Up From the Depths Redux (Jaws 2, 1978)

Jaws_2_PosterWhen you beget the first summer blockbuster, the studio will want to get back to that gold mine.  Of course, Steven Spielberg did not return…reports include production conflicts as he was working on Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Others report that he thought sequels were a joke.  Close Encounters also prevented Dreyfuss from Returning.

However, much of the central cast did return.  Set a few years after the first film, Brody is still the Chief of police.  He is struggling with his teenage son Mike.  And when there are some mysterious deaths, Brody jumps to his default…a big shark. Unsurprisingly, everyone tells him he is crazy…I mean, ANOTHER shark?  Who is this guy? John McClane?!

Of course, it is a shark, another great white to be exact…and it falls on Brody to put an end to it.

Jaws 2 is not really terrible.  It can be downright suspenseful in fact.  There are moments of high drama.  But in this film, there is no Quint or Matt Hooper for Martin to play off of.  He gets support from his wife, but in the end, it is all on Brody’s shoulders to kill the shark.

The film skips the hiding of the shark as the director felt there was no way to duplicate the original film’s big reveal.  And he is correct.  But the shark in this film seems even more rubbery, especially noticeable in a scene where the shark barely misses Mike Brody and slides against the boat.

Jaws 2 is a decent attempt to follow up the original, but in the end, it more imitates it, with only limited success.

I do have one question…after the events of the first film…who the heck voted to keep Mayor Vaughn in charge of things????

Guys Love Their Cars (Christine, 1983)

Christine-1983-PosterAfter the Thing, Carpenter went with a different type of terror.  In some ways, it is a return to the ghostly tale of the Fog.  But instead of Leper Pirates, Christine is the tale of an obsessive car.

Nerdy Arnie is put upon…he has one friend (athlete Dennis) and overbearing parents.  He discovers a decaying old car, a 57 Plymouth Fury.  It’s first owner named it Christine and Arnie falls in love.  He buys the car, and it begins to love him back.  Christine brings about a change in Arnie.  He dresses a bit cooler, he behaves with a bit more attitude.  He even gets a girlfriend.  Attractive Leigh, who is new to the school.  Christine begins to take out the bullies who make Arnie miserable, but the obsession between Arnie and Christine grows and becomes dangerous to his only friends.

Christine is a very good adaption of Stephen King’s work.  It focuses on what is important, even when it makes changes.  Christine’s first owner (Roland LeBay) is the ghost that haunts her.  Arnie purchases the car from him and then he dies.  It is revealed he was a dark man and he has a dark history.

Carpenter optioned to, instead, make Christine a spirit of her own.  And it works quite effectively.  Keith Gordon (Jaws 2, Dressed to Kill) captures Arnie’s descent into truly obsessive behavior effectively.  He take Arnie from Sympathetic to frightening so well.

Visually, the movie is impressive.  There are some amazing shots of Christine (one where she is driving down the road engulfed in flames).  The effects are  “simple” but very effective.  When Christine is damaged, she “fixes” herself and it looks great.

It is interesting to note that the initial negative response to Carpenter’s The Thing left John feeling like he had to take the job.  He did not find the book particularly scary.  And yet, in the end, he created an effect story of obsession certainly belonging in a list of great John Carpenter films.

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