Thursday, October 27, 2016

"The Shark is Too Slow!" - Blood Surf (2000) - Part 1 of 2

Next we will enter the arena of extreme sports to consider 2000’s Blood Surf, also known as Krocodylus, a modern classic combining surfing and suspense with a poignant parable about the dangers of racism. The director’s father directed Theatre of Blood (1973) with Vincent Price, and his brother directed Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1993), so the audience is clearly in skilled hands with this film.

As with most high-quality films, the reviewers of your primitive universe fail to admire the strengths of Blood Surf. For example, James Mudge writes, "The only real atmosphere the film has is one of cheapness, and this is bargain basement stuff in nearly every department." On Amazon, C. Dennis Moore writes, "I was disappointed mostly in the lack of imagination the plot showed. Sure, blood surfing itself is an interesting premise, I suppose, but the execution of this thing just left way too much to be desired." It will take a detailed examination of the sophisticated plot and subtext to counter such uninformed opinions.

As always, the description below includes spoilers.

Our film opens with a closeup of a woman's eye, intercut with scenes of what appears to be a shark attack in the still ocean.

Over the main titles, we watch surfers in a seaplane discussing their venture: They are being paid a lot of money to be filmed as they surf with sharks, apparently while bleeding in some way. Of course, they are very excited to participate in this new sport of blood surfing. The two surfers are Americans named Bog and Jeremy. They are accompanied by two filmmakers—an American producer named Zack and an Australian camerawoman named Cecily.

The seaplane lands in a bay on Palm Island, where a boat meets the party and takes Zack and Cecily to shore. Bog and Jeremy are left behind in the plane while the boat glides across the mirror-still bay to the beach. Feeling a great need to get to the shore first, the surfers take advantage of the large waves in the same bay to surf their way to the same beach.

   

Once they arrive ashore, they meet up with their guides, who warn them about shark infestation around the island, and especially at Lilo Cay, where they plan to surf.


Their original guides don't want to take them, so Zack tries to hire an Australian guide, John Dirks, to take them. Dirks is played by Canadian actor Duncan Regehr, famous for playing Dracula in The Monster Squad 13 years earlier. At first, Dirks refuses to guide them because he believes he would be accessory to murder, but his girlfriend Artemis eventually convinces him to take them where they want to go by dancing suggestively at an open-air restaurant. "I decided to accept your offer," says Dirks. "Follow me. I'll tell you how to get there." Zack and Cecily follow Dirks, presumably to get directions to Lilo Cay.

The next day, without Dirks and Artemis, they take a boat called the Picnic to another island. On the boat are the producers Zack and Cecily, the surfers Bog and Jeremy, and the married guides and their daughter Lemmya, who flirts with Jeremy.


When they reach Lilo Cay, they all grasp hands and the guides pray for protection. Then they open a barrel of bloody chum and scoop it into the surf to attract sharks. The daughter, Lemmya, gives Jeremy an amulet for protection.

A half-dozen sharks arrive. Cecily puts on a chain mail wetsuit and jumps into the water with her video camera. The surfers get their boards and perform one more action before jumping in: They slice their feet open with knives. Otherwise, of course, it would not be blood surfing.

   

Thus begins the film's famous blood surfing sequence. Sharks fill the waves while Bog and Jeremy surf for several minutes toward the shore. In the end, they are unharmed, except for the damage that was self-inflicted by their own knives. "The shark is too slow!" Jeremy yells as he reaches the shore.

   

However, Cecily is still in deep water between the boat and the shore. Sharks surround her, bumping against her chain mail. Bog swims back into the surf and manages to get Cecily on his surfboard. They all make it to the beach, and the Picnic has docked nearby.

Now, Zack says, it's time to get back in the water for some more footage.


But something is not right in the water. One of the sharks suddenly explodes. This appears to surprise the documentary crew, who, perhaps sensibly, decide to quit for the day rather than deal with exploding sharks.


Jeremy and Lemmya decide to search for temples in the jungle while Zack and Cecily make out on the beach. Bog surfs.


Offshore, Lemmya's parents sit on their boat. Her mother, feeling hot, jumps into the water while wearing her purple dress. A shadow moves under the water. Something shakes the boat. Lemmya's father calls for his wife to get back on the boat.

Then, in short order, something devours the father and the mother, and then, among the ruined temples, Lemmya herself. As it gets Lemmya, we see that it is a giant crocodile.


It is here, with the introduction of the giant crocodile, that the filmmakers' intentions become evident. The crocodile is clearly a metaphor for the racism inherent in society. The beast goes after the nonwhite islanders immediately, removing them from the picture. The narrative next focuses on the white documentary crew, who find the wrecked boat a few yards from the dock along with evidence that the family has been eaten. But there is another problem: The camera with the blood surfing footage is in the wreckage of the Picnic. Bog reasons that his career is dependent on the footage, so he dives into the water to find it, which he quickly does, after reenacting the head-in-the-water scene from Jaws with Lemmya's mother's skull. Bog climbs back onto the dock.

Surprisingly, the crocodile starts using its ability to set off explosive charges with its tail to destroy the dock from underneath. The crew runs back to land.


The crocodile is nearly as fast on land as it was in the surf. It chases them through what appears to be a cornfield--possibly a reference to the same director's Children of the Corn 3: Urban Harvest.

Through the power of white privilege, they lose the crocodile, only to be confronted by machine gun-wielding mercenaries. The semi-friendly mercenaries lead them back through the cornfield to their two-story boat, which appears as if it could double as a tiki restaurant/bar.


The mercenaries attempt to have their way with Cecily, but she is rescued by a sudden crocodile jump attack targeting her would-be rapist.


Again, the crocodile eliminates the nonwhite mercenaries while it refrains from harming the white characters--it even protects Cecily, whether intentionally or unintentionally, from being raped.

In the aftermath of the attack, Bog and Jeremy take a page from the Don Knotts playbook by bonking the mercenaries on the head and kicking them into the water. The crew steals the boat and leaves the remaining non-white characters to be eaten by the crocodile.

Unfortunately, a stray gunshot starts a fire on the boat. The documentary crew jumps into the water for safety just as the boat explodes. Like a shark.


Fortunately, the white people are immediately saved by grouchy Australian/Canadian Dirks in his little inflatable raft. They all climb aboard Dirks's larger boat, the Fury, which he pilots back toward the first island.


So ends the first part of our exploration of the powerful anti-racism film Blood Surf. What will happen next? Will there be blood? Will there be surf? The answers are almost certainly yes. Stay tuned for Part 2. Farewell!

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