Jill and I batted around the idea of doing political movies this month but after the last couple of weeks the UK has had and all the bullshit currently wafting around on Jill’s side of the pond, I think we made the right choice to back away from that for a while.
Instead, we’re doing Shark Month in honour of the USA’s wonderful Shark Week. We don’t have it here and frankly, it’s a travesty. Bonus is, I can pretend Nigel Farage is the one being terrorised and it makes me feel better.
Jill picked this week and I was all ready to mock the shit out of this overly dramatic TV movie. In the end I actually became rather engrossed.
Call it the handsome and earnest leading man, call it the hilarity of most of the cast members being all too eager to jump into the water even though there’s a goddamn shark in there!
Whatever it was, let’s get down to business. *Spoilers* as usual, though this is a shark movie so you can guess a lot of it.
12 Days of Terror (2004)
For 12 days in July, 1916, a shark patrolled the waterways of northern New Jersey. This docudrama is based on Richard Fernicola’s account of those days.
It’s 1916 and there’s this new craze called sun bathing sweeping the nation. People are flocking to the New Jersey shore to cure their polio in the sunshine and to not think about the World War raging across the ocean. The Jersey Shore in this scenario is very different to the shore we know and love today (or so the film would have us believe). Though, I’d have paid good money for a cameo from Snooki.
Our hero is Alex (Egglesfield) and let’s no beat around the bush, having to watch him wrestle sharks for the next hour or so is not going to feel like a chore. He’s a good egg this one, life guarding like a boss on the beach outside a posh hotel and mentoring other less experienced life guards on his watch.
He receives a visit from his best friend Stanley (Dexter) and his fiance Alice (Harrison), who we later learn used to be Alex’s girl (oooooooh!). Alex tells Stanley he’s totally cool with them getting married (riiiight) and even helps Alice make a decision on the kind of cake they’ll be having on the big day. Like I said, kind of a hero.
Unfortunately, this is the first day of terror and a dandy called Charles (David Jeffery) becomes our first victim. It’s at this point I have to say, Charles, your dog is barking violently at something in the water, perhaps at least approach it with caution? Always listen to the animals, dude! As he runs into obvious trouble further out, Alex dives in to rescue him without a single thought for his own personal safety. Charles has a huge chunk missing from his leg and sadly does not make it to see day 2.
Alex is adamant that this was a shark attack (I mean, duh) but some ‘experts’ swoop in and imply that it could of been a torpedo. Ummmm… a torpedo with teeth? Alex doesn’t buy this one bit and suggests that perhaps they close the fucking beach until they know the score? But alas he is but a lowly
Tom Cruise impersonator lifeguard and he’s poo-pooed.
Again, he’s not happy but what can he do but stay vigilant? The Mayor (Patrick Lyster) isn’t keen on losing out on the tourism and the President of the U S of A is due to visit any day now so the show must go on. They speak to yet more experts who state that it would be highly unlikely for the shark to come back (haven’t they seen Jaws?).
Come to think of it, Alex is our Roy Schneider, running around crazed and trying to cut through bureaucratic red tape in order to save lives. He’s also mates with a salty old sea dog called Captain (see what he did there?). Captain is John Rhy-Davies who was Gimli in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and I quite fancy him.
Since this is 12 days of horribleness, you can guess that the shark does indeed come back and this time it’s personal as he bites off Alex’s mates’ legs (both of them, no messing). Alex once again is first to the scene and it doesn’t end well for his friend, I think his name was Danny?
After this attack, the authorities half-heartedly concede that there might a problem and place some big steel fencing around the beaches to make it safer for swimmers. Alex has lost all his enthusiasm for the job since Danny’s death and quits, has a fight with Stanley (who tries to stop him doing anything rash. Oops TOO LATE!). He takes a job with Captain as his first mate, which sounds legit. Captain seems to fish a bit and just hang about on the docks but this time he’s been contracted to fit the fencing.
While they’re fitting the steel posts in the water, one of Cap’s crew gets spooked and shoots at the water, claiming he can see a shark. Alex and another crew member are in the water at this time and I have to say that absolutely nobody seems that arsed about shark attacks. And yeah, I get that rivers aren’t the usual stomping ground of great white sharks but when Captain sees a formidable shadow streaking through the water towards the creek and goes suitably mental, nobody else reacts accordingly.
You would not have to tell me twice to stay the fuck out of the water, let me assure you. Anyway, Captain is in his little row boat shouting at children to get the fuck onto dry land but he’s only one man and can’t get to them all. So a small group are splish splashing about when our shark rocks up.
A hysterical mother shouts to them from the river bank and they do nothing because they can’t hear her! Kids, eh? They pay the price for not reading her body language so there’s a lesson here.
When Stanley hears that a kid he knows is in the creek he gets rather heroic. I can’t work out at this stage if the kid is his (I don’t think so) but whatever, it’s enough to get Stanley moving. Several local men leap into the creek but don’t find the kid. I’m not going to outline each and every death for you, don’t worry but tragedy strikes round about here and makes Alex even fucking angrier that before.
Meanwhile, I’ve missed out a part where Cap seems to have caught a shark but there’s still another shark out there (I think this happened, I have an image of it), so there must be multiple sharks out there. Alex isn’t pleased that his mate is making money out of tragedy but this is how Cap rolls and I think we all just have to accept that.
Also sniffing around is a strange dude called Michael Schleisser (Jamie Bartlett) who works with dangerous animals. He doesn’t really have much going on apart from a deep fascination for the shark and attempts to go out on Cap’s tiny boat to see if he can catch it. As one does. He’s really dislikable and has an air of the guy who captured King Kong to me. He’s definitely not that into animal welfare and in it for himself.
Alex and Cap tell Schleisser his plan, to somehow ensnare the shark in a net and get dragged along by it until it tires itself to death, is rubbish but he’s having none of it. The shark must hear them talking and get fucked off as he jumps out of the water and tries to bite Captain.
There’s a final Jaws-esque show down between shark and human men, and I’m going to let you see how that turns out.
What becomes of pretty Alex? Does Schleisser rightly so get eaten by our big fishy friend? Will Alice and Stanley make it down the aisle after all this drama is over, or will a place open up by Alice’s side?
And what of the shark, whose only real crime is being a shark and going with its animal instincts?
Way more thrilling and entertaining than expected. It’s cheesy of course but the period setting lends it some class. It’s very reminiscent of a certain Spielberg directed shark movie but that’s because the film is based on the true-events that also inspired Jaws so you can’t blame it for that.
Shots beneath the surface of the sea are very Jaws-y and tense though this film lacks the horror element that made Jaws so amazing. You do actually care for some of the victims which helps and I have to say the fact you don’t see the shark for a good while helps the build up.
Some of those characters are so dumb though and none of the female characters really get a look in. Alice is a very 2D, decorative prop (and I say prop because she’s only there to add a subtle tension between the two best friends). It’s like one big fisherman’s club up in this joint. Also, when an experienced fisherman/lifeguard tells you to stay on dry land, STAY ON DRY LAND!
My Rating: 3/5. A TV movie that feels like a TV movie but like, a goodish one.
Did Jill circle this movie with interest or was it nothing but chum to her? Find out here.