Deep Blood (1990)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2013-08-06 04:12

Written by: George Nelson Ott
Directed by: Raffaele Donato, Joe D'Amato (uncredited)
Starring: Frank Baroni, Allen Cort, and Keith Kelsch

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

ďWe know what you are doing. Get back to the harbor should be ashamed of yourself."

For whatever reason, Deep Blood seems like the forgotten entry in the Italian killer shark cycle. Sandwiched in between two infamously brazen Jaws rip-offs in Great White and Cruel Jaws, this 1990 effort hasnít achieved the same sort of infamy as its contemporaries (even Devil Fish was anointed by MST3K). I have no idea how this is possible. Donít let its lack of notoriety fool you because Deep Blood might actually be the most incredible, jaw-dropping, what-the-fuck-were-they-thinking experience out of the whole lot. Let that soak in for a minute because this film has such sights to show you.

The first is a cloying, corny credits sequence with overbearingly syrupy music, like something out of a sitcom or any afterschool special. We meet four young boys roasting weenies on a beach until theyíre interrupted by an old man who starts to babble about the kids being great warriors in some grand tradition of his people. Is he their grandfather, a la 3 Ninjas? Nope. Even betteróheís just some random Indian whoís decided to drop by and talk about the good old days, when he and his tribe were tasked with keeping an ancient sea beast at bay. Rather than pelt the old man with their hot dogs, the kids instead are totally taken in and convinced to take a blood oath before burying a block of wood in solidarity. Cut to ten years later, and the quartet have made it to their late teenage years. After Ben (Keith Kelsch) returns home for summer break, the guys look to reunite in their small town, where they each have their own drama to sort out before a great white shark starts to devour the locals.

Itíd be easy to mistake Deep Blood as another coming-of-age, young adult summer break movie. Ben is torn between his love of golf and business school and is having a tough time reconnecting with his dad, who now refuses to go out on the water after the death of Jimmy (itís never explained who this is exactly). One of the guys has trouble with his girlfriend. Then thereís Miki (Frank Baroni), who is perhaps meant to be mentally unstable and has daddy issues after his motherís untimely death a few years back. The fireworks between these two is something to beholdóletís just say the exchange ends with Miki wishing death on the old man before quickly coming back to apologize with his tail tucked between his legs. Meanwhile, as a group, these four are also constantly scrapping with a rival gang of assholes (we know theyíre assholes because they wear tight, black t-shirts and sunglasses).

All of this stuff has a strange presence in the film: on the one hand, it seems to be driving it because itís pretty much the only thing going on for the first 30 minutes. But on the other, it still feels totally obligatory and executed by people with no capacity for understanding human interaction. You have to try to make something feel this awkward; it doesnít help that the actors sometimes fumble over their lines, but nearly every moment feels like itís been inspired by a series of ďFor Your ConsiderationĒ reels, so the actors (especially Baroni) play it big, broad, and super earnest. Any scene featuring Baroni is a must-see, especially after the filmís inciting incident, which finds one of the guys being eaten by the shark while Miki stands on the dock all slack-jawed and dumbfounded. The tragedy unleashes a torrent of emotion: Mikiís bummed out that John doesnít even get a grave, and heís overcome when he inherits Johnís truck. He has his big throw down with his dad before having a big revelation when the Indian from the prologue returns like Obi-Wan Kenobi to remind him of his childhood pact, so he decides that itís up to him and his remaining friends to take down the shark.

That Deep Blood eventually degenerates into just thatóa group of childhood buddies reuniting to destroy a great white at the behest of an Indianís ghostóshould be enough to catapult the film to legendary B-movie status. Thatís a hell of a logline. Somehow, it gets better (or maybe worseóI donít know, this one kind of transcends the normal boundaries of quality) because I havenít even mentioned the local sheriff (Tody Bernard) yet; judging from the vaguely Creole drawls, the town is located in the American southeast, so of course a real hayseed, Buford T. Justice type is lording over the place. This guyís a real characteróweíre introduced to him via a re-election poster that insists that he deserves a vote because heís too old to get another job, and his first couple of scenes leave little doubt that heís going to steal the show. One of the main guys has been busted for shooting a harpoon into one his rivalsí car (!), but the sheriff lets him off the hook because he knows boys will be boys. Speaking of boys, one of his deputies brings in a little kid who just saw his mom get killed by the shark (itís actually the first scene after the prologue), and he gets no sympathy from the sheriff, who jokes about getting the kid drunk so heíll talk. Upon learning of the death of their friend, he tries to comfort the guys with some anecdote about his experience in Vietnam that ends with his insistence that life goes on (he might as well punctuate this with a crotch-grab and a throaty spit, just like a real good old boy).

Iím resisting the urge to describe every incredible scene like that because Deep Blood is full of them. However, lest you think that itís just a big yuk-fest that exists to be laughed off the screen, Iíll highlight perhaps the most important one it has to offer: about an hour into the film, after the guys have been resoundingly shamed out of pursuing their vigilante justice against the shark, one of their black-clad rivals meets up with them in the parking lot and offers a show of solidarity thatís consummated with a big, muscular handshake. Despite his clashing with them for the entire movie, heís totally drawn in by their bro-charms, and Iíll be damned if that didnít reflect my own feelings. Imagine a Michael Bay movie stripped of a couple digits in the budget department but still full of boneheaded, machismo swagger as a bunch of guys take it upon themselves to kill a shark. Itís almost a little heartbreaking that the film deflates from that moment, as it climaxes with a long, slow-as-molasses sequence involving an attempt to set some charges or something (unsurprisingly, itís never made clearóat this point, I think weíre just meant to assume that the sharkís gonna be blown to shit because thatís how these things go). These guys may have won me over a little bit, but not enough to watch them swim around the bottom of an ocean in an effort to pad the runtime.

Like the other Italian shark movies, this one boasts one of the countryís more infamous schlock masters in Joe DíAmato, who reportedly came aboard after original director Raffaele Donato bailed. Deep Blood is quite restrained compared to his other work, though, if only because the film couldnít afford elaborate effects. The shark attacks are lame and rely on a copious amount of stock footage in addition to some obligatory POV stalking shots that are accompanied with some Carpenter-esque synth banging. The sequence featuring the boy and his mother is actually decently staged, if only because itís sort of a bait-and-switch replication of the famous Alex Kitner scene in Jaws. Itís also another instance of gratuitous padding since itís never referenced againóseriously, even after itís confirmed that a shark is in the area, nobody bothers to even notice that the kid wasnít bullshitting when he said his mom was swallowed by the ocean. For what itís worth, the only other attack in the movie is just as worthless since it involves some gal who is carrying on an affair with a married man; after a lightly heated argument where she gets upset that he hasnít left his wife. Her solution? Leaving the car in a huff to go skinny-dipping. Whoops. The guy in question can hardly contain his shit-eating grin when he realizes heís off the hook for adultery.

Well, shit. There I go describing stuff in detail again. It suffices to say that Deep Blood begs to be discovered and embraced. Forget the recent tidal wave (or Sharknado) of irony-soaked bullshit: Deep Blood might be terrible, but itís a special, unwitting kind of terrible that actually works because thereís a weird, demented heart beating at its center. And, best of all, save for the tried-and-true twist where the coast guard kills the wrong shark, it actually doesnít borrow all that much from Jaws. In fact, it sees the ludicrous plot of Jaws: The Revenge and raises it a weird Indian and a blood pact. You think that was personal? Wait until you get a load of this shit. Rent it!

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