The holiday magic of ‘Santa Jaws’

Let Santa Jaws be Santa Jaws.

From the shockingly unwatchable to ridiculously good, the Sharkometer series dissects every shark movie according to the GOAT Jaws.

Santa Jaws by Misty Talley, 2018
Starring: Reid Miller, Courtney Lauren Cummings, Jim Klock, Carrie Lazar, Arthur Marroquin, Miles Doleac, Haviland Stillwell, Hawn Tran, Scott Allen Perry, Ritchie Montgomery
Budget: Typically $1 or $2 million USD (no hard numbers available)
Box office: Typically 2–3 million in viewership (no hard numbers available)

Number of times previously watched: 0

Much like shark movies, Christmas movies are a funny creature. We all have our favourites and least favourites, subdivided into categories to view at a specific Yuletide moment. Mine are as follows:

Decorating Cookies and Half-Watching the Movie = Christmas with the Kranks;
Childhood Throwback I Generally Just Enjoy = The Santa Clause;
Obligatory Christmas Eve Viewing Where My Mom Repeats the Jokes = Christmas Vacation;
Dreaded Parental Nostalgia Viewing Where My Dad Reminisces *in strained voice* “That’s how Christmas was for us” = A Christmas Story.

Our lists go on and on (and differ depending on levels of family dysfunction) yet we never seem to tire of watching Christmas movies no matter how terrible, unoriginal, or saccharin they may be — case in point, I watched A Christmas Prince: Royal Baby LAST NIGHT, yes because I had to follow up on the previous two and also *in David Rose voice* because I wanted to?

Christmas movies prey on our sentiment and emotion surrounding the holidays and can therefore get away with A LOT before we notice, or even care, that they might be truly terrible. Point of fact: Love Actually. Love Actually has haunted us for years, with each new year, new viewing, bringing a fresh batch of newly woke people realizing Love Actually is actually kind of trash. It goes like this: You sit down with your hot cup of cocoa, snuggled in your blanket, ready to rewatch your Finding Holiday Love favourite and notice that…actually most of the men are stalkers or creeps. Or actually…the women have no agency. It took me years and several watches to think “Oh wait, this isn’t charming behaviour.” But because it’s a Christmas movie (and in Christmas movies you hide the truth) the pomp and circumstance and nostalgia of the holidays distracts us from what would otherwise be a pretty questionable (and possibly boring) movie. (And realizing we should have been watching The Holiday all along.)

On the other side of the holiday spectrum is the barrage of Netflix and Hallmark movies featuring a bevy of unknown babes or the wonderful Vanessa Hudgens that you know will be terrible or ridiculous or too cutesy but are fine with because you can turn them on and immerse yourself in holiday magic and think about making cookies or the possibility of time travel or just yell at the TV and have fun.

This emotional uncanny valley between “wait, what actually happened?” and “look I can turn on a movie!” is where Santa Jaws LIVES — a deep sea cavern of implausibility nestled between “It’s a Christmas movie!” and “It’s a shark movie!”

Santa Jaws is, in a word, WILD. Its plot mashes It’s A Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Jaws (obviously), and *~Christmas Magic~* together into a surprisingly watchable movie filled with likeable actors and an implausible plot that is well established and therefore believable.

We meet Cody who has been grounded by his mom and sent to his room without his phone (note for the Home Alone reboot on how to get around the whole technology problem) and is forced to miss his much-awaited Comic Book Christmas Party. Like all misunderstood teenagers, Cody, in a fit of frustration, takes the magical pen his grandpa gifted him and begins to illustrate his friend’s comic book, the titular Santa Jaws, while wishing he was alone for Christmas. Unbeknownst to him, the ink manifests anything drawn into reality, therefore springing to life the real Santa Jaws and ultimately his wish to be alone on Christmas by killing everyone around him.

Ya, it’s a lot of plot and at certain points it’s spelled out for us in the movie (“Santa Jaws is attracted to anything Christmas or holiday related!”), but it makes sense in the reality director Misty Talley has set and we get to follow a gang of kids Spielberg-style as they rush to figure out how to defeat a Christmas-obsessed shark, complete with candy cane horn and Christmas lights scarf.

Normally at this point, I would make a pithy quip and then delve into the various sections of the Sharkometer postulating about How the lighting represents our loneliness during the holidays or How a CGI Christmas shark fails to truly evoke our fear of disappointment in the holidays or How Cody’s humour shields him from the ever-widening disconnect between children and their parents. Could I talk about the parallels between It’s A Wonderful Life and Santa Jaws and how we’re all searching for a life we already have? Or how parents are deeply flawed and need to stop viewing children as extensions of themselves to control and mould? Or that it is criminal that this is the first female-directed entry in this series and represents the unequal treatment of female directors in general? Or that robust arts programs to nourish children’s creativity will save the world from greedy capitalists masked as Christmas-obsessed sharks? OF COURSE I CAN. I COULD TALK ABOUT WEIRD TANGENTIAL CONNECTIONS IN SHARK MOVIES FOREVER.

But I won’t. Because we need to let Santa Jaws be Santa Jaws. By that I mean, not cast it off as “oh it’s a campy B movie, relax” — you know that log line is garbage — or take a metaphorical, yet clinical approach to the critical dissection of the movie, and instead, *deep breath* at this particular moment, just appreciate Santa Jaws, and all those other holiday movies, for what they bring in myriad forms: joy. (Tis’ the season!)

Santa Jaws brought me joy and laughter at a moment when things felt very dark and hopeless and forgone. I turned it on to write this blog, yes, but I turned it on hoping to find that special magic Christmas movies can bring. I suspect that’s why you turn on the ones you do even if you know they’ll be too sweet, too silly, too dumb. It’s because sometimes, we need a little bit of that in our lives, especially when holidays have become synonymous with things that are not always our reality, like home with the family or big meals and parties. Christmas movies have a peculiar way of reflecting the holiday moments we crave without making us feel less than for not actually having them.

I know I turn on the Christmas movies I do to evoke those special moments endeared to me that are fleeting or sometimes all the way gone. My mom and I have never been close and she drives me bonkers in general, and especially on Christmas, but when she looks over at me, laughing so hard she’s crying, and repeats the joke that was literally just said on screen, there’s something so human and kind about that moment that I can’t help but cry-laugh too.

Could Santa Jaws be the Christmas movie to knit us all back together? That’s up to the eye of the beholder. For me, Santa Jaws takes a Big Swing at a Christmas shark movie and hits an inside the park home run or maybe a suicide squeeze. It’s not a game-winning grand slam or even a real home run — it’s a rarer occurrence, something more exciting to watch because you weren’t expecting it. (Plus you know those MLB baseballs are juiced.)

Santa Jaws will be my Watch When You Need to Feel Better Again movie. It’s a reminder to me that holidays are about sharing silly moments with the people I love be they near or far, human or animal. It’s about choosing connection, choosing love, choosing not to have people you care about get eaten by a Christmas-crazed shark. It kindly reminds us that if pressed, we might not want our families hunted by a Christmas-obsessed shark and that it takes a Christmas-obsessed shark hunting our family and friends in order to finish our blog. (Boop!)

So happy holidays and Merry Christmas and all that to you shark lovers out there! I truly appreciate each and every one of you for reading along with me this year even if you just accidentally clicked on the page and quickly exited the screen upon seeing the inner workings of my mind.

May your New Year bring wonderful times and may we continue to watch and discuss shark movies and dispel the myth that sharks are harbingers of doom when really they are our saviours. And may you take a moment to realize what’s important to you, what you love, and what makes you feel good.

There is so much darkness in the world and it can seem overwhelming and all consuming without an end. Carve out those spaces, those moments of joy for yourself and others as resistance to the darkness and to shed a little light on the joy this world can bring.

Stay weird everybody and take care of each other and yourselves!

For a complete list of Sharkometer movies, swim here.

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