Directed by Eli Roth
Written by Eli Roth
Starring Eli Roth, Regina Domingo, Gary Stokes
Fin, the new discovery+ Shark Week doc from Eli Roth (Hostel: Part II, The Green Inferno), might not be the scariest film the director has ever made – but it is the hardest one to watch. Told with a pirate’s spirit and an activist’s heart, this is a globe-spanning, sprawling film. Using the illegal shark fin trade to highlight everything wrong with the international fishing industry, it’s a challenge to remain hopeful that anything can change once Fin comes to an end. There are also long stretches filled with stark realism and incredibly graphic footage. Divers beware.
Starting out with that trademark Shark Week sense of adventure, Roth explores the ocean depths with an almost childlike enthusiasm. Experiencing the wonder of diving with sharks for the first time and the soaring sensation of sailing the high seas, Roth and his ocean crew seem optimistic. Once terms like “finning” and “bycatch” emerge, the reality of the barbaric practices done to these creatures cannot be ignored. In one scene showing a legal fishing expedition, a shark is repeatedly beaten over the head with a baseball bat. Roth gazes dog-eyed at the camera, visibly shaken.
Unbelievably, it’s the appearance of an Emperor’s wealth that drives the shark fin soup industry throughout Asia. Couples want to have the pricy delicatessen on their wedding menu. Once Roth meets up with activist Gary Stokes in Hong Kong, their attempted crackdowns expose some local storeowners showing the massive, utterly ridiculous scale of the illegal shark fin trade. Grey areas start to present themselves where endangered sharks like hammerheads that are not allowed to be hunted are mixed in with makes like the blue shark that, in fact, are legally captured and killed. The deeper we dive into this increasingly complicated underworld, the more Roth gives “WTF?” looks to his camera operator.
One highlight and bonafide horror geek moment comes when Roth and a trendy blogger sit down with an older food critic to actually try a bowl of shark fin soup. Guess what? It’s terrible. The food critic is actually Ngai Choi Lam, the director of the head blasting martial arts classic Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky. Cut to actor Siu-Wong Fan as Riki-Oh punching a hole and ripping off the jaw of one of his unfortunate assailants. I’m pretty sure that clip has never been shown on Discovery before and, aside from a quick finger snip from Hostel, it’s the only graphic scene that will make you grin in Fin.
In another sequence revealing Roth’s horror roots, Riz Ortolani’s Cannibal Holocaust theme starts playing over some slow motion shots of shark carnage. Speaking of that film, some scenes in Fin make Cannibal Holocaust look almost cartoonish. Arguably, the animal scenes in Cannibal Holocaust are entirely unnecessary; here, every hack and slash of a machete is making a point. Although there are probably a few too many quick cuts of shark abuse, Roth restrains himself enough to make you want to look away without feeling seasick. Try not to let your urge to revolt override your sense of duty as a viewer. It’s violence that makes you want to call your Representative, not lose your lunch off the side of the boat.
Fin may have even invented a new term: the conscientious horror fan. To see an innocent obsession with gore translate into showing blood and guts for a reason must be oddly gratifying for the director of Hostel. It’s just endlessly amusing that the most graphic film Eli Roth has made to date just happens to be streaming on discovery+ during Shark Week.
After watching and wiping away tears, here are ways we can help turn horror fans into activists. Follow heroic causes like Sea Shepherd, Oceana, and WildAid. Congress needs to pass the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act.
Before the credits say “fin” a list of three things we can do appears on screen:
- STOP consuming all Shark products and meat.
- DEMAND corporations use “Shark free” labels for their products.
- SUPPORT legislation for a total ban on all Shark fishing.
Executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Nina Dobrev, Fin is now streaming over on discovery+.
The most graphic film of Eli Roth’s career just happens to be streaming on discovery+.