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How difficult is it to make a movie that pays off on the
title SHARK NIGHT 3D (yes, the “3D” is actually part of that title)? OK, there
are sharks in it, and about half of it takes place at night, and yes, it’s in
3D. But you’d also expect that it would be scary or funny or a little bit of
both, but it’s absolutely neither.
A lot of people got upset when it was announced that SHARK
NIGHT 3D got a PG-13 rating, but that didn’t have to be the kiss of death;
after all, JAWS, the granddaddy of this genre, was PG. But it turns out all
those people were absolutely right; this isn’t a serious dramatic horror film
like JAWS but a cheesy exploitation flick, and you don’t make a cheesy
exploitation flick about people-eating fish devouring good-looking college kids
without going all out in the gore and nudity department. The people who made
last year’s 3D PIRANHA knew that; why didn’t this crew?
Or maybe they did think they were making JAWS; the first
scene in SHARK NIGHT is such a complete rip on the opening of Steven
Spielberg’s classic, it feels like it has to be leading to some kind of joke,
but it doesn’t. Instead, it keeps giving us more stuff we’ve seen before: the
introduction of a group of the usual youth stereotypes going on the usual trip
to an isolated place (here, a island vacation house in the middle of a
Louisiana salt-water lake) where, as usual, there’s no cell-phone reception.
And there’s the scene where the college kids meet the local threatening
rednecks, of the type that TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL makes so much good fun
of. And I guess the filmmakers wanted to recall past 3D horror movies too,
because just like in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III, heroine Sara (Sara Paxton) is
returning to the scene of a past trauma, and has a long speech in which she
tells a potential love interest all about it.
Paxton is one of the only things worth watching in SHARK
NIGHT 3D—not because she’s given anything interesting or fun to do, but just
’cause she looks good enough to eat in her blue bikini. That seems appropriate
in a movie like this, though since she’s the heroine you know she’s not going
to be chomped on. Instead, just to keep things in cliché-land, it’s the two
ethnics who get attacked first: African-American athlete Malik (Sinqua Wells)
and his Latina girlfriend Maya (Alyssa Diaz). Left to make all the wrong
decisions about how to respond are Sara and that potential love interest, med
student Nick (Dustin Milligan), who’s supposed to be kind of an awkward geek
but still looks good with his shirt off; his goofy best friend Gordon (Joel
David Moore, who should know better about venturing into Louisiana waterways
after HATCHET); tattooed bad girl Beth (AMERICAN IDOL’s Katharine McPhee); and
male model Blake (Chris Zylka), whose bare butt in an early figure-sketching
scene is probably not the nudity the target audience is hoping for.
None of the acting is bad, exactly, and it’s impressive that
the cast are able to keep straight faces through some of the dumber things that
they (especially Wells) are asked to do. There are many scenes, though, where
people don’t act as terrified at the prospect of being devoured as they should
be. That’s probably because, with the exception of a beached hammerhead, almost all
the sharks are computer-generated, and not well enough that you feel there’s a
real fish—and thus a real threat—going after anybody. Making matters worse is
that after that prologue, it’s a long time into the movie before any serious
shark action starts happening. As if knowing it’s not delivering in that
respect, the movie also throws in those rednecks—Dennis (Chris Carmack) and Red
(Joshua Leonard) to provide some human villainy. Especially when it turns out
This paragraph should probably have a SPOILER ALERT, but
talking about the movie’s big revelation is necessary to convey just how
idiotic SHARK NIGHT gets. It turns out that Dennis and Red have stocked the
lake with various species of the killer fish themselves, and attached
camcorders to them, so that they can charge people to view the resulting attack
footage and have a big hit that’s like SHARK WEEK combined with FACES OF DEATH!
Frankly, I would love to see a movie explaining how these backwoods peckers
captured a great white, a tiger shark, etc., transported them to the lake,
outfitted them with those cameras, keep them confined in mesh cages, etc.—but
unfortunately, that’s not the movie director David R. Ellis and writers Will
Hayes and Jesse Studenberg have made. It could have worked if played as a
spoof, or even a satire on the bloodthirstiness of the modern media, but
instead it’s done with way too straight a face for this utterly stupid premise
to play as anything but a bad joke on the audience.
The only genuinely funny thing in SHARK NIGHT 3D isn’t even
really in it; it’s a music video, featuring the cast rapping about the plot,
that plays after the end credits are over. It was directed by Milligan himself,
who perhaps should have directed the movie too. Even the 3D isn’t terribly
special—a few neat underwater depth FX here, some shark innards in your face
there, but nothing worth the money and trouble of wearing those glasses. If you
want to see a genuinely fun post-JAWS shark movie, you’re better off watching
DEEP BLUE SEA again, and if you want to see aquatic gore in three
dimensions…well, there’s always PIRANHA 3DD in November.
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