Anthropophagus (1980) and Beyond the Darkness (1979) were films I watched early in my evolution (devolution?) as a horror hound. They’re both kind of bad films I suppose, but they had a profound effect on me with their obnoxious gore and grimy cinematography. As such, Joe D’Amato – director of aforementioned films – is a name that brings a bubbling of excitement and revulsion to my broken grey matter. However, I kept my excitement in check for Deep Blood. According to IMDB trivia:
Raffaele Donato [the credited director of the film] had the idea of directing this movie himself, and so D’Amato [uncredited] went along with it; but after a few scenes Donato “didn’t feel up to directing the film through to the end, and since I was on the set anyway as producer and director of photography, he agreed that I should take over.”
Even with hugely lowered expectations, nothing could prepare me for the sleep-inducing horror that awaited.
original title: Sangue negli abissi
Italy, 1990, Joe D’Amato & Raffaele Donato
A decade or so later, the boys are grown up and suffering typical young adult problems – you know, like whether to join the Pro Golf Tour or study business. Meanwhile, in a scene that directly recreates the Alex Kitner death from Jaws except it reverses the roles (and it’s shit), a woman is gulped down by a big shark while her son watches on in mild, lip-quivering amusement. The town’s permanently sweating Sheriff (Tody Bernard) finds the kid’s story difficult to believe until John (John K. Brune), one of our heroic young men, is eaten in front of his pal, Miki (Frank Baroni).
The town is hit hard by the news. John’s dad is told of his son’s death in a heartrending scene shot entirely in wide showing a non-reacting, non-actor looking completely unperturbed. The Sheriff tells John’s friends war stories to ease their pain. The town bully responds with sensitive wit true to character.
In what is easily the best scene of the movie, Miki slips into a depressed state, annoying his father by expressing his teen angst through rebellious disco moog. His father then yells at Miki about his dead mother to which Miki responds by screaming: “I wish you had gotten eaten by that shark!”
Miki decides that revenge on a mindless animal is in order and organises his childhood pals to go on a motherfuckin’ shark hunt. Ben (Keith Kelsch) – the golfing champ of the gang – enlists his fisherman father (Charlie Brill) who is convinced to go along on the dangerous mission by a knowing look from his wife (Mitzi McCall), or “Ben’s mather” as the end titles credit her. During their chumming shark hunt, the coast guard catches wind and yells repetitively from a helicopter loud speaker: “You should be ashamed of yourselves!”
Events fart along in the way you’d expect them to. Anyone who has seen Jaws will know what to expect. There’s shit versions of all the primary characters. The sweat-drenched Sheriff replaces Chief Brody – only he’s utterly useless. Quint becomes Ben’s father – only he’s not an awesome bad ass. And Hooper is… well, this guy…
By the time the end credits roll, it seems nothing – nothing at all – has happened in Deep Blood. Even the unintentionally funny moments are few and far between. The film’s climactic shark hunt is dreary beyond belief featuring seemingly endless shots of the characters scuba-diving while soothing throbs on the soundtrack. An ending involving an underwater shipwreck, explosives, and a great white shark should not be this dull. There’s no tension, no threat, but worst of all there’s no fucking shark!
Yep, that’s right. Deep Blood is essentially a shark-free shark movie. The shark scenes use the same old National Geographic stock footage shark fans have seen a thousand times before. Supposedly, a mechanical shark head was constructed, but where the hell was it? I don’t have a problem with shark films with a lack of shark action (I’d take that over Sharknado any day), but no rubber shark and zero original footage is going too far. I’ll throw in half a shark for some decent matching of stock footage towards the end of the film.
I feel bad saying this out of a love for Joe D’Amato and cheap trash, but Deep Blood stinks. It’s the worst Italian shark film I’ve seen. Yes, it’s worse than Cruel Jaws (1995) despite the fact that Cruel Jaws steals footage from Deep Blood. (It’s not really fair to compare them though, Cruel Jaws is actually massively entertaining, though I’d struggle to consider it a legitimate film.) As the running time ticked by, I felt my mind slowly regressing to some sort of blank state of death or pre-birth. To its credit, Deep Blood turns boring into a kind of cinematic art form.
Deep Blood is yet to see a release in the United States. Actually, it’s yet to see a release anywhere except the Czech Republic. A few different bootlegs can be found.