Every so often Hollywood will make a hit film that will have such a cultural impact that it will radiate a slew of lesser quality cash ins and knock offs. We had years of it post Die Hard with Die Hard on a bus, plane, ship, train etc.
The same thing happened with Jaws as Hollywood discovered that nature just kept on fighting back...mostly badly. Even the posters, covering everything from Tentacles to Blood Beach feature a scantily clad young woman in distress (and little else) about to be enveloped by the corresponding film’s creature.
Even when fully clothed and in the water, like Bridget Fonda is in the Lake Placid poster it still can’t help but evoke memories of Bruce and Chrissie. Tremors goes for exactly the same visual reference, the Jaws poster design showing its timelessness and how immediately synonymous it is with creature features right until this day.
Jaws with...a bear
One of the first films to jump on the Jaws bandwagon was Grizzly, a cheap 1976 effort that essentially ran the same story in a forest with a bear. I say bear, at times Bungle from Rainbow looked more threatening than the man in the bear outfit. The Revenant this ain't. They so should have used the tagline ‘not so Gentle Ben’.
Jaws with...a lawn mower
That's right, your eyes did not deceive you. An out of control lawnmower wages war on a golf course. It's pretty much a moment for moment remake complete with the Quint character meeting his end legs first and the Brody character having to hit golf balls at the advancing lawnmower for it to blow up. What Greg 'the Great White shark' Norman makes of it is any bodies guess.
Jaws with...a killer whale
A whale that is a killer by name, perfect! And it just so happens to be named after Quint's boat. To showcase how the Killer Whale is THE beast of the ocean the filmmakers had it destroy a great white shark in the opening minutes. Even with Richard Harris and a great score by Ennio Morricone, the actual film is something of a bloated mess that - considering its aim was to beat Jaws at its own game, it isn't half dull. You can’t help but be on the side of the whale in this one though, even though you know it isn’t real the incident that sets off the rampage still makes for repugnant viewing and it’s certainly a more convincing tale of vengeance and retribution than Jaws the Revenge. More Death Whale than Death Fish.
Orca may have taken swipe at Jaws but you can’t keep a good shark down and Jaws 2 returned the favour when it took out a Killer Whale in the first half of the film. Right back at you!
Jaws with...a snake
The most frightening thing in this hokey film featuring Jennifer Lopez and Eric Stoltz as (love to prove that and get your name into the) ‘National Geographic’ filmmakers kidnapped by obsessed snake hunter hunting, or should that being hunted by a giant snake, isn't the decidedly poor CGI effects but the scenery chewing by Jon Voight as the aforementioned hunter of snakes. He must have got some serious splinters in his sub-Quint role. Ice Cube, Danny Trejo and Owen Wilson also pop up in this fun but flawed b-movie hokum.
Yes, I know, a shark is also a fish, but what is more terrifying than one killer fish? Hundreds of little ones! Spielberg has dubbed this the best cash in on Jaws and was directed by Joe Dante and produced by Roger Corman, no stranger to quick and effective cash-ins on bigger budget films. Dante of course continued with monsters of the mini variety with Gremlins, Executive Produced by Steven Spielberg.
Piranha spawned a sequel called Flying Killers (also known as The Spawning in some quarters), which just so happened to be the directorial debut of one James Cameron. He needed a bigger boat and got one with Titanic.
A TV remake surfaced in 1995 starring William Katt and Alexandra Paul, from that other water-themed ‘terror’ Baywatch.
Piranha got the big screen remake treatment in 3D in 2010, which featured a certain Richard Dreyfuss poking fun at himself and his Jaws persona, whilst singing a familiar little ditty.
“you yell Barracuda, everybody says huh, what?'”" opines Mayor Vaughn to Chief Brody in Jaws, perhaps the colourfully-suited Mayor wouldn’t be so dismissive of this particular fish if he’d witnessed this movie which sees, that’s right, a small coastal town terrorised by deadly Barracudas. Cue investigation by local sheriff and scientist, which soon turns into a pseudo-conspiracy thriller, er lacking anything thrilling but still retain its eco-message today. Like your Jaws cash-ins? Be careful what you fish for.
Jaws with...an octopus
John Huston and Henry Fonda (who shot all his scenes in a single day) battled against a giant octopus in this ramshackle Italian American co-production that despite all of its tentacles lacked legs at the box office. It also shared something else with Jaws, an uncooperative star. Like Bruce, the lifesize octopus – let’s call him Ollie – would sink when put into water.
He’d still manage to wreak havoc on a California seaside community though.
Jaws with...an alligator/crocodile
John Sayles penned this tongue in cheek monster movie that showed us that even the sewers weren’t safe from creatures from the deep with bite. Another animatronic that didn’t like getting its feet wet but spent ‘retirement’ as a mascot for the Florida Gators. Just when you thought it was safe to step into the water closet…
Also see the really rather splendid Lake Placid (1999), featuring a crocodile. Fun, intentional laughs are followed by jumps and vice versa, great interplay by the impressive cast that includes Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Brendon Gleason, Oliver Platt and Betty White. It has some sparkling dialogue and set pieces as well as a witty and knowing script by David E. Kelley, the creator of Ally McBeal and direction by House and multiple Friday the 13th helmer, Steve Miner. Hands down the best Jaws imitator on this list and certainly the closest in terms of shifts from humour to sheer horror.
The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)
The title refers to two killer lions that rampaged across Tsavo, Kenya in 1989 and reportedly killed up to 135 people over a nine month period, and Mayor Vaughn thought he had problems! This true story about ‘the man-eaters of Tsavo’ is written by screenwriter supremo William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Marathon Man, The Princess Bride and Misery) and he pitched it as ‘Lawrence of Arabia meets Jaws’, swapping the sea of Amity for the windswept bush.
The atmospheric film features Val Kilmer in essentially the Roy Scheider role with Michael Douglas on Quint duties. There's a great Jerry Goldsmith score, some fantastic animatronics, as well as use of real lions, from Stan Winston and some great photography. Not perfect, but I’d be lion if I said it wasn’t well worth a look.
Blood Beach (1980)
Forget about worrying about what is in the water, you can't even reach it thanks to this killer son of a beach! As Quint might muse, that beach, swallow you whole and indeed that is what happens to the unfortunate victims of this b(each)-movie.
Like Jaws a seaside town is losing tourists and trade thanks to a spate of deaths. The poster was even a particularly fine spoof of the tagline for Jaws 2, ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water – you can’t get to it.’
Ridley Scott's classic doesn't really share anything with Spielberg's classic apart from both creatures possess a serious set of teeth and remained largely unseen. Perhaps that was one of the reasons it was pitched as ‘Jaws in space’.
Jaws did of course enter into space in 1979, in the form of Richard Kiel in the 11th James Bond film, Moonraker. Check out my Jaws Bond article here for more shark/007 related shenanigans.
A monster movie that doffs its hat (and it’s a rather fetching one worn by Kevin Bacon) in the direction of Jaws is Tremors. Like Blood Beach the monster comes from beneath and just like Just it reacts to vibration and stays under the sand for much of the film. Fun, disgusting and tense it’s a great homage to old monster movies with a huge dollop of Jaws thrown into the mix with Kevin Bacon (no doubt wishing he had an EE phone on him) and Fred Ward less all at sea but more all at desert as they try to outwit their unseen assailant. Not seen it? Graboid yourself a copy if you can.