Welcome to Written in BLOOD! This monthly series will take a look at the long-lost novelizations of some of horror’s finest films! Sometimes these novelizations stay very true to the final product, and sometimes they go completely and absolutely bonkers! Either way, we will examine the details and the subplots written in these books that add to the stories we already know and love.
The passion for revenge is a strong and sometimes almost overwhelming emotion. It’s one that I’m very familiar with, and a path that I am currently on in my life. You see, several years ago, I had purchased a very special Halloween candy for myself. I then froze said candy, as one does, to preserve its crunchy deliciousness for the months to come.
What do I find when, come Christmastime, I went into the freezer to fish out these delicious treats? Nothing. I found an empty cavern of despair and forlorn hope occupying the space where my precious once sat. The culprit? My Wife. She who is supposed to “have and to hold” me as long as “we both shall live”. Trust me when I say that I’ve been working on my revenge for half a decade now, and when that foul tree finally bears fruit, all shall know my wrath.
So, yeah, you might say that revenge is something I’m familiar with. This makes me the perfect writer to take a look at Jaws: The Revenge and try to determine what exactly the hell went wrong here.
Jaws: The Revenge is a terrible movie. It’s not even close to the so-bad-it’s-good realm some horror films inhabit. It’s arguably one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and I’ve seen 2017’s The Dark Tower. When you line up the worst horror sequels of all time, 9 out of 10 writers would have this one in the list. The other writer would be the shark from Jaws: The Revenge.
The film follows Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary, reprising her role from Jaws and Jaws 2) as she tries to celebrate Christmas on Amity Island, where she continues to live after the death of her husband, Martin. Their youngest son, Sean (Mitchell Anderson), has joined the family business and is a Deputy for the small town, and is preparing to celebrate Christmas with his mother and new fiancé.
Before leaving for the night, the station receives a call that there’s some wreckage piled up in the channel, and Sean needs to go fish it out. You can probably guess where this is going, but as soon as his hand hits the water, Sean’s arm is ripped from his body like It’s Georgie reaching for his boat.
After some staring off into the distance, Ellen decides to move down to the Bahamas with their other son, Michael (Lance Guest). For some reason, she feels like the same shark that killed Martin (by giving him a heart attack, it has been revealed) also killed Sean, and now is heading to the Bahamas for some Beachfront Bargain Hunting. Obviously, everyone thinks she’s coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs, until a Great White appears and tries to kill both Michael and his young daughter.
Yadda Yadda Yadda… Ellen steals a boat, the big fish finds her, and she and stabs it in the face with the bow which somehow makes the shark explode. It’s not great, ok. We already established that. The film sits at a very impressive 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, putting it in league with films like Staying Alive (1983), two different Police Academy movies (4, and 6), and Mac and Me (1988). The special effects aren’t special (the shark looks like it is made of foam and can barely open its… you know… Jaws), and the shark famously roars like a lion during the final climax of the film. People who fall into the shark’s mouth end up living with barely a scratch on them (Justice For Quint), and Ellen shows some form of psychic Spidey-Sense (Sharkey-Sense?), giving her neck a tingle whenever the beast is around.
Like I mentioned before. It’s terrible. It’s poorly edited, overacted, cheesy and just downright boring. The film’s biggest travesty, however, is that it never explains why in the hell a Great White shark wants to take revenge on the Brody family. It obviously isn’t the shark from the first two films, so is it, like, a cousin? Is it angry because Ellen ate all of the special Halloween candy he had saved in the freezer? They never tell us. They just say, “Hey, the shark that killed Sean is now traveling into warm water where there are no Great Whites (which isn’t technically true, but whatever) and they want to kill all of the Brodys”.
Luckily for those of us who are gluttons for nonsensical punishment, we have the novelization. In it, author Hank Searls tries his best to flesh out a comically weird plot to give us some reasoning behind the shark’s seemingly supernatural thirst for revenge.
Released six months after the film and based off of an early screenplay, the novelization brought back the same writer who wrote the Jaws 2 tie-in. Hank Searls, known for his military and aviation-based fiction, is a fantastic writer who has a true talent for descriptive writing. That being said, he did everything he could to turn the pile of garbage script sent to him into a book that made any sense at all.
The book ties directly into his previous novelization, including the weird Ellen/Hooper affair that happened in the original novel by Peter Benchley but smartly excluded from the films. While the novel isn’t necessarily good, it does give us a few nuggets of gold that make it the infinitely superior version of Jaws: The Revenge.
The Shark’s Parentage
This shark is a BEAST, clocking in at twenty-eight feet long and weighing over 3,000 pounds. You might be wondering why little old Amity is a haven for such huge sharks. Well, it turns out that he is hanging out near there for a reason, for his father was the shark from Jaws, and his mother gave birth to him while being electrocuted by Chief Brody in Jaws 2. Seals writes:
The great white drifted lazily for a while. He was near the waters in which he’d been conceived, sired by a male almost as big as he. His mother, enormous, gravid with young, had swept through Amity Sound like death itself.
So, it wasn’t the same shark that scared Brody to death, it is that shark’s son. This makes things work a little better because the first shark was blowed up real good and the other rode the lightning in the sequel. This shark, now an orphan in the world like a very toothy Dory, is stomping around his hometown, looking for a bite.
Do you smell that? It smells a little bit like… REVENGE!
Papa Jaques and the Power of Voodoo
The book, being just over 300 pages long, has to pad a lot of the story to make it worth reading. In one particularly juicy storyline, we learn that it isn’t just a thirst for Brody flesh that brought the shark down into the Bahamas, but actually the work of a Voodoo leader named Papa Jacques.
As silly as this might sound, it actually makes more sense than the story given to us in the movie. After an altercation with Michael, who feels like Papa Jacques is a con man, the good Doctor uses his power to take control of the shark and send it after the Brody family.
(sniff… sniff… is that… REVENGE?)
It was one of Michael’s shirts, stolen by a devotee from his washerwoman’s line that day. The houngan fingered his shark-tooth necklace, sent his mind beneath the sea, and went into a trance himself.
In another passage from the book, Papa Jacques steals a pail belonging to Michael’s daughter, Thea, and curses it. This makes Thea go into a trance and try to walk out into the sea, where the shark is waiting. In these sections of the story, we are taken into the shark’s POV, where even it doesn’t understand the forces driving it south to kill.
Proving that it was, in fact, Papa Jacques that was controlling the shark, the witch doctor falls down dead after the shark is impaled. There is no mention of the man exploding on impact, however.
As you can see, both the film and the novelization are a bit silly. What the novelization does for the story is give it a bit of nonsensical realism. The shark is the offspring of the previously murdered sharks, and he is under the control of a witch doctor out for blood. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s better than the unrealistic happenstance surrounding the plot of the film.
It also has helped me in my own quest for candy-related revenge. So, if you know of any Voodoo priests who also have a personal vendetta against my wife, have them send me an email. I have a proposition I’d like to discuss with them.
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