Ever since my parents dragged me to a drive-in theater to watch a double feature of Jaws and some other movie I left too mentally scarred to remember, I’ve been obsessed with sharks. I can watch pretty much anything about them, from the most droning documentaries to the cheesiest of b-movies. Hell, I can watch a rubber shark float in a bathtub for an hour and be entertained. So, knowing this, I figured a flick like Shark Night was tailor-made for ferocious fish fetishists such as myself, and scoffed at the myriad negative reviews from both critics and moviegoers alike.
So this past New Year’s Eve, just after the ball descended on Times Square and zombie Dick Clark (‘ed note: Big McLargehuge, you’re going to hell for that) welcomed in 2012, I tossed my review copy of Shark Night into my Blu-ray player and, accompanied by my wife and 15 year old nephew, plopped down onto the couch to watch what amounted to one of the most absurd and laughably inept horror movies I’ve ever witnessed. And you know what? I had a blast watching every thoroughly misguided minute of it.
Now before we go any further, don’t for second misinterpret that last sentence as praise for the movie. We are talking about irredeemably bad filmmaking, here; filmmaking that fails on every conceivable level. You will literally scream at your television, throw up your hands in disgust, and, ultimately, question the sanity of a world in which a movie like Shark Night could ever get made in the first place. You’ll also laugh. A lot. Especially if you’ve got booze and some company to share the burden of watching it with you. That’s right; Shark Night isn’t so much a movie as it is a drinking game/spectator sport.
A Benetton commercial’s worth of social and racial stereotypes venture off into the Louisiana bayou for a weekend at the summer home of uber-hot-yet-sweet-and-approachable-rich girl, Sara (Sara Paxton). The gang includes nerdy med student, Nick (Dustin Milligan), who has a thing for Sara; his way-too-old-for-college roommate, Gordon (Joel David Moore); super jock/ black guy, Malik (Sinqua Walls) and his feisty Latina girlfriend, Maya (Alyssa Diaz); blonde himbo, Blake (Chris Zylka), and slutty rebel girl, Beth (American Idol runner-up, Katherine McPhee). We know Beth’s a slutty rebel girl, because, when she’s introduced during the obligatory “meet cute” opening, she’s talking on her cell phone while it appears that she’s having sex. When the camera pulls back, however, we see she’s not having sex at all, but, rather, having a borderline orgasmic reaction to getting a tattoo. This is what passes for character development in Shark Night.
The revelers arrive in the backwater town where Sara’s family’s vacation home is located and immediately run afoul of the local yokels when Malik and Maya…
You know what? I’m going to stop there for a minute.
Could they have come up with more stereotypical monikers for a black guy and a Latina chick? These are names straight out of the Writer’s Guide for White Screenwriters Who Don’t Know Any Actual Black People or Hispanics. I’m surprised they didn’t just say fuck it and and call them Mandingo and Refried Beans.
Anyway, back to the revelers running afoul of the local rednecks (one of whom is named Red. See? They’re not even trying anymore and it’s hardly been ten minutes). Ol’ Red (Joshua Leonard channeling Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel) and his buddy, Dennis (Chris Carmack), toss a few racial slurs in Maya and Malik’s direction, but, before things get violent, Sara defuses the situation. You see, she and Dennis used to be an item; that is, until he tried to drown her, and she, in turn, carved up his face with an outboard motor propeller.
With the violence averted, the kids hop in Sara’s motorboat and haul ass across the bayou, where Sara attempts to outrun a local swamp cop. Once they reach their destination, however, it’s revealed that said cop is actually ol’ family friend, Sheriff Sabin (Donal Logue, who’s so much better than this). The Sheriff and Sara catch up on old times before parting ways, and the kids get down to some serious montaging, all set to a deafening rock/house hybrid that will appeal to just about nobody, and illustrating as much drunken debauchery and side boob as the film’s PG-13 rating will allow.
The kids finally hit the water as Nick, Maya, Blake, and Malik decide to go wakeboarding. Malik goes first, tearing up the waves like a seasoned X-Gamer, despite being from the “west Baltimore hood”. His fun doesn’t last long, though, as he’s mysteriously goes under, reappearing on the shore of Sara’s house sans his right arm. Everyone blames Nick, thinking he ran Malik over, but, when Nick dives back into the lake and recovers Malik’s arm, he’s chased back to shore by a massive CGI shark, and the horrifying truth is revealed!
Nick, Maya, and Sara decide to take the profusely bleeding Malik and his severed arm back to town themselves, but the shark has other ideas and rams the back of the boat, knocking Maya overboard, and devouring her. Sara then loses control of the boat, and the surviving trio bail before it crashes into a gas tank on the dock and explodes.
Malik regains consciousness and learns that Maya has been eaten by a shark. Devastated, he does what any man who’s just lost his arm to a giant ocean predator would do. He grabs a harpoon and wades out into the water so that he can kill the shark himself. Malik rationalizes this by telling Nick he’s playing by “West Baltimore rules,” adding “You take one of mine, I take one of yours”.
Now let’s reflect on this for a minute. Not only has Malik lost an arm; he’s lost several pints of blood, as well. It’d be all he could do to sit upright in bed without going into full-blown shock, let alone carry a hefty weapon down to the beach, wade into the water, and do battle with a shark.
And he wins!
Yes. A profusely bleeding one-armed man manages to singlehandedly kill a 10 foot hammerhead shark with a glorified fireplace decoration. Okay, sure, one of the other guys jumps in and hits it with an I-Pod or something, but, still…
Anyway, everyone’s overjoyed that Malik has killed the shark save for Nick, as he is certain that the shark that attacked them earlier was not a hammerhead. This means that there’s more than one shark in the lake, but how many, and, even more troubling, how did they get there in the first place?
Of course, if you’ve the mental faculty to remember to chew your food before you swallowing, you’ll have figured this bit out in the first fifteen minutes.
Shark Night was directed David R. Ellis, the same fellow who brought us the equally stupid but much more enjoyable Snakes on a Plane. Prior to directing, Ellis worked for over twenty years as a professional stunt man, and I’m assuming suffered several head injuries during that period, for that is the only thing that can explain the abomination that is Shark Night. From its lazy script and sub-SyFy Channel CGI to the hatchet-job editing and indecisive direction, this film reaches Uwe Bollian levels of sucktitude, but with a budget that would make that legendary purveyor of putridity cream in his lederhosen ($25 million!!!Yikes!).
Shark Night was originally released in 3-D, but comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Fox in standard 2-D. I imagine that some of the FX work may have been passable when viewed through those dark glasses on a huge screen, but, here, under the unflinching eye that is Blu-ray, the effects are downright cartoonish. The quality of the overall image is fairly solid, with vibrant colors and some moments where fine detail is evident, but there’s an occasional softness as well as some funky noise/blocking in darker scenes, most prevalent during a disastrous attempt at day-for-night shooting in the third act, where everything look as though it was shot through a pair of Ray Bans coated in Vaseline and coffee grounds. The accompanying 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track is a cacophony of drum and bass beats that drown out just about everything else. When the music isn’t blaring, dialogue is fairly organic sounding and a few subtle atmospheric noises bleed through, but, much like the film, itself, the audio mix of Shark Night is nothing to write home about.
Extras are all in HD, and include four short featurettes that barely add up to 30 minutes worth of material. There’s Shark Attack! Kill Machine! , which presents all of the death scenes in one tidy package, as well as Fake Sharks, Real Scares, which looks at the film’s shoddy FX work and pretends it isn’t rubbish. We also get the Shark Night's Survival Guide, which consists of a collection of throwaway trivia bits any respectable Shark Week fan should already know by heart, accompanied by many of the scenes we’ve already grown tired of from the previous two featurettes. Rounding out the “goodies” are an EPK style making of, and a collection of trailers for other Fox releases.
I know I spent the majority of the past 1500 or so words railing against Shark Night, and, to those who aren’t familiar with my reviews, it probably sounds like I hated it. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though, for, as most of our regular readers know, I’m a connoisseur of precisely this kind of crap – a devotee of doo-doo, if you will. That’s right; as irredeemably awful as Shark Night is, I had so much fun laughing at it that I’ll be revisiting it for years to come. Hell, I may even make viewing it a New Year’s Eve tradition! Of course, if you’re not a card carrying Mst3ky who thrives on the laughter gleaned from cinematic misfortune (or a total shark movie *sadist for whom there is no such thing as a “bad shark movie.” ), knock off a skull (or two) and consider yourself warned.
*B$B, I’m talking to you!