A man eating shark goes on a nasty tour of the Jersey shore in this excellent terror tale that actually happened.
The time is 1916 and while Europe engages in a world war the Jersey shore is bustling with business thanks to a record heat wave and tons of tourists streaming in from New York and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately a warm current has brought in a feeder from way outside the area. This deep ocean predator is then drawn to the beaches by the vibrations caused by swimmers frolicking in the waves.
Meanwhile a young life guard, Alex, has his hands full with the overcrowded beach. When a young man heads off into the deep end he is on his own ,except for the big fish that swims up to greet him . His thrashing around alerts Alex who gets him to shore and engages other life guards in a desperate effort to get the man help. Unfortunately his wounds are too traumatic.
The mayor is none too pleased when Alex theorizes a shark was the culprit. The thriving hotel trade helps bury the story but a second attack changes everything. Now the tourists are coming in waves but only to gawk at the carnage . The press descends on the area and a sideshow atmosphere develops. The tide does bring n an expert who is convinced the shark is a Tiger or Great White . He’s also sure that the beast will stay around as long as there is a food supply. Mind you this theory flies in the face of popular thought at that time.
The beaches clear out which doesn’t stop the problem. The shark merely moves inland and winds up in a tributary that runs through the town of Amboy where it goes on the attack again. Alex pursues it alongside a fisherman pal and the pair try to warn the locals but a series a devastating attacks see two more deaths.
This is good stuff thanks to a strong desire to tell the story truthfully. The attacks are rendered as they actually happened though the finale, in which three men battle it out with the fish, is a little bit of a Hollywood concession. For the most part this sticks to the facts as related in the book, of the same title, by Richard Fernicola.
This premiered on ‘The Discovery Channel” but don’t let that scare you off. I mean these are the guys who do ‘Shark Week.” It is plenty scary just covering the actual events and the film gets a boost by a seasoned director, Jack Sholder(The Hidden and Alone in the Dark).
The story obviously inspired “Jaws.” That film took place in the fictional town of Amity but it’s not much of a stretch to make that into Amboy. The enterprise is well acted with Colin Egglesfield doing a solid job as “Alex” and John Rhys-Davies(Raiders of the Lost Ark) as the salty fisherman who does battle with the creature.
Best Line: “I am a fish man.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.