Would EATEN make a good movie? What do other scary predator attack films tell us (if anything) about the probability of EATEN becoming a successful motion picture?
In June 1975 (one year after the book was published), JAWS the movie became a huge box office hit. Fast forward to June 2016, when another shark-attack film called THE SHALLOWS was released (now considered a “sleeper success.”)
Compare the posters for these two films below:
Hmmm….menacing teeth vs. half-naked blonde. Is this natural evolution acting on 40-odd years of marketing styles or a reflection of the fact that THE SHALLOWS is more survivor thriller than pure predator attack film? I’m thinking a bit of both but more of the latter. I happen to think the parallels between these two shark attack films and the EATEN story line are stronger than for other predators-gone-bad thrillers, even grizzly attack movies. Perhaps it’s the premise of people living and having fun within shouting distance of the beach, which becomes such a fine, dangerous line of interface with these predators.
Other films of this genre that had varying levels of box office success include Alfred Hitchcock’s classic THE BIRDS (1963) and Stephen King’s CUJO (1983), two serious crocodile thrillers from 2007 (ROGUE and BLACKWATER), a survival thriller involving a pack of wolves called THE GREY , and two bear attack thrillers, BACKCOUNTRY (2014) and THE EDGE (1997) – see descriptions and some original trailers here.
Less successful offerings depend on mutant or otherwise farfetched versions of real predators, which suggest that making attacking animals larger-and-more-ferocious-than-life backfires at the box office, like the two below:GRIZZLY (1976) [about a giant grizzly bear, reviewed here] [not to be confused with its never-released sequel, GRIZZLY 2, with a young George Clooney]
LAKE PLACID (1999) [about a giant, man-eating crocodile]
Others of this type include RAZORBACK (1984) [gigantic wild boar terrorizing small town] and MONKEY SHINES (1988) [“genetically-enhanced super-monkey”], among others.
It’s been suggested, for example, that for THE SHALLOWS, its strong female character and spectacular South Seas location made the story particularly believable and compelling.
EATEN also has a strong female character (several of them, actually – of various ages) and Fogo Island, Newfoundland in late winter – with its seemingly endless pack ice and stark snowbound hamlets – provides the remotely exotic Arctic setting that grounds the story (see some photos here and below).
Vogue called Fogo Island one of five winter wonderlands better than the beach – but as one astute reader pointed out, unlike sharks, polar bears make house calls. All that ice means polar bears can simply walk ashore to do their hunting.
And doesn’t that just make your blood run cold?
The potential for not being safe in one’s own home is one of the factors that make EATEN so terrifying; the other is that it is so horrifyingly plausible – no mutant bears are necessary to drive this plot: all it takes is a small mutation of the sort we know crops up from time to time in illness-causing viruses that affect wild animals and humans.
On another note, apparently recent shark attack survivors and loved ones of victims in Western Australia now have a support group called the Bite Club to turn to for succor in dealing with their trauma. Imagine what the survivors of EATEN would need after weeks of terror. And what the heck would they call it (not Supper Club, surely?? perhaps Living Prey?).