Tommy Wiseau is back in the director’s chair, and his new horror movie couldn’t be more perfect for his awaited return. Known as the subject of The Disaster Artist, Wiseau’s unique visions have been bizarre but also entertaining. Cinema is subjective, and not every film needs to be a masterpiece. Wiseau may not be Steven Spielberg or Alfred Hitchcock, but he has his talents and an entire genre perfect for them.
Most known for the infamous 2003 film, The Room, Wiseau was able to forge an entire career from his eccentric personality and movies. His past filmmaking efforts include titles such as the 2010 horror short The House That Drips Blood on Alex and the sci-fi serial SpaceWorld. However, after several delays, Wiseau began filming the long-awaited Big Shark, his first full-length horror drama in which firefighters battle a killer sea creature on the rampage in New Orleans. Slated for a 2023 release, Big Shark marks Wiseau’s first directorial effort since working on Hulu’s sitcom The Neighbors in 2016, but it’s also so much more than that.
Promising an over-the-top and enjoyably goofy film, Big Shark is neither the first nor the last of its kind. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws began as a creature feature adapted from the Peter Benchley novel of the same name. Having won several awards and gained unimaginable popularity, Jaws inspired countless knockoffs, homages, parodies and sequels, giving rise to the genre of “sharksploitation.” Mostly considered B-Movies, sharksploitation preyed on the mystery, terror, and mythology surrounding the aquatic predators, bringing them to a fever pitch for almost half a century.
Earning the title of one of the scariest movies in history, Jaws somehow evolved into movies like Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre, Jersey Shore Shark Attack and, most notably, the Sharknado series. In modern cinema, an easy way to get a good laugh and entice morbid curiosity is to add “shark” to a movie’s title. A far cry from the sheer primal terror of Jaws, many modern shark movies dip into comedy and challenge directors to outdo each other with the absurdity of their premises. While Jaws may have made people afraid of what lurks in the water, films like Jurassic Shark, Shark Exorcist and Santa Jaws allowed them to suspend disbelief and laugh at it.
At one time considering himself a serious filmmaker, Wiseau grew to embrace the silliness of The Room’s drama and the so-bad-its-good reputation it garnered. He knows how to make a film enjoyable and work with surreal premises. And projects like The House That Drips Blood on Alex and SpaceWorld only worked because of Wiseau’s involvement. Goofy, overacted and unusually directed pieces are Wiseau’s bread and butter, and, by now, it’s what audiences expect from the creator of The Room. A horror drama like Big Shark is very much within his wheelhouse, as he’s able to give it the star power and unique vision it needs in an oversaturated genre.
Unlike the animals they portray, sharksploitation movies are swiftly evolving. However, as Hollywood attempts to create bigger sharks, over-the-top gimmicks and unbelievably campy cinema, what’s forgotten is whose behind the camera is just as important as what they’re filming. Movies like Big Shark only exist because Jaws had the talent of Spielberg to make what could’ve been another creature feature undoubtedly iconic. Wiseau may not create traditional masterpieces, but he still manages to entertain audiences his way, creating cult classics, some of which are arguably more memorable than some of Hollywood’s greatest projects, albeit for some very different reasons.