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{Blu-ray Review} Sacred Duty: Subjecting Myself to Deep Blood (1990) So You Don’t Have To

“If the fish start biting too easy, it means there’s a storm coming.”

Deep Blood

Imagine if Stephen King’s IT were somehow even more nonsensically racist about a vague Native American “evil” while also being Jaws of Satan with a shark and also one of many low-rent Italian Jaws knock-offs that couldn’t afford to actually have a shark, but instead of any of those things it was mostly about rich, white, preppy kids being sad about how tough it is to be rich and white and preppy.

Literally the very first shot in Deep Blood is of a very sad-looking hotdog. This is a metaphor for what you are about to witness.

The flick opens with a group of kids hanging out at a sad beachside campout, roasting the aforementioned hotdogs. They are approached by a weird guy who is apparently supposed to be the film’s only Native American (in the credits, his character is identified simply as “Indian”) who tells them something vague about a sea monster, sent by the god of the ocean to wipe out whole tribes. He also dispenses some homespun traditional wisdom that sounds like something from The Fast and the Furious:“He who rides alone, dies alone.”

Courtesy Severin Films

The kids all swear a “sacred oath” to do something or other in the future, binding it by burying their pocket knives along with a wooden quiver that’s supposed to tell the story of the monster but never has any real bearing on the plot. Years later, after one of their number is killed by the shark, they’ll all come out to dig it up, even though it will continue to have very little bearing on the plot.

“You know, none of this makes sense,” one of our protagonists says to another, at roughly the midpoint of the film, and while he’s not wrong, nothing nearly exciting enough to justify such a statement has happened yet – or ever will.

Eventually, some stock footage of a shark eats a few people (three, to be precise) leading our protagonists to come to the conclusion that they have some kind of sacred duty to kill the monster. Since the filmmakers couldn’t scare up the money for even a ridiculous fake shark like the one in The Last Shark, shark attack scenes are accomplished by juxtaposing the aforementioned stock footage with scenes of people thrashing around in red Kool-Aid.

Until the film’s climax, no shark or human are ever seen in the same place at the same time, and even then it’s only a couple of shots of the shark’s snout in the background. The climax is, I shit you not, a nearly quarter-hour-long sequence of them scuba diving to slowly wire up explosives to an undersea wreck, which calls to mind the MST3K quip that if you shoot scuba diving in slow motion you can actually go back in time.

Courtesy Severin Films

When they finally do detonate the explosives, a toy shark breaks in two, as explosives are known to cause to happen. To get to that point, though, you’ll have to sit through some interminable scuba diving and a whole lot of sad preppie feels. I take notes when I’m watching movies for review, and one of my notes while watching Deep Blood – amid the pleas for death to release me from this curse – is one that simply reads: “So. Much. Sad. Yanni music.”

While the film is credited to director Raffaele Donato, the internet tells me that he actually directed only that first sequence, in which the boys seal their pact. The rest was helmed by Joe D’Amato for his Filmirage production company, and it’s D’Amato’s name that is all over the packaging of the Blu-ray from Severin, which ballyhoos that this is the “worldwide Blu-ray premiere of Joe D’Amato’s sharksploitation saga,” going on to argue that this “long-unseen chum bucket” may be his most “bizarrely entertaining anomaly ever.”

That would be a tall order, when describing the oeuvre of the guy who directed a wide range of softcore flicks, Anthropophagus, and Ator, the Fighting Eagle, to name just a few, even if it wasn’t being floated on the back of a deadly dull shark picture in which pretty much not one single thing ever happens.

“This film has such sights to show you,” the pull-quote, attributed to something or someone called “Oh, The Horror” on the back of the box begins. “It may be the most jaw-dropping, what-the-f*ck-were-they-thinking Italian killer shark movie of them all.” This makes me feel like I got the wrong disc, maybe. Or possibly whoever or whatever Oh, The Horror is has only ever seen this one Italian killer shark movie.

The back of the box pulls another quote from Oh, The Horror! later on, so the most likely explanation is perhaps that there are precious few sources to pull a solid quote in praise of this movie from. Both because it is boring and because, as the box had already asserted, it is not widely seen.

Courtesy Severin Films

Much of D’Amato’s filmography – as well as that of Filmirage as a whole – has gotten the RiffTrax treatment, so no one is really expecting these pictures to be the crème de la crème, but most of them are one kind of bonkers fun or another. With the exception of one extremely out there sequence where a kid’s dad goes on a tear about what a terrible person the kid’s dead mother was out of the blue, however, there’s nothing particularly bonkers in Deep Blood, and there are countless other, more fun cheesy Italian sharksploitation flicks lying right nearby that you could watch instead.

One thing you can say for Severin, though, even when they’re hauling out a turkey, they don’t skimp. The special features on the disc may be precisely a trailer (still more than the movie probably deserves), but the picture and sound quality are sharp (the better for you to hear all that sad Yanni music), scanned in 2K from the original film negative, and they’ve lovingly reproduced some key art that contains a whole lot more action than the entirety of the film put together.