Jaws the Revenge (1987)
aka (unofficially) Jaws 4
Directed by Joseph Sargent
Written by Michael de Guzman, based on characters created by Peter Benchley
Starring: Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, Michael Caine,
Director Joseph Sargent’s Jaws the Revenge is the third and (so far) final sequel to Steven Spielberg’s horror/adventure classic Jaws, It is also notorious for being one of the worst sequels ever made; it ended Lorraine Gary’s acting career, temporarily derailed Michael Caine’s, and even Bruce the Shark was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor.
Michael Brody: Dad died of a heart attack!
Ellen Brody: No. He died from fear. The fear of it killed him.
Written by Michael de Guzman (The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay), Jaws the Revenge focuses on a now-widowed Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) as she tries to save her family from a revenge-seeking white shark. Yes, that’s right, a white shark with a personal vendetta against the Brody family.
Huh? Sharks can’t feel human motivations such as revenge, can they?
In the real world they don’t, but apparently Jaws the Revenge has, or is supposed to have a supernatural angle involving, of all things, voodoo.
Now, the filmed version of Jaws the Revenge doesn’t quite make it clear how a primitive predator that only swims, eats, and makes baby sharks can have psychic connections to their human victims. But in de Guzman’s original script, there was a subplot about the Brodys’ feud with a voodoo priest. The angry priest apparently uses magic to turn a white shark into a seagoing hit fish. (There are no Special Edition versions of Jaws the Revenge which contain this backstory, but Hank Searls’ novelization mentions the voodoo elements…without explaining them fully.)
The plot, such as it is, ignores the events of Jaws 3-D entirely. It returns (albeit temporarily) to the familiar setting of Amity Island. Ellen, still grieving over her husband Martin’s death, now lives with her younger son Sean (Mitchell Anderson). Happily engaged to Tiffany (Mary Smith), Sean is following his late dad’s footsteps and is a deputy in the Amity police department..
Unfortunately, Sean is also doomed to become shark food. In one of the film’s few truly chilling scenes, the revenge-seeking white shark munches on its victim as Christmas carolers sing in the background and drown out Sean’s pleas for help.
Reeling from this grievous loss, Ellen goes to the Bahamas to spend time with her surviving son, Michael (Lance Guest). Michael is a marine biologist, has a wife, Carla (Karen Young), and a daughter, Thea (Judith Barsi). He is currently studying the local marine wildlife with two other young scientists, Jake (Mario Van Peebles) and Clarence (Cedric Scott).
In the idyllic environment of the Bahamas, Ellen meets and falls in love with Hoagie Newcombe (Michael Caine), a charming middle-aged pilot. Their budding relationship heals Ellen’s emotional wounds somewhat, but it also creates tension between Michael and his mother. (Why? Does Michael feel fits of Oedipal jealousy, maybe? The movie suggests this, but it never resolves it.)
But, this being a Jaws movie, there is a grave disturbance in Ellen’s psyche. She believes that the shark that killed Sean did so deliberately because he was Martin Brody’s son. Worse, the shark may be pursuing the rest of the Brody family like a shark version of Captain Ahab.
Jaws the Revenge is almost universally considered to be one of the worst sequels ever made. It exists only because Universal Studios wanted to make more money off a franchise based on one of the best and most influential films of the 1970s. As the late Roger Ebert wrote in his 1987 review: “Jaws the Revenge is not simply a bad movie, but also a stupid and incompetent one – a ripoff.”
The movie’s weakest link, obviously, is the carelessly conceived screenplay by Michael de Guzman. The story is full of implausibilities, including a white shark that can somehow track Ellen from the cold waters off Amity to the Bahamas in a matter of days. De Guzman never bothers to explain how a shark can travel over 1000 miles in such a short time,
Another issue, which some die-hard fans of this movie defend as a matter of interpretation, is the use of footage from Jaws in Ellen’s flashback scenes. One that shows a younger version of Sean makes sense, kind of, since it involves a tender family moment in Spielberg’s classic.
But Ellen’s vivid flashback of her late husband’s climactic clash with a non-voodoo white shark is too ridiculous for most viewers to bear. Joseph Sargent, a veteran director who should have known better, shows a sepia-toned clip of Chief Brody killing the great white shark.Now, while Ellen may have heard about the incident after the fact, she was not there.
The film is hampered by many other flaws. The usually reliable Sargent fails to create the necessary amount of tension that a good horror movie needs. Unlike Jaws and Jaws 2, Jaws the Revenge is a pastiche of implausible plotting and half-hearted directing. Not even the Oscar-winning Michael Caine rises to the occasion to turn in a good performance. (Caine later admitted that he took the role just for the money. According to the Internet Movie Database, the actor once told an interviewer: “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”)
.Even though Jaws the Revenge has a good musical score by the late Michael Small, this is the least watchable of the three Jaws sequels. It is badly written, the special effects are inexcusably bad, and the acting is lazy.
- Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
- Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
- Dubbed: Spanish
- Region: Region 1
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Video
- DVD Release Date: June 3, 2003
- Run Time: 91 minutes