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Shark Night 3D (2011)

Shark Night ReviewStarring Joel David Moore, Katharine McPhee, Sara Paxton

Directed by David R. Ellis


A young man with a bloody stump where his arm was prior to having it bitten off by a shark. A young man who we’ve been told cannot be taken across a lake via boat because he has lost so much blood merely moving him could kill him. A young man, vowing vengeance against the shark that ate his arm and his woman, wades out into shark-infested water using his own dripping blood as bait while clutching a spear with his one good arm and who the hell even knows where he got that from. Top that, Quint!

Shark Night 3D is that kind of night. A night where mortally wounded men are strapped to jet skis to be rushed for medical attention. A night where a dog turns into Super Lassie at the most opportune moment. A night where a redneck cretin files down his front teeth to make them more shark-like. A night where Donal Logue plays a loony sheriff with a deep love for 1980’s hair metal. A night where a character survives nearly being fed to sharks only to dive right back into the very shark-filled water with no concern for his own safety. If you choose to make it a shark night expect to see all this and more. Expect to see all the shark jaws jumping directly at the camera you can cram into 90-minutes. Expect to wake up the next morning and say to yourself, “Did I really watch a movie last night that was cross between Jaws and Vacancy?”

An amazing thing happened today. I went to a movie theater and watched a Syfy original on the big screen in 3D. Make no mistake about it; the biggest difference between a Syfy original like this past June’s Swamp Shark and a theatrically released 3D movie like Shark Night really only boils down to the budget, and even with that much larger studio budget, the shark effects aren’t that much better. People may still scoff at the mechanical shark in Jaws but these digital sharks still ain’t got nuthin’ on ol’ Bruce.

The school chums on their way to becoming actual chum consist of the nice girl and the nice guy everyone wants to see hook up, the slightly skanky girl, the jock and the girlfriend he’s planning to propose to, the self-absorbed pretty boy, and the quipster hipster. This is a cast of characters worthy of any slasher movie. Except instead of Jason in the woods we have sharks in the water, a whole bunch of them and of varying kinds, though one big sucker in particular will prove to be the bane of everyone’s short-lived existence. It’s easy to see why the sharks are always so hungry given how thin these characters. I don’t mean physically thin – maybe Joel David Moore could use a sandwich or two – so much as I mean how there’s so little to their characters outside of whatever personality the actors can exude. If you asked me to describe to Sara Paxton’s character my best answer would be to reply, “Uh, she’s in a bikini 90% of the movie?”

Sara Paxton more or less got her start playing a mermaid in Aquamarine. Sans fishy tail and most of her blonde locks, she’s now returning to the water with a group of her friends heading to her family’s Louisiana lakehouse. Last time the lovely Miss Paxton went into the woods to a family retreat she got raped and left for dead by redneck psychos. This time redneck psychos try to feed her to sharks. She really needs to just stay out of the damn woods.

One of those rednecks is the ex-boyfriend she broke up with before leaving for college. When she explains what happened the last time they were together you would think that earlier scene where they ran into each other at the gas station should have been handled with less on an uncomfortable civility and more with a police restraining order.

When it is fully revealed as to how and why this salt water lake is somehow filled with maneating sharks, god dang, it’s a doozy. To put even an ounce of thought into the plausibility of it guarantees a reaction of you cannot possibly expect me to buy this or to expect me to believe you could actually get away with this for any length of time.

Shark Night 3D has no interest in being anything more than a light and breezy, sometimes cheesy, guilty pleasure and that’s about the best than can be said for it. Unfortunately, we’re a year removed from Piranha 3D and the bar for this type of movie has been raised tremendously. That movie about Spring Breakers getting eaten alive by ravenous piranha in a landlocked lake was a 3D T&A gorefest of biblical proportions. Shark Night 3D is about college kids on holiday being eaten alive by ravenous sharks but is hogtied by the PG-13 rating. That means no nudity and the kills mostly consist of bloody water and the occasional shark jumping out to snatch someone in their jaws. Some movies need an R-rating to work and coming on the heels of Piranha, it’s hard to not to feel like it’s an also-ran.

Even compared to some of the shark kills I’ve seen in some actual Syfy movies, they death scenes aren’t terribly inspired, and they certainly aren’t scary. There’s a jet ski shark kill in this film that doesn’t even come close to topping the one from Shark Attack 3: Megalodon.

At times I was almost giddy at the ludicrousness of this latest nature gone amok movie from the director of Snakes on a Plane but there’s not really enough meat on these bones to justify anyone paying inflated 3D prices to see this in a theater. I can see Shark Night playing much better on DVD than it does on the big screen; if I ever revisit it in the future I might even be a bit more forgiving, though I don’t believe it to be the stuff cult classics are made of and this is a movie that’s makers are clearly gunning for cult status.

The only part of Shark Night I’m sure is destined for cult status is the post-closing credits music video with the actors laying down a hardcore rap about the movie. A hip-hop video that culminates with someone waxing poetic about their severed arm; not since the closing credits of Maniac Cop 2 have I heard a horror movie rap song that brought such a tear to my eye.

2 1/2 out of 5

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