Review Date: January 8, 2012
Released by: Fox
Release date: January 3, 2012
Codec: AVC, 1080p
Widescreen 1.85 | 16x9: Yes
You know, there’s no earthly reason I shouldn’t have loved the hell out of Shark Night. It’s the exact flavor of lurid, pulpy nonsense that I usually eat up with a fork in each hand. Hot girls in bikinis in an isolated location terrorized by a gaggle of man eating sharks and there are jet skis involved? All presided over by an accomplished genre craftsman who should be able to make these elements into a fun flick before he’s finished breakfast? You shouldn’t have to ask twice to get me on board for that. So while I wasn’t expecting a good movie by usual metrics, I was at least expecting a fun and entertaining one. What I got was the worst kind of genre film: one that bored me to tears while I was watching it, and left me with no memory of it after the fact. What a soulless and mechanical product this movie is.
It’s semester break at Tulane University in New Orleans, a time for students to kick back from their studies and cut loose. Rich girl Sara (Sara Paxton
) has the perfect place for her and her friends to do just that: her parent’s lake house located on the Louisiana bayou. Along with gal pals Beth (Katherine McPhee
) and Maya (Alyssa Diaz
), Maya’s boyfriend, athlete Malik (Sinqua Walls
), goofball party guy Gordon (Joel David Moore
), vain pretty-boy Blake (Chris Zylka
) and smart kid Nick (Dustin Mulligan
), who not-so-secretly harbors an unrequited crush on Sara, head out for a weekend of sun, fun and maybe even a bit sin.
On their last gas stop before they’re out of cell reception the group has a run in with Dennis (Chris Carmack
) and his lecherous, saw-toothed sidekick Red (Joshua Leonard
). Sara has a complicated history with the handsome Dennis and though she’s able to intervene before Malik and Red come to blows, there’s still a lingering tension between the locals and Sara’s group of new friends. It’s quickly forgotten, however, when Sara playfully leads the local Sheriff (Donal Logue
) on a high speed chase all the way to her parent’s cabin. He admonishes them to be careful before he leaves them to their partying.
Now the group is finally ready for a weekend of drunken debauchery. No sooner do they hit the water for some wakeboarding is Malik attacked by a shark, his right arm viciously severed. Nick, Sara and Maya stabilize him as best they can and then head back to the mainland in search of medical attention. The shark has other ideas, though, chowing down on Maya and crippling their boat, leaving them stranded on the island. When Dennis and Red happen by, they agree to get within radio range of the hospital and call an air medevac for Malik, taking Gordon and Beth along for the ride. Beth is anxious to get off the island and Gordon is anxious to be around Beth in her time of need. His amorous intentions may just be derailed by the rednecks, who know more about the sharks infesting the waters of the quiet lake than they have any right to, and have a vested interest in making sure none of the group of friends makes it to the mainland.
Now, no reasonable person watches a movie called Shark Night
expecting deep, multifaceted characters with complex motivations but the ciphers on screen this time around feel especially thinly sketched and perfunctory. Most of the time, they don’t even manage to rise to the level of cliché. They’re just there, occupying space on screen and not doing much more than that. Instead of even the most basic character moments, we get a lot of lazy montages eating up screen time: from the car ride to the bayou, to a boat ride out to the island itself, at every junction it feels like the director isn’t sure what to do next. Three musical montages in less than thirty minutes. Jesus. Or perhaps everybody was aware just how slight the screenplay was and was resigned to delivering if not a fun movie going experience at the very least a feature-length one.
Even the opening attack, the one that’s supposed to tide us over until the film really settles into the action midway through, is a pathetic excuse for a kill scene. No build up, no suspense, no real payoff. The incompetence of the prologue is staggering.
Without the muddy 3D to strain your eyes and distract your attention, you can see just how cut rate the digital effects are. There’s nothing in any of the shark attacks that aren’t utterly shamed by the first two Jaws
films, or even by a C-list movie like Deep Blue Sea
. None of the action scenes have any impact; a runaway boat crashing into some gas pumps should be an easy win, especially for a director like Ellis, with a strong background in stunt work.
There’s a severely injured character, Malik, at the centre of the middle act that is such a cynical plot device it’s kind of shocking. He’s awake when the action requires him to be and unconscious when the screenplay has to manufacture reasons for one or more of the group to stay on the island. The fact that he’s black almost compels you to read a racist subtext into his presence in the movie (the racially slurring rednecks and a scene where he attacks a shark with a spear don’t help, either), but the movie is so clueless I don’t think it has the wherewithal to be about anything on a purely narrative level, much less harboring nefarious intentions under the surface. As Napoleon so aptly advised: never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.
I’m not one who subscribes to the idea that horror flicks have to be rated R to be effective, but a movie like Shark Night
really should be. Let’s not kid ourselves here: the appeal of a movie with this premise is the hot, scantily clad twenty-somethings and gory shark attacks. This isn’t a haunted house movie where creaky doors and objects moving of their own accord in the background will suffice. When a couple of villains with obviously rapey intentions order a girl to strip down to her bra and panties, it just doesn’t ring true. A movie like this needed to be over-the-top. Instead, Shark Night
is lame, boring and utterly hamstrung by its PG-13 rating from delivering on even the most baseline genre expectations.
Also, I don’t care how badly you fuck up a Halo match; you’re not going to lose gamer points. This is an obvious and easily avoided gaffe that shows the filmmakers didn’t know their audience, and didn’t really care to.
The opening of this Blu-ray does not promise great things to come: the watery credit sequence, saturated with crimson plumes quite frankly looks like shit. Riddled with noise and poorly dithered color banding, it had me expecting of the feature itself a visual experience reminiscent of a first-gen DVD. The picture improves dramatically once the film proper starts, but still never impresses. The cinematography in Shark Night
has a hot, overly bright look – likely the result of being shot and lit for digital 3D – with washed out day scenes and noisy night scenes that have a too-bright quality about them, like they were shot day for night. Detail is good and colors are generally bright, though nothing in the palette really pops off the screen. The whole film has an unappealingly shiny, overly processed look to it.
Perhaps keeping with the lackluster nature of the film itself, the 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio is pretty underwhelming. Front heavy with not a lot of presence, even in the big action scenes. Music is placed in the rear channels, I supposed to give them something to do, but low end and panning effects are absent. This is as serviceable and obligatory as audio mixes get, the kind of audio mix you’d expect from a film made for one tenth what Shark Night
cost. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it doesn’t do anything particularly well, either.
Shark Attack! Kill Machine! (5:43) is like the Jump to a death feature on some New Line DVDs. It uses seamless branching to compile all the shark kills into one feature. That’s right…a 90 minute movie called Shark Night
only has about six minutes of shark action in its entire running time. What should have been a fun little feature just serves to illustrate the sad pointlessness of the film itself.
’s Survival Guide (4:08) attempts to put a humorous spin on the usual EPK fluff. The douchey narrator and some pretty mundane shark facts make this feature not worth the four minute sit takes to watch.
The potentially interesting Fake Sharks, Real Scares (5:24) winds up being as boring as every other promotional behind the scenes piece you’ve ever seen for the simple fact that the featurette doesn’t display the slightest bit of interest in or curiosity about its subject matter. A few behind the scenes clips, and couple of interviews and Bob’s your Uncle; nothing to see here.
Was I out of line expecting that Ellis’ Island (4:22) might contain something in the way of an apology or explanation for this misfire? This feature is nothing more than a love letter to director David R. Ellis and the film itself. No real insight into anything here, though I was surprised to learn that Shark Night
was actually filmed with the Pace Digital 3D cameras. The 3D was so poorly handled in its theatrical presentation, I was certain that it was converted to 3D in post. Again, the incompetence of every aspect of this film shines through.
It’s utterly baffling to me how such a simply premise could be so royally screwed up. It’s a basic slasher template, which has been totally perfected over the past three decades. Just replace sharks with undead killers, don’t be afraid to ladle on the gore and you’ve got a surefire winner. The makers of Shark Night
managed to utterly muddle one of the simplest story templates to work. Plus, you have Sara Paxton spending more than two thirds of the film’s running time wearing nothing but a cute, teal bikini. That alone should make the movie worth watching.
David R. Ellis has made solid genre films in the past, and likely will again. Even the greatest auteurs have their occasional misfire. If you’re interested in how not to make this type of movie, then watching Shark Night
could serve as an informative lesson. If you’re actually interested in watching it for its entertainment value, don’t bother. There’s no fun to be had with these sharks, just a long night of boredom.
Movie - D-
Image Quality - B
Sound - B-
Supplements - C
- Running time - 1 hour and 31 minutes
- Rated PG-13
- 2 Discs (1 Blu-ray, 1 Digital Copy)
- Chapter Stops
- English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
- English SDH subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- “Shark Attack! Kill Machine!” montage
- “Shark Night’s Survival Guide” featurette
- “Fake Sharks, Real Scares” featurette
- “Ellis’ Island” featurette