Some things in the water: a look at “Shark Night 3D”

“Shark Night” earns a 2.5 out of 5 stars for being a predictably bad movie.

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Caleb Wheeler, Writer

Hillbillies, college kids and hungry sharks. What caliber of a movie could a
formula like this possibly produce? The answer is … not a good one, not a bad one, but exactly the kind any logical person should expect. “Shark Night 3D,” also
offered in 2D for all the 3D haters, is a film I can describe no other way than fun and
ridiculously stupid. I went into it with close to no expectation and, wouldn’t you know, I left feeling slightly less unimpressed than I guessed I would.

Typical characters and setting

The movie begins with a scene comparable to that of “Jaws” when the lone swimmer girl is snuffed out by an enormous, man-eating shark. The opener of “Shark Night” seems to be a contemporary re-imagining of the same scene as a gorgeous and conveniently topless young woman is sucked under bloody lake water by an unseen predator, unheard by her dull-witted boyfriend on the shore. The numerous shark attacks are suspenseful yet predictable in the same breath. If you’ve seen one teen get eaten, youʼve seen them all.

We meet our all-attractive main characters Nick, Gordon, Malik, Sara, Maya, Blake and Beth, played by American Idol’s Katharine McPhee, at their upscale university ready to get some R-and-R on the weekend. It is always necessary in these types of movies to present a group of heedless kids going on vacation and to their certain dooms. Amusingly, you can usually tell which individuals of the group will die first, die later or live to the end depending on their screen time and personalities.

They are off to a beautiful lake house on its own island in the bayou, aspiring to do nothing more than drink, party, play, flirt and perhaps even “get lucky” with one another. The depraved banter of both the boys and girls seems to always revolve around sex. This crude dialogue is meant to be humorous, and it is at times, but what do screenwriters of teen death movies have against intelligent conversation? As the ensemble reaches their destination, in come the hillbillies Red and Dennis. Dennis is the ex-fling of Sara, who is played by the adorable leading lady Sara Paxton, and has a score to settle with her though he plays coy at first. Red is a disgusting man-creature with teeth that are so obviously shark-like it caused me to laugh in the theater. We also meet the quirky Sheriff Sabin played by the underrated actor Donal Logue, a character of comical deceit.

Repetitive storyline

The first shark attack sets things into motion, but not on as grand a scale as it
could have. The group is shocked by a dismembered Malik and deduce the improbable
but undeniable existence of killer sharks in the water around them. Things go downhill
steadily but, again, not in ways that put you on the edge of your seat. The situations of the characters seem to go from bad … to bad … to a little worse … to bad … and so on. They are getting eaten one by one, but it feels the same every time. There’s no horror in the death scenes or the attacks, nothing to really cause an audience to sit on the edge of their seats shouting, “Get out of the water!”

What works in “Shark Night,” however, is the fact that the sharks are not the
villains but merely the weapons used by the true bad guys who are much more evil. No
spoilers shall be divulged, though this movie possesses very little twists and turns.

The atmosphere stays mysteriously light, which is evident in the deserved PG-13 rating. In my opinion it should have been rated R, which would have given it the freedom to exemplify as much impressive gore and outrageously constant violence that I appreciated on an animal level in last yearʼs “Piranha 3D.”

It’s a “good bad movie”

I often wonder what people think to themselves on sets for films like “Shark
Night.” Are they proud of it? Optimistic of its critical evaluation? Or are they smirking contemptuously, knowing full well it is nothing more than a modal C-grade movie? I can only speculate and suppose that there are some who make these satirical thrillers with honest intentions and those who make them simply for the dollar profit. Either way, the movie is what it is and never pretends to be anything else.

I confess I donʼt usually see movies like this in theaters but instead wait to rent them or watch them at random with a group of friends at a house or dorm. Yet I decided to break my own code and purchased a ticket for this bloody, cliche creature-feature. Do I regret it? In part, yes, but while “Shark Night” is a bad movie it is in many ways a “good bad movie.” It’s exactly what it appears to be on the surface. If that makes no sense to you, donʼt see it.

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