Shark Night 3D
Director: David R. Ellis
Cast: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Back in 2010 they made a movie similar to this one, and yet so very different. The 2010 flick was a remake of a 1978 drive-in classic called Piranha. Now the ways that remake and this brand new movie from Sony are similar are threefold. First, both were about hungry fishes wanting to eat people. Second, both were released in 3D. Third, at their hearts they were cheesy creature features and nothing more. But here’s how they were different; Piranha 3D not only knew exactly what it was, but embraced and reveled in it. It was chock full of gore, nudity, stupidity, off-color humor, nonsensical plot points, and more that made it so damn fun.
Conversely Shark Night tries to play things safe for the more marketable PG-13 crowd and in doing so it gets rid of the blood, boobies and most of the bad language. By watering things down it turns the movie into a stale, boring, chore to sit through. It is utterly lacking in anything remotely recommendable and completely forgettable.
Now I know I’m being oh so cagy and playing my cards close to my vest, so I’m sure you’re wondering what I really thought of this movie. Well dear reader, keep on reading and I’ll try to be more clear about my true thoughts about this oh so wonderful film.
The flick begins with an obligatory shark munching of a disposable young couple frolicking on the beach, and right from the start we are smacked upside the head with what’s the biggest problem with this film. The woman loses her bikini top in a sad attempt by this movie to be racy, but then the actress makes sure to keep her back to the camera, less the slightest glimpse of a boob destroy the morality of America, or ruin that oh so coveted PG-13 rating. Further cementing this film’s lameness, when the shark attacks the girl, the height of gore for this savage assault is red Kool-Aid in the water.
Cut to the group of college kids who will be our stars of this show, and yet not one of them is likable, memorable, funny, sweet, or in the slightest bit believable. They are an assemblage of cardboard cutouts and shorthand clichés instead of characters with any depth, and remain so even though the next third of the film is a boring slog of a travelogue as they road trip from their campus to a secluded island for some partying. I assume this was done in an attempt to flesh out the characters some more, and that is commendable, but it completely fails here. They all remain caricatures rather than real people, and even the people they’re supposed to be, I don’t like. This also means that for the next what-feels-like-eternity, there are no sharks in this movie called Shark Night. Oh yay.
Along the way the college kids naturally run into the cast of Deliverance: The Next Generation, because you just can’t make a movie where “city folk” go anywhere with more than three trees together without running into dimwitted, overly hostile, raciest rednecks. However, in a bit of inspired and laughable lunacy…
SPOILER WARNING (but go ahead and read it, as you really don’t want to watch this film)
…the rednecks are the real villains here. You see, they’ve been capturing a whole mess of live sharks from the ocean and dumping them into the saltwater lake they live by. I’ll skip over the part where I point out that this would greatly endanger any friends and family these rednecks would have, as they live at, and make their living on, the very lake they’re stocking with hungry sharks. After all, we all know movie villains are mwah-hah-hahing moustache-twirlers who never have any families or connections. The fact that there are at least four members of this crazy cabal, if not more, and one is a well-respected member of the community, shouldn’t matter. Each and every one of them is a psychotic loner more than happy to let their pet sharks eat random people.
As to why the psycho rednecks are doing this, well it’s for the money, of course. You see, in addition to capturing live sharks and transporting them to the lake from all over the world (as the varieties of species they have assembled is impressive) in a feat of nautical knowhow and management that would make Sea World proud, they attach laser beams – oops, sorry, wrong silly movie – I mean cameras to the shark’s heads. Why? To make shark snuff films, naturally. Why? Because “Shark Week” is the most popular week of TV on cable and these guys are making movies to sell to the rich fans of it who want to see “the real thing.” Yes, I kid you not, that is the plot for this film; snuff flicks because people watch “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel.
Do I really need to go on after that? You all know what’s going to happen. The college kids get to an island where naturally no cellular phone works, they get attacked by shark cameramen and get stranded on the island, then there is the “big twist” of who is a baddie when we were supposed to think that they were a goodie. Unfortunately everyone saw that one coming from a mile away. And naturally the sharks can’t just chomp people in the water like that old, boring Jaws movie, so here they do EXTREME! tricks, like jumping out of the water to snag people in trees or racing on jet skis, because gravity and real world physics are just so lame and uncool. Then there’s the showdown at the end with the final girl right out of Slasher Movies 101, the main villain who is oddly immune to tranquilizer darts that were so incredibly effective (complete unconsciousness in 2 seconds) in the previous scene, the death of the lead psycho redneck by poetic means, the fact that the dog somehow survives swimming around in shark infested water for twenty minutes (which is good, as he was the only character I liked), and dear God I’ve got to stop before my head explodes with the stupid. And all that without any real gore, nudity, and none of the classic campiness or fun that it so badly tried to rip off, but was so afraid to commit to.
I started this rant…er, review by mentioning the much better Piranha 3D, which was far from a perfect movie, but was still fun and vastly more enjoyable than this turgid, uninspired mess. But let’s go further back in time and compare and contrast this film with another shark movie that, according to the rating system, is even more kid friendly with a PG rating: Jaws. That older and far, far, oh my God so far better film had much better direction, more believable shark effects (and that’s with a roboshark that only worked half the time), superior actors, originality, a better story, suspense and tension, an amazing and memorable soundtrack, characters you actually gave a damn about, and while being a PG film, it still had much more gore and naughty nudie bits that this tepid turkey.
Shark Night has direction akin to TV pilots, incredibly fake looking CGI shark effects (perhaps one step above Sharktopus), and with perhaps one or two exceptions, a gaggle of grade-B direct to video actors playing “twenty something” college students (quotes used as some of the actors appear to be in their 30s) that are so vapid or cardboard that you could care less about what happens to them. Add to that a laughably bad story that tries to blend Jaws with Deliverance with Vacancy (the 2007 flick about a motel making snuff movies, for those who forgot that forgettable film) and it trades in any attempt for suspense for awesome ninja sharks that can swim faster than speedboats and fly out of the water to snatch people out of midair.
Now is it fair to judge a new, low budget fright flick with an undeniable classic of horror/thriller cinema? No, not really. After all, not every film can be the Citizen Kane of shark movies. But it does help to illustrate a point. If you want to watch a good shark movie then go see Jaws, it’s the best there ever was. If you just want to have a goofy, gory good time, go watch Piranha 3D, as it’s not afraid to revel in being a campy creature feature and play that up for all its worth. Unfortunately I can think of no good reason for anyone to ever see Shark Night. It’s not well made. It’s not fun. It’s just a boring, tedious turd and should be avoided at all costs.