CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy


12 Days of Terror Jack Sholder 2004

Deep Blue Me

Okay, so I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for shark movies. I honestly don’t care if they’re set in the Bahamas or Boca, if the cast can speak English, or if the shark is working with or without the assistance of head-mounted lasers. I don’t even mind if Susan George is involved – because as long as there’s at least one shot of the toothy motherfucker grinning up into camera (that’s the shark I’m talking about, not Susan), I’ve gotten my money’s worth. Any additional carnage or thrashing or bare chestage is really just added icing on the crab cake.

Naturally, my expectations for these kinds of movies are admittedly quite low. They’re usually either direct-to-video (the abysmal-yet-hilarious Shark Attack series) or made-for-TV (Spring Break Shark Attack!), and the ones that make it to the big screen are usually treated like bastard stepchildren at a family reunion (the brilliant, tragically underappreciated Deep Blue Sea). The production values are usually abominable, the acting wooden, and the effects pathetic. My favorite cheapie technique is when “mini submarines” are deployed against the beasts – not because they’re any more effective at capturing or killing them, but because it’s way cheaper to shoot in a closet decked out with a black-light than with an underwater camera rig.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled across the made-for-TV sleeper 12 Days of Terror, which I believe was produced for the Discovery Channel in conjunction with their wildly successful Shark Week festivities back in 2004. 12 Days stands apart from the Jaws-knockoff crowd for several key reasons. For one, it actually ADMITS to being a Jaws knockoff – Days is based on an actual series of shark attacks that occurred off the New Jersey shore in the summer of 1916, which were apparently the basis for Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws (which transported the action to the present and to Amity Island, thank God – have you BEEN to the Jersey shore?!). And the film wears its roots proudly – because hey, it’s technically not a ripoff of Jaws, Jaws is a ripoff of it! Self! Itself! Or something. Where’s that fucking Strunk and White…

Second, and far more importantly, Days is a period film. Let me pause for a second and let that sink in… a period… shark… film. No, I’m not just getting a jolly out of the fact that menstruating women draw sharks when they swim, think about it: this is 1916, when even men wore ridiculous “bathing costumes” to go in the water. BATHING COSTUMES, I say!! The only thing funnier than the sight of a day-player thrashing in the water as he’s attacked by a foam rubber predator is a day-player thrashing in the water as he’s attacked by a foam rubber predator WEARING A ONESIE AND A SPIT-CURL. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to keep yelling – but this shit’s awesome.

Anyway, the year is 1916 and the east coast has been taken by what the intro narration calls “the bathing craze” – apparently, it’s even bigger than the motorized carriage! Seriously, that’s what they say – apparently people would much rather splash about in the water than get to the store in less than 5 hours each way. Droves of pasty Americans are lumbering toward the nation’s beaches to burn their lily-white hides and flounder in the salt water, and of course the local government of the seaside resort town of Matawan is just tickled pink about that. But after something bites and kills a bather off the beach, local lifeguard Alex (Colin Egglesfield) starts to suspect that there might be a predator lurking off the shore, waiting to pick off bathers like so many bobbing marshmallows. No one listens to Alex, but they should: for one, he’s far too tan and muscular to be from their town, or even from their era – this is obviously a time-traveling soothsayer from the distant, steel-bicepped future, sent back to warn the citizens of Matawan about the danger and kill the toothy predator with one swing of his impossibly chiseled chin. Oh – and did I mention that in his future time, this man will be a recurring character on One Life to Live? Yes, folks: Kid Jersey the Sharkslayer is a Soap Stud.

Colin Egglesbenedict is reason number three to tune into this one, kids. This boy is FIIIIIIIIINE. Yes, it’s in a completely creepy Ken-doll kind of way, but I dare you to take your eyes off his ass for 2 seconds when he’s prancing around in that modest lifeguard’s outfit. He kind of looks like a fully-baked Tom Cruise – you know, like if Tom had been left in the oven for 10 more minutes and allowed to grow a few more inches and firm up a bit. Colin, you had me at “SHAAARK!”.

The rest of the film is surprisingly competent, well-shot, and bloody. As the shark makes his way around the beaches, chomping on people every now and then as if he were grazing at the local Shakey’s Buffet (one of the victims loses both legs below the knee, which I found rather graphic for a Discovery Channel original!) and raising tempers wherever he goes, we’re treated to a host of fun setups (ooh! It just went up the river, where the boys are swimming!) and plenty of old-timey good fun. Genre also-ran John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lord of the Rings) is on hand as our resident Crusty Seaman, but luckily he really doesn’t take up much screen time. The shark effects are surprisingly good – actually far better than most films of this size – and the production design is so precious that even the most jaded queen will squeal over the various bowlers and moustaches and hoop-skirts and what-not. Huzzah for art direction! Huzzah, I tell you!

But there’s a hidden draw to 12 Days of Terror that makes the film essentially required viewing for us, the seedy homosexual underbelly of the horror-viewing public. See, this little number was directed by none other than Jack Sholder, the genius responsible for the Gayest Fucking Horror Movie Ever Made, A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Fabulous Tea Party and Revenge. Now, I’m not going to say anything about Jack himself, because I don’t know him from Adam (Rapp) – but 12 Days has more homoerotic undertones than your average David DeCoteau film. Seriously – watch any of the dialogue scenes between 2 men, and look for 2 things: 1) the actors stand far too close to one another and seem to gaze at each other with unusual intensity; 2) the dialogue has more double-entendres than a Mae West routine. Seriously – these men seem to love staring one another in the face point-blank and saying things like “How big is it?” “Bigger than you could imagine” without cracking a smile. Every scene between Alex and his best friend Stanley (who is marrying Alex’s long lost love, Alice) seriously had me convinced that the two men were going to rip off their toggery and fuck the shit out of one another right there in the street, next to the saltwater taffy vendor. It doesn’t hurt that Stanley (Mark Dexter) makes men’s clothes and seems to have a little too much sugar in his Tang, but we’re not going to go there. Wait, did they have Tang in 1916? Well, then too much sugar in his Doctor Mephistopholes Fizzy Miracle Bowel Tonic.

Anyway, it’s a gay-seeming hoot, and a well-told shark panic tale for good measure, with just enough blood and thrashing to keep things interesting when the old-timey talkie scenes get a bit dull. There’s also a really fun moment when the shark jumps out of the water, which is simply delightful, and a few kids get devoured, which is always nice. In all, if you’re tired of the beach and want something frothy and fun to cool off with, 12 Days of Terror might be just your recipe for summer fun. In onesies!

Rating (out of 5):