Shark Night review

Banana Rating: 1 out of 5

I have a weak­ness for aquatic mon­ster movies. Maybe I’m still search­ing for the hugely enjoy­able thrills I got from Spiel­berg’s Jaws the first time round. Well, okay, second time round. The first time I tried to watch Jaws, I bottled the rest of the movie when Drey­fuss went diving and found you-know-what in Ben Gardner’s boat. I’m made of tougher stuff now, or so I like to think. I sure needed to be tough to sur­vive the pain of Mega Piranha, and Shark in Venice, dur­ing my search for the elu­sive mon­ster movie that can com­pare to Spiel­berg’s clas­sic.

I think part of the fas­cin­a­tion with such films is that fight­ing a mon­ster on land isn’t half as scary as fight­ing a mon­ster under­wa­ter, the one domain where, even if we can swim, we’re at a dis­ad­vant­age: pon­der­ously slow com­pared to an under­wa­ter killer who’s lived all his life beneath the waves, hunt­ing and chomping.

Shark Night, fully aware that just about every­one has seen Jaws, pays homage to that film’s open­ing scene. And not very suc­cess­fully. It just made me think how much I’d rather be watch­ing Jaws and not this cheapo, tooth­less, knock-off ver­sion. So, it’s not a good start.

With that out of the way, it’s time to meet the col­lege kids, the guys who’ll end up being shark food in no par­tic­u­lar order. I say “in no par­tic­u­lar order”, but any­one who’s famil­iar with the hor­ror genre will no doubt work out a rough order of the deaths in about thirty seconds flat. And I’m prob­ably being gen­er­ous with that timescale.

The kids are the usual bunch of clichés. There’s…

  1. The sens­ible chick, with her head screwed on right.
  2. The dan­ger­ous babe, with dark hair and tattoos.
  3. The nerd who might just turn out to be a hero.
  4. The idi­otic jock.
  5. The self-aware, sar­castic twat.
  6. The black guy who might as well have, “I’ll die early in this movie!” on a big sign around his neck.
  7. The His­panic chick who might as well have, “I’ll die early in this movie!” on a big sign around her neck.

The clichés keep stack­ing up when a pair of scummy look­ing Hill­bil­lies are intro­duced. The film, occa­sion­ally, tries to sub­vert a cliché: the jock, for example, starts cry­ing at one point. I’m all for that, if it works. Some­how though, it doesn’t. It’s because, unlike a shark that sees a pair of tasty human legs tread­ing water in front of its snout, Shark Night is a film that doesn’t know which way to turn.

Scenes of ser­i­ous, pan­icked teens clash with really bad CGI sharks dart­ing through the water at silly speeds. They often spring out of the water, like a jack in the box, to eat someone at ran­dom. These moments, so sud­den, do a great job of repla­cing old-fashioned ideas of build­ing pace and ten­sion. It’s never scary, the attacks designed purely to get a cheap thrill from that most over­used thing of the moment, 3D. I saw it in 2D, but I doubt the extra dimen­sion adds much.

There’s a bit where one of the col­lege kids goes head to head with a ham­mer­head (yes, I did just say, “head to head with a ham­mer­head”), with just a har­poon in his hand. Played right, stuff like that could be glor­i­ous fun. It’s played wrong though, totally straight. Some­times that means a film can end up being unin­ten­tion­ally funny. At least then, there’s some enjoy­ment to be had. Shark Night doesn’t even have that. Mostly, I just found myself quietly shak­ing my head in dis­be­lief. The dir­ector, David R. Ellis, struggles to nail the right tone.

It’s only towards the end, when an animat­ronic shark seems to have replaced a CGI one, that the pulse begins to quicken. It looks quite effect­ive. Maybe like “Bruce” in Jaws, it kept mal­func­tion­ing, hence its brief appear­ance. For­tu­nately, back then, Spiel­berg didn’t have a com­puter to plug the gaps in the movie where the shark was out of action.

Dir­ector David R. Ellis does, and it ends up being a com­plete dis­aster. Ima­gine a cheap “The Asylum” movie, but with com­pet­ent act­ors. The res­ult, unex­pec­tedly, isn’t a super­ior movie.

Shark Night? More like Shark Shite.