One Of The Scariest Scenes In Deep Blue Sea Floods The Kitchen

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato. In this edition, Matt goes swimming with sharks who may or may not once have been LL Cool J.)

Horror cinema's adoration of shark attacks is well documented, but swimming with the big fish is not easy. Renny Harlin's "Deep Blue Sea" might be a late '90s standout, only to still be well-remembered by fin flick fans who've since been subjected to more duds than dandies. "Deep Blue Sea" — even after two decades — is a shining example of primitive and practically-competent shark cinema with an iron bite. It's exquisitely outrageous, hunts with purpose, and has a few nice underwater scares you still probably remember.

Samuel L. Jackson's demise in the jaws of a jack-in-the-box Mako is the gotcha everyone typically recounts from "Deep Blue Sea." In terms of jump scares, it's a doozy. Jackson's presence as a legendary monologue deliverer means we're hunkered down for a lengthy, astoundingly articulate speech, and then wham — lunchtime! The left-field surprise keeps giving even when you know what's coming, but it isn't my favorite scare from "Deep Blue Sea." We'll get there.

The setup

Like most creature features, "Deep Blue Sea" is about humankind tampering with nature and finding the f*** out. Dr. Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgård ) and Dr. Susan McCallister (Saffron Burrows) head a submerged research facility where they experiment on Mako sharks. Specifically, they're trying to help reactivate dormant human brain cells like those found in Alzheimer's patients. The sharks could be the key to curing or weakening a terrible disease, despite apparent risks.

Eventually, one of the sharks escapes and attacks innocents nearby. Pharmaceutical suits can't have that kind of attention, so they send corporate executive Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) to investigate the operation. Others like wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) and chef Sherman "Preacher" Dudley (LL Cool J) try to go about their days like business as usual, but the appearance of Franklin has everyone on edge. You know, before the sharks start eating people.

The story so far

It's not long before everything turns to chaos. Dr. Whitlock gets his arm bitten off when testing a protein complex on the biggest sedated Mako when it snaps awake and chomps downward. Tower operator Brenda Kerns (Aida Turturro) dies when she radios for a medevac airlift, because the alpha shark pulls Jim's stretcher down into its pen, flinging the attached chopper into Brenda's station. Everyone begins to panic, and Dr. McCallister reveals troubling information — all the sharks have enlarged brains and are now more intelligent, meaning deadlier. Foolish scientists created even more perfect killing machines.

Carter, Dr. Whitlock, and others scramble to the facility's wet entry in hopes their submersible can provide an escape method. It's here where Franklin is dragged into the access hatch by one of the Makos, and that plan is nixed. Then the group ascends ladders upward, with the destabilizing pool underneath — where "Jan" Higgins (Jacqueline McKenzie) dies after falling into the shark-infested waters. Everyone's having a horrible time trying to escape genetically enhanced supersharks, especially head chef Preacher, trapped inside the flooded kitchen with an aquatic foe.

The scene

Preacher wades through the waters of his workspace, teeth chattering — maybe out of chilliness, probably out of fear. He clutches a tiny axe, preparing for the sudden surge of one of the facility's sharks. It's quiet with no signs of movement as the camera cuts from Preacher's skittish glances to his stripped chef's pants below the surface. He clambers onto a steel preparation area fixture just as the entryway doors swing open, pushed by something not yet visible.

Preacher presumes he's no longer alone as he clings to shelves while standing on a cutting area. His eyes survey the murky waters with shadowy cover. Still no sign of fins or figures. He focuses on climbing a bit higher, when Preacher's parrot gives him a proper jolt.

Preacher loses his balance and almost falls back into the water but regains control at the last moment. He's breathing heavier and faster, knowing any swim will be his last. His parrot lands on a floating pot. "Be careful," the winged companion squawks. Smartass.

As any animal-loving owner would, Preacher outreaches his hand to the pet and beckons for a hop to safety. Preacher's hand is also bleeding, which probably drips into the water. As Preacher begs his parrot to return to daddy, we can do nothing but wait for the inevitable. Time passes, and that dumb bird keeps floating, ignoring his owner's instances. Then, just as Preacher suggests it "bring its feathery ass" to safety, the Mako jumps from beneath and devours the parrot — as Preacher and his fixture crash into the water with a huge splash.

With no choice, Preacher dashes for his dual-level oven. The shark sees his next meal and charges forward, his fin parting the surface like Moses. We get plenty of up-close shots of the Mako as it torpedoes towards Preacher, who slams the oven door on his pursuer at the last minute. We can still see the animatronic shark through the oven door's window as it snaps and snarls at Preacher, who's now trapped, seemingly without an exit. Talk about game over.

The impact (Chris' take)

Sometimes a movie comes along and surprises you. I remember the summer "Deep Blue Sea" was released — the summer of 1999, when I was 16 and therefore 100% sure I knew everything about anything — I went off to the theater to check it out with some friends. I was expecting another crappy "Jaws" knock-off, and to be fair, every shark movie made after "Jaws" will forever be a "Jaws" knock-off, it's inevitable.

But "Deep Blue Sea" ended up being a pleasant surprise. Renny Harlin kept the film at a breakneck speed which helped move things along. But more than that, the filmmaker peppered in big shocking deaths that caught the audience by surprise. I can still remember the sound of my audience losing their minds when Samuel L. Jackson, who everyone assumed was the star of the movie, ended up as shark food fairly early in the pic. 

That said, with all the jump-worthy scenes in this film, I kind of love that Matt picked the scene where a shark eats a bird. Normally, I am squeamish at animal deaths in movies — especially dogs. That said, the bird here is really annoying, so I can't say I was all choked up when he went to bird heaven.