Judge Patrick Naugle enjoys making friends with fish...before eating them.
Our review of Shark Night, published January 16th, 2012, is also available.
The "killer-shark-on-the-loose" genre ended on a high note with director Renny Harlin's hugely enjoyable B-movie Deep Blue Sea. Super smart sharks vs. Samuel L. Jackson = awesomeness! Since then there haven't been a lot of great movies featuring dumb, attractive people becoming a seafaring smorgasbord. That is, until the release of the aptly titled Shark Night, released during the swan song of summer 2011 and now available on Blu-ray care of Fox Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
When a group of college-aged partiers are invited to fellow coed Sara's (Sara Paxton, The Last House on the Left remake) family lake house, they think they're in for a weekend of beer pong, BBQ, and general debauchery. What they get is a group of angry sharks that are out for their blood! When one of the kids gets his arm bitten off while wakeboarding, the group quickly realizes something is in the water…and it isn't friendly. Before you can say "Jaws Knockoff," the kids (including American Idol alum Katherine McPhee and Avatar's Joel David Moore) are being picked off one-by-one, even as the seemingly dimwitted local sheriff (Donal Logue, Ghost Rider) and a couple of creepy locals attempt to help them out before everyone becomes human chum.
I don't understand all the negativity leveled at Shark Night. The reviews were scathing, as if what the critics were watching was something completely different than what they were expecting. Did they even see the preview for this movie? It featured a) an attractive cast that was, b) partying on an isolated island, while c) being chased and eaten by hungry sharks. I'm sorry, if you know this information is going into a film, you don't have a lot of room to lob complaints about how the whole thing shakes down. It's like going into McDonald's and throwing a fit that your burger wasn't aged prime rib on herb encrusted ciabatta bread.
I enjoyed Shark Night, and I realize I'm in the minority. I had super low expectations, so the movie had almost nowhere to go but up. The plot thrives at a bare minimum, when it comes to characters and motivation; a group of teens partying get caught up in a twisted escapade that involves sharks being let loose in a saltwater lake. There's so little to hang on the story it's practically a safety video for what not to do during a shark attack.
No one in the cast makes much of an impression, which bothered me very little. Is anyone really disappointed they didn't get a chance to "get to know" the slutty girl, the hot jock, or the nerdy love interest? I sure wasn't. The "African American student who makes good from the ghetto" storyline was so paper thin it could have been used to print the box office receipts on. Sara Paxton gets the most attention, but that's only because she fills out a swimsuit so well (hey, ya gotta notice something). Most of the actors just stand around shouting at each other (a must when you are being chased by evil fish) or spend time discussing how much they want to drink and have sex; which according to these people is once every 92 seconds, or approximately three million more times than me. These moments of lazy screenwriting are interrupted by the sharks chewing off an appendage or two.
What, you expected something original? Then you, my friend, came to the wrong movie.
The effects work on Shark Night is passable, but nothing special. It appears the production team utilized practical models, which seems to be a dying art form these days (one scene where the one-armed character fights a hammerhead shark is obviously fake). There's also some computer generated sharks which look better than you'd think, due mostly to the fact that the underwater lake sequences aren't crystal clear. The music score by Timothy Williams (no relation to John, whose Jaws score swims circles around this one) is mostly loud music cues designed to make the viewer jump. Director David R. Ellis—who also helmed the so-so sequel The Final Destination and the internet sensation / box office bomb Snakes on a Plane—does straightforward work without any real flash or excitement.
Honestly, what more can I say about a movie featuring sharks and half-naked bodies? Yes, the dialogue is uniformly bad and assumes the audience has the IQ of a Ritz cracker (when one character falls while wakeboarding, another asks "What happened?" to which a third character responsds, "He fell."). Sure, the teen friendly PG-13 rating boils my blood—seriously, who makes a killer shark movie without the requisite grime and grizzle? Yet for all the complaints, as pure popcorn entertainment, you can do a whole lot worse than Shark Night. You can also do a whole lot better, but not until Universal finally releases Jaws on Blu-ray.
Shark Night is presented in high definition 1.85:1/1080p widescreen. Originally shot in 3D (the film's original title was Shark Night 3D, dropped for the home release), the transfer here is good, but not great, with solid black levels and bright colors all around. There are moments where the image looks somewhat murky, especially during some of the underwater sequences. This could be due in part to it being filmed in a lake, so the clarity is not going to be ocean-quality.
The audio is presented in decent enough 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, though the heavy bass (especially in the beginning of the film) can be a bit overpowering. Many of the side and rear speakers are engaged often and thoroughly, making for a fun and rollicking experience (just listen to those teeth chomp!). Also included are English and Spanish subtitles, but no alternate language tracks.
The bonus features are rather slim. Fans get four short featurettes—"Ellis Island," "Shark Attack! Kill Machine!" ""Shark Night's Survival Guide," and "Fake Sharks, Real Scares"—which deal with trivia about sharks, the effects work, and some of the kills featured in the movie; plus a theatrical trailer and a digital copy of the film (on a separate disc).
Shark Night is nothing more or less than what is sounds like: an evening of killer skarks. While the sanitized kills are a bummer, this is a fun and brain dead Friday night thriller that should fill the void for…well, whatever void you have that requires killer sharks.
Goes well with a few Jello shots and some stale Doritos.
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