Fox // 2011 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // January 16th, 2012
Terror Runs Deep.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the DVD store, Shark Night surfaces, threatening to completely ruin your evening.
A weekend break turns deadly for a group of college kids when man-eating sharks begin attacking locales in the Louisiana Gulf. Following an attack on Malik (Sinqua Walls), the group -- led by Sara (Sara Paxton) and Nick (Dustin Milligan) -- attempt to escape to safety, but run afoul of not only the sharks, but also a pair of rednecks with a grudge.
Against my better judgment, I allowed myself to get more than a little excited about Shark Night. The concept, which suggests a Lake Placid with sharks, seemed ripe for a fun -- if ultimately empty -- 90 minutes. Tack onto that the fact that Final Destination 2 and Snakes on a Plane helmer David R. Ellis is on directorial duties, and things were looking up. How sad, then, that what should have been an effortlessly entertaining movie turned out to be so mind numbingly dull. From its garish opening credits sequence to its predictable denouement, Shark Night only managed to disappoint. It's not like my expectations were particularly high; I just wanted to be entertained.
For what it's worth, Ellis isn't responsible for the film's biggest problems, but must shoulder his share of the blame for how bland this movie turns out. Crucially he fails to ratchet up the tension in a satisfying way. Kills are telegraphed far too early, and with the majority of death scenes happening off screen, the film really doesn't do enough to satisfy those craving a little gore. What's particularly disappointing is that Ellis did such good work on Final Destination 2, which contained some of the most inventive kills in the series, and maintained a nervous energy throughout. In contrast, Shark Night is desperately lethargic. Exposed as a film with nothing new to say or add to the genre, it quickly descends into a collection of poorly executed kills.
As is so often the case, it is the screenplay that really sinks Shark Night's chances before it has even set sail. There's barely an ounce of originality to the work, and so the film feels like an amalgamation of several other (better) movies. Writers Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg seem unsure of how to get the most out of their water-based predators, and so relegate them to the background with a ridiculous plot turn that sees a pair of rednecks take over as chief villains. Suddenly, rather than working on the man-versus-nature angle that plays on very primitive fears, the film becomes a generic teen horror. Perhaps, had the film not played everything so straight and instead introduced a little comedy to proceedings, the stereotypical characters (see the young black man who, when the chips are down, reverts to the ways of "the street") and the nonsensical plot developments could very well worked in the film's favor -- suggesting the writer's were playing on genre conventions -- but this is patently not the case. Instead we're left with a humorless film in which characters make nothing but a succession of nonsensical decisions, and attempts at commentary on reality TV fall flat.
It's difficult to really offer a view on the cast, as none of them are what you would consider poor, but at the same time none amongst them really attempts to break the monotony. Nobody really owns their role, cementing the belief that this is cut-and-paste horror at its most tedious.
The special effects work is often passable, but hardly exceptional. The CGI stands out as being especially poor, and never quite sits right with the rest of the picture.
Onto the disc itself, and it's hard to fault the audio-visual presentation. The transfer is immediately striking, with a razor-sharp image complemented by vibrant colors and rich black levels. There's an excellent level of detail to the picture, which really makes the most of the beautiful locales. The soundtrack is crisp, with a spacious mix. If only the soundtrack and dialogue that litter it had been better.
The special features included on the disc are, in keeping with the film itself, poor. "Shark Attack! Kill Machine!" is simply all the kill scenes from the film bundled together for those who would rather view an abridged version of the movie. It is exactly as pointless as it sounds. "Ellis' Island" has cast and crew wax lyrical on their experiences of working with director David R. Ellis, while the man himself briefly discusses the film.
Released theatrically as Shark Night 3D, Shark Night comes to DVD minus the advantage of the third dimension. Stripped of that gimmick, this is a very hard film to recommend.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Official Site