This is part of the BONUS edition of the Horrorathon for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO).
Although I knew this one was universally considered condemned (it currently sits at 0% on Rotten Tomatoes for critics and 15% for audiences), I really didn’t know anything about it going into it. And to be honest, I’m not sure I know that much about it coming out of it as well! Let’s begin.
We immediately launch into a shark POV and dramatic orchestral music before catching up with the Brody family on good old Amity Island. We quickly learn that Chief Martin Brody died, and that his wife Ellen lives still lives there with their youngest albeit now adult son Sean Brody. Sean has followed in his father’s footsteps and is now a deputy on Amity Island.
It is Christmas time, and a last minute call about some driftwood on a buoy has Sean going out on the water at night to clear it up per the Coast Guard’s request.
This leads to a one of the most effective scenes in the movie (yes the peak is about 10 minutes in).
While Christmas carolers sing in the background on the land, Sean is suddenly and viciously killed by a great white shark but no one can hear his cries over the music. The whole scene is pretty surprising and reminiscent of Barb’s death in the original Black Christmas:
I really like that even with his arm ripped out, I just assumed he would make it, but we ultimately just see him pulled under and blood bubbling up. I feel like these movies are at their creepiest when you just see someone silently yanked under the water.
The next scene has Ellen identifying the body and being given a box of Sean’s things. She is clearly extremely distressed. Her older son Michael comes to visit with his wife and young daughter in tow.
Ellen insists Michael needs to quit his job as marine biologist in the Bahamas, to which he says no way and that great white sharks aren’t an issue in the Bahamas because they don’t like the warm water. She believes great white sharks basically have it in for her family. Michael tries to process his grief by sprinting away from his wife in the middle of a conversation.
Michael, Carla, and Thea convince Ellen to come with them to the Bahamas to celebrate Christmas and get her mind off things like her son being brutally attacked and killed. Thus starts Jaws: The Family Melodrama with a smack of Caribbean Christmas.
We meet Michael’s research partner Jake and Jake’s romantic partner Louisa. Michael and Jake are working on a thesis about snails.
Ellen is still adamant Jaws the 4th is seeking revenge on her family, but manages to distract herself with a possible romance with a pilot named Hoagie (played by Michael Caine!).
While Hoagie dances with Ellen on the island and tells her romantic things like how she needs to “get on with her life” less than a month after her adult son was literally eaten by a shark, Michael and Jake encounter Jaws the 4th because this time it IS personal.
Jake convinces a reluctant Michael to study the great white shark before returning to their PhD dissertation on snails. I mean for narrative purposes one does sound way more interesting than the other.
Also because a decent chunk of this movie is a soap opera Michael is bizarrely jealous of his mom hanging out with another single adult.
We get a pointless scene of Michael and Carla arguing about who takes the garbage out before having sex.
Similar to the now alternative timeline of Jaws 3-D, Michael and Jake work together to lure the shark in to study it like Michael and Kay did. Jake successfully attaches a transmitter to the shark to track its vitals.
Meanwhile, in the soap opera, Hoagie and Ellen kiss and Ellen ponders whether this means Hoagie like likes her and why such a suave guy is even interested in her. Carla bonds with her mother-in-law by talking about how much she enjoys having sex with her son because why not at this point.
Michael is studying the snails when he gets attacked by Jaws the 4th in a decent chase sequence. The shark comes after Michael, and he swims and hides in the hull of sunken ship, eventually having to use his oxygen tank as an underwater jetpack to launch himself out of danger.
Michael insists on scuba diving again the next day in order to try and ensure he doesn’t develop thalassophobia, thus missing his wife’s art exhibition on the beach.
Their daughter Thea begs to go on a banana boat when she sees her friend is on one, and Jaws the 4th wastes no time going after the littlest Brody of them all.
Luckily for the Brody clan Jaws the 4th misses Thea and manages to nab her friend Margaret’s mom instead (#Winning?). At this point Ellen jacks Michael and Jake’s boat and basically goes after the shark herself. I want to respect her decisions as a strong, independent woman but I also just want to ask her some questions about her life and her choices on this one.
Michael comes home to his traumatized wife and child and is sympathetic for a minute before admitting he knew there was a killer shark with a grudge against his bloodline specifically. His wife is incredibly pissed, but when he notices Ellen isn’t there he starts repeatedly screaming “where is my mother?” and realizing he needs to go after her.
Michael links up with Jake and Hoagie and they go after her on Hoagie’s plane. Meanwhile, Ellen just stands at the edge of the boat while the shark approaches. So her plan is just to sacrifice herself to the shark I guess? But Hoagie’s plane manages to distract Jaws the 4th long enough for her to be spared.
Hoagie lands his plane in the water and Jake and Michael swim to the boat to rescue Ellen. They have a prolonged fight with the shark, but eventually they manage to blow it up with an electromagnetic pulse radiator and by impaling it with the bowspirit of the ship? I don’t know either.
Ellen also flashes back to her husband killing the shark in the original as if she witnessed it firsthand even though she definitely did not.
The movie abruptly ends with Ellen hoping into a plane with Hoagie to return to Amity. The end.
- According to Wikipedia, a novelization of the movie by Hank Searls contains a whole bunch of additional sketchy subplots from earlier scripts that got cut, including most notably a feud between the Brodys and a “voodoo witch doctor” who casts a spell on the shark to make it attack the Brodys (thus, this time it is STILL personal). It also includes chapters from the shark’s point of view where it is explained that it doesn’t understand why it is acting the way it is which is relatable to be honest. Occasionally we just do self-destructive things baby shark!
- Michael Small did the score for the film and really does a great job filling John Williams’ gigantic shoes (or footprints in the sand?). It has these creepy bells that blend the Christmas atmosphere with some Nightmare on Elm Street nightmare vibes when Ellen is flashing back to her trauma and grief and paranoia about the shark
- Jake is the real MVP of this movie and I nearly had a heart attack when it appears he died (Jaws the 4th bites into his torso and drags him underwater). His playful banter with Michael and gung-ho attitude are one of the best parts of the movie. Just look at this guy’s plan to get the transmitter on the shark! He basically has Michael hold him up with some string while he tags Jaws the 4th!
- Although the melodrama is tedious and movie is still a mess, it was refreshing to see a mainstream horror/adventure release focused partially on a middle-aged woman getting her groove back in the Bahamas. Seeing an older woman kickass is one of the only things I really enjoyed about some of the Insidious movies as well before Halloween 2018 made it mainstream/cool to do such things.
Is It Worth It?
Despite my appreciation for how it tries something different, I absolutely do not recommend this except maybe for a “so bad it is good” watch with friends and adult beverages. I’m still confused by how on earth this movie is 89 minutes long given how little happens. Other than the shock of Sean’s death, the Bahamas local, and maybe the banana boat this is just tedious. Which is again disappointing given the delightful cheese of Jaws 3-D.
Next post will be a wrap up of what I learned from watching all the Jaws movies and a ranking. Or maybe initial thoughts of the 2022 Texas Chainsaw Massacre which is…oh boy.