Mako: The Jaws of Death is the prefect example of why something like Hooptober is great, and why adhering to the rules is so necessary. There’s no other way I would have watched this crazy riff on Jaws where, far from the shark being the terror, it’s the man with the psychic link to the water creatures, determined to preserve them against the greed of man at any cost. The film comes from William Grefé, who made a small name for himself directing raw exploitation films, usually around Florida. And while Mako: The Jaws of Death shows its pedigree, there’s a surprising amount of care given to the film, mixing conservation into its weird monster/slasher hybrid anchored by a better than you’d suspect performance from its lead, Richard Jaeckel.
THE QUICK SUMMARY: A man discovers he has a psychic connection to sharks, and the mystical medallion given to him by the old Shaman allows him to communicate and control his new sea-faring friends. Woe to the lowlife (including holy shit Odd Job from Goldfinger) who seeks to do harm to the sharks of Florida, because Sonny’s gonna come get you to protect and preserve sharks at any cost!
There’s no real overt horror or scares; Grefé is more concerned with Sonny and his eventual madness as everyone he meets exploits his passion and love for sharks for his own gains. Whether it’s the scientist who wishes to “study” a mother shark about to give birth or the seedy and corpulent nightclub owner who thinks he can spice up his wife’s aquatic show with some danger, the focus is on how these events affect Sonny, forcing his hand to deal with it violently, whether he uses his telepathic communication with sharks or simply kills them off himself.
There’s a message at the beginning of the film where Grefé thanks the crew who got a lot of the shark footage without the benefit of cages or other protective equipment, and even though some of the shot construction is obvious (the film liberally intercuts scenes on abeach with scenes in a pool, in a swamp, etc. to make it look like the sharks are there on screen), there are some shots that just look crazy, with swimmers holding onto shark fins as they travel underwater, or just play in a pool with sharks. The movie has just enough interesting going on and despite looking pretty low-budget is filmed nicely so that you stay engaged throughout.
As things heat up the action also ramps up nicely, resulting in a couple great sequences where a boat crashes into a dock with some surprises on board, and a great climax during a hurricane where the new nightclub goes…shall we say, badly. While not a great film Mako: The Jaws of Death is much better than you would think, and really pushes against comparisons to Jaws and other “monster attack” films.
I’m here for it.