutely. I thought I loved a woman once. She had no problem with the fact that Jaws was my favorite movie, but when I told her Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, Megalodon, and Malibu Shark Attack were my second through fourth favorite movies, suddenly I was “close-minded” and “possibly raised by wolves” (I think she meant to say “sharks” here, which was actually a childhood dream of mine).
Speaking of never being good enough, I’m sure some of you are wondering how you’ll be graded. I have a bit of a reputation for being a hard-ass. Also for marking papers with a quill dipped in chum. My methods may be rigorous, but if you leave this class unable to discuss the mise-en-scène of film’s best fish carcass explosions or debate the ethics of stealing shark brains for curing human diseases, then I haven’t done my job as an educator.
A few words on what this course WILL NOT cover:
- Anything about the biology, ecosystems, or life cycles of sharks
- Films about other killer species (whales, dinosaurs, leprechauns, etc.)
What this course WILL cover: the syllabus is divided into five units, each focused on a different killer shark subgenre. That’s right. There are genres within genres here—killer shark cinema is that fucking rich.
- Unit 1: Sharks Targeting Teenagers (Jaws 2, 1978; Spring Break Shark Attack, 2005)
- Unit 2: Sharks Where They Shouldn’t Be—e.g., lakes, SeaWorld, venetian canals, flooded office buildings (Red Water, 2003; Jaws 3-D, 1983; Sharks in Venice, 2008; Malibu Shark Attack, 2009)
- Unit 3: Angry Historical Sharks (Megalodon, 2002; Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, 2009; Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, 2002)
- Unit 4: Shark Experiments Gone Wrong (Deep Blue Sea, 1999; Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, 2005; Shark Attack, 1999 – NOT to be confused with the exclamatory poseur Shark Attack!, which is, unfortunately, just a NOVA documentary; Shark Attack 2, 2001; Blue Demon, 2003)
- Unit 5: Settling Scores with Sharks (Jaws 4: The Revenge, 1987; Shark Alarm, 2003; Shark Hunter, 2001)
So do you think you’re ready? First assignment: Spring Break Shark Attack. Who’s seen it? I see. And does everyone remember the scene where the shark leaps into the air and takes a bite out of the commercial airliner?
You in the front. Jesus Christ, stop nodding. That was a trick. That’s a scene from Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. I swear on all that is gills and cartilage if I see your ass in my lecture hall again, I will fucking ruin you. Maybe that shit would fly with some worn-out whore like “Noir & the Coens 101,” but this is “Intermediate Killer Shark Genre,” and she is not to be fucked with.
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