Shark Night 3D swims in and delivers what you would - and definitely should - expect: a ridiculous B-movie premise, fitted around a schlocky and predictable story, played out by a "they look familiar" cast of actors, with some CGI Sharks and 3D gimmicks thrown in for good measure.
If you already know that the description above is not something you would consider worthy of your time or money, no need to read any further. But for fans of cheesy horror B-movies, the question is: Is Shark Night still a bit of so-bad-it's-good fun?
The story revolves around Sara (Sara Paxton), a girl from the Bayou who made it out of the swamplands all the way to Tulane University. Despite her loner nature, Sara invites a group of her senior year buddies to party at her big mansion out on the water. The would-be party-people include Nick (Dustin Milligan), the geek; Beth (Katharine McPhee), the bad girl; Blake (Chris Zylka), the pretty boy; Gordon (Joel David Moore), the wisecracker; Malik (Sinqua Walls), the star athlete; and Malik's loving girlfriend, Maya (Alyssa Diaz). Along the ride to Sara's remote house we also meet the easy-going Sheriff Sabin (Donal Logue), Dennis (Chris Carmack), an old flame of Sara's, and Dennis' sidekick "Red" (Joshua Leonard), a freaky redneck.
Soon after the kids arrive on the Island getaway (out of cell phone range, of course), they discover that the (salt) waters have been infested with deadly sharks - and there begins the feeding-frenzy. Desperate plans quickly lead to grisly deaths, and by the time we get down to the last warm bodies, there's a (not so) shocking revelation that the sharks may not be the only predators on the lake.
Shark Night 3D was directed by stuntman-turned-director David R. Ellis, the man behind such films as Final Destination 2, Snakes on a Plane, and The Final Destination. Ellis always seems to make his movies in full acknowledgement of what they are: kitschy, B-movie fun. There is a competent hand evident in how Shark Night is constructed - there's even a little hint of style, and some fun filming techniques used throughout the film. Most notable are the underwater POV sequences, which are immersive - at times tense - moments, brought to life through the use of 3D.
The script by Will Hayes (Assy McGee) and newcomer Jesse Studenberg, however, is far less modest in its ambitions. Unlike Ellis, the writers try to make this story much more than it is or ever could be - they use an overly-complicated plot to explain the shark rampage, while at times trying to inject the film with both genuine drama and social commentary - somewhere between the repeated 3D close ups of half-naked bodies. The only thing the writers manage to achieve with their misplaced ambitions are moments where the already-fragile kitschy charm gets shattered by attempts at seriousness. Social commentary? In 'Shark Night'? Really?
Even when the writers try to upend horror movie convention they end up veering off in the wrong direction. The black guy doesn't die first (that honor goes to a different minority) but his extended lifetime only leads to him grabbing a tribal spear and going all tribal warrior on a shark (complete with a soliloquy about tribal law in 'the hood'). A black guy... throwing spears... "chucking them," one might say...
So much for an attempt at horror movie political correctness...
Despite some flimsy or bewildering choices made by the filmmakers, on the whole Shark Night 3D is still a reasonably fun time, watching some nasty beasts chow down on a few unlucky saps. The actors playing those saps aren't too bad - though some are definitely not suited to their roles (Nick is too chiseled and muscular to be a convincing nerd - and wholesome American Idol contestant Katherine McPhee trying to play bad girl is just...strange). Former OC star Chris Carmack gives the best performance, while Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project) chews scenery as a demented redneck stereotype. Beyond that, though, the players are mostly just shark chum.
As for the sharks themselves - it's far from cutting-edge CGI, but the beasts serve their function and there are a nice variety of them featured in the film. Finally, the 3D in Shark Night is definitely an important part of the package: if you're the type of person who would enjoy this film, you might as well get the full 3D experience. Seeing bikini bodies, underwater landscapes, sharks, limbs and blood all popping out in your face just wouldn't be as laughable in 2D.
If you need a minute to think about whether or not to see Shark Night 3D (and really, take a minute to think about it), check out the trailer below. If you do see the film, come back and rate it for yourself in our poll.
Shark Night 3D is now playing in theaters everywhere.
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