Finally, in Shark Night 3D, we have the cross between Jaws and Hostel no one could have possibly ever wanted. Actually, scratch that; even uttering the name of this lackluster trash in the same breath as Jaws feels like it's doing that original film a great disservice. Hell, Shark Night 3D doesn't even deserve to be lumped in with gleeful trash like Piranha 3D. Instead, director David R. Ellis (a veteran of more tolerable junk like Final Destination 2, and Snakes on a Plane) turns in a shockingly dour, scare-free film that somehow finds a way to take itself way more seriously than any film called Shark Night 3D should ever be legally allowed to.
It all starts with the script by Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg. If these two are writing with the sole intent of getting a cushy job with awful movie mavens The Asylum, then they've got themselves a great resume-builder here. Unlike last year's gore and boob-fest Piranha 3D, which actively reveled in all the more sordid elements of a bad, B-grade horror film to wonderful effect, Shark Night is astonishingly tame, more interested in a collection of bad hillbilly stereotypes willfully torturing and mocking a collection of college kid stereotypes before periodically feeding them to giant, man-eating sharks, which have been placed inside a remote Louisiana lake for reasons too stupid for me to even repeat. Let's just say that at one point, I half expected Donal Logue--who plays the evil sheriff that gets to explain the meat of their evil plan to one of the hapless victims--to spin around and scream "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?" before offing the poor kid.
Before it gets to any of that, though, the writers spend simultaneously too much and not enough time setting up the back story of their doomed meatbags. Early on, we learn a bit about Nick (Dustin Milligan), a nerdsome (read: nerdy/handsome) college kid who pines for Sara (Sara Paxton), a quietly smoking hot blonde who invites a bunch of her friends--namely, a skinny, Xbox-obsessed geek (Joel Moore), a slutty, tattooed harlot with a big mouth (Katharine McPhee), a tanning-obsessed jock (Chris Zylka), and a good-hearted college linebacker and his girlfriend (Sinqua Walls and Alyssa Diaz)--to a lake house out in the middle of nowhere she hasn't been back to in three years for mysterious reasons that are mysterious.
They may involve a scar-faced local (Chris Carmack) and his band of chuckling yokels, who are roughly as racist as they are incapable of proper dental care. Because no racist redneck can ever be established in a film without them being the villains, you can of course assume that they are up to some chicanery. Possibly chicanery involving sharks. Since there are sharks in the movie. And it's called Shark Night. 3D.
Unfortunately, not even the promise of over-sized sharks chomping down on these barely-sketched stereotypes is enough to pay the absurdly jacked up 3D ticket prices here. Hayes and Studenberg break the cardinal rule of horror filmmaking, which is to say that while they go to the trouble of creating a cast made from a crude assemblage of horror movie stereotypes, yet do not give this cast any opportunities to allow us to revel in their deaths. The skanky girl isn't nearly bitchy enough, the self-absorbed guy isn't self-absorbed enough, and the enraged boyfriend isn't nearly enraged enough. For some reason, Ellis and the screenwriters want us to empathize with these human chum buckets as though they were actual, honest-to-god people. For a movie that bills itself as pure frivolity, a 3D extravaganza of sexy teenagers being sexy and also eaten, there is a weirdly dark atmosphere to the whole thing, a torture-porny cloud that hangs over every scene, making most of Shark Night's deaths more uncomfortable than celebratory.
Never mind that Shark Night is, inexplicably, a PG-13 movie. I don't know how you expect to make anything remotely watchable out of a script like this without inserting gratuitous gore and ample amounts of massive mammaries, and yet, here we are with a PG-13 romp that makes your average underwater nature documentary seem gratuitously violent by comparison.
Everything in Shark Night 3D is just ill-conceived, from its depressingly dank script, to its bizarre sterilization of B-horror's grimiest and best elements, and even its heavily billed 3D, which looks somehow even more ugly and tacked-on than up-converted films released last year. Even the shark attacks are unbelievably dull. Ellis' mixing of CG sharks with animatronic models never lines up properly, and given the weak rating, the best he can do is make his comically huge sharks jump out of the water constantly to swallow kids whole. It's occasionally surprising, but by the third or fourth time he goes back to the well with that trick, you'll be well bored with the concept.
There is no joy to be had with Shark Night 3D, no rowdy, raucous laughs to be had at the expense of its barely-human characters. Every second watching this thing is a torturous, ungodly second spent doing something you'd really, really rather not be doing. It takes a lot of effort to turn in a campless, mirthless B-movie, but my god, Ellis and crew have done it here. I guess that's sort of an accomplishment. So hey, way to go!
Trailer: Shark Night 3D
It's not safe to go back into the water. Or a movie theater, if this trailer is any indication.
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