5. Deep Rising (1998)
A full decade after the head to head battle between DeepStar Six and Leviathan ended in a draw of bombs, another filmmaker took a crack at a similar aquatic horror premise. An ensemble cast, an adventure far out at sea, and monsters! This being a Stephen Sommers flick it’s safe to assume that action will play a heavy role despite the horror, and that holds true as gun play, explosions, and even some jetski shenanigans keep the energy high. Treat Williams is having a blast, and his supporting cast is equally along for the ride with fun turns by Famke Janssen, Kevin J. O’Connor, and others. The creature uses a bit too much CG, but it’s hard to argue with a good time. (Rob Hunter)
4. Piranha 3D (2010)
Piranha 3D is such a good time it should be illegal. There’s something to be said for a movie that knows exactly what it’s doing and does it well. From the get-go, Piranha excels by leaning into its B-movie, schlocky glory. When spring breakers lay siege on a lakeside town in Arizona, everything is par for the boozy course until a cavern full of prehistoric piranhas are unleashed on the unsuspecting party-goers. What follows is an unabashed bloodbath that is as ridiculous as it is gory. Alexandre Aja clearly spared no expense when it comes to fake blood and the result is a horror movie worth hooting and hollering over. (Anna Swanson)
3. Piranha (1978)
A resort filled with vacationers enjoying fun in the sun and water is overrun with piranhas! You expect bloody carnage to follow, and you get it, but this being a Joe Dante film you also get heaping helpings of fun. John Sayles’ script offers a sly riff on Jaws (it’s the best of the ripoffs and one heck of an aquatic horror movie) that delivers its own thrills while also making room for personality and humor. Bradford Dillman is a terrific straight man and hero, and he pairs wonderfully with the increasing number of deaths, local power plays and politics, and mayhem.
Its similarities to Jaws led Universal to actually file an injunction to stop its release, but Steven Spielberg himself squashed the beef after seeing and enjoying an advance screening. Smart man. Dante’s film is a satirical take on the concept, but rather than land purely as a comedy it delivers a legitimate thriller in its own right as the killer fish terrorize the unwitting and the witless. The shot of a fish “unzipping” a large man’s bare belly with its teeth still haunts my dreams. But in a good way… (Rob Hunter)
2. Dagon (2001)
Sometimes films are released direct-to-video because they are simply too powerful for theaters. One such film is 2001’s Dagon, which also happens to be one of the wettest films ever made. In what might very well be the most faithful adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft put to screen (no small feat), director Stuart Gordon delivers a slimy, surprising tale of small-town mystery and unthinkable deep sea horrors. With marked (and intelligent) alterations the film more or less charts the irksome, wriggling shape of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, tapping into the frantic and escalating pace of its source material, putting us squarely in the increasingly water-logged shoes of our protagonist.
A boating accident sends a young couple to shore in search of medical assistance. When they finally arrive at the nearby Spanish fishing town, they discover a community deep in the bloated grip of an ancient deity. It’s the kind of local devotion liable to breed… unsavory mutations. So Dagon, in its infinite superiority, boasts not one undersea monstrosity, but many, each one more terrible, gargling, and incestuous than the last. (Meg Shields)
1. The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
There’s an image from Creature from the Black Lagoon that frequently resurfaces in my mind. Julia Adams is blissfully swimming through the luminous water while the Creature matches her movements below. She is alone, unaware. He is entranced, eager to reveal himself. We, the audience, are trembling.
What are the Creature’s intentions? Is he a confused animal a la King Kong, or is there something more sinister at play in his mind? My answer changes from watch to watch, but what never changes is my desire to return to the Black Lagoon over and over. As the film plays out, I imagine other possible scenarios and wish these two a better understanding of each other. But I guess that’s why The Shape of Water exists. Here, there is only horror. Emotional, affecting, aquatic horror. (Brad Gullickson)
Don’t dry off yet, there’s still time for more 31 Days of Horror Lists!
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