“Shark Night” Takes the Last Bite Out of Summer

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Laura Drinan

Like almost every B-rated campy horror movie, Shark Night throws the bait out to viewers fishing for a comedy rather than a PG-13 suspense-thriller. Directed by Snakes on a Plane’s, David R. Ellis, the film lacks sophistication, replacing it with unintentionally humorous dialogue and uninteresting, unmemorable characters.  All characters — all attractive, beer guzzling college students — are generally not well rounded characters, with shallow personalities and also exhibiting their striking stupidity as they attempt to survive the sharks of a private lake in Louisiana.

The main character, Sara, played by Sara Paxton (Aquamarine, Darcy’s Wild Life) proposes a trip with her friends to a secluded vacation home she went to every year as a child. As the group makes their way to Sara’s house on the lakeside, they encounter a couple of natives at the local bait shop, one of which being Sara’s provincial ex-boyfriend, Dennis. He mocks Sara’s college friends, Malik and Maya, making racial comments. Malik, giving his share of sloppy dialogue says, “It’s ’bout to get gritty ’round here.” Once they escape the scorn of Dennis and his friend Red, the crew picks up some beers and goes joy-riding on their motorboat, speeding to their lake house. Sara attracts the attention of a cop and a high-speed pursuit occurs. When the police boat catches up with them, it turns out it was all fun and games because the officer is Sara’s old family friend, Sheriff Sabin. Now settled in their vacation home, the group decides to test the waters.

The vacationers get picked off by the sharks one by one.  Soon, they realize there is not just one shark in the lake but dozens of them coming in various breeds. Somewhat predictable chains of events transpire, and the viewers discover the main villain’s treacherous intentions of using the sharks for their bloodlust entertainment. Only in the last half hour, the film picks up the pace. The two most likeable characters get caught in a suspenseful predicament, teeter-tottering on the edge of life and death. Only with the possibility of being eaten by sharks do the characters form a romance, sharing an on-screen kiss, literally to save each other’s life through the transfer of oxygen.  With the predictable resolution, the film leaves viewers without answers as to what happens to the sharks still infested in the lake and what happens to the leads.

The lack of a strong plot is what makes the film infamous, not to mention the failed attempts at making a crew of vacuous actors become animated college students plagued by the lurid sharks at their vacation home. The dialogue came out unnatural and forced, as if they hadn’t had any time to rehearse, or their acting is truly sufferable. One good factor of the film was the scenic and artistic set. The location, Shreveport, Louisiana, was the perfect place for the movie, providing one of the only realistic aspects.

Like Jaws (1975), there are not many scenes where the shark is actually shown. Instead, both directors heavily rely on the anticipation viewers feel with the simple knowledge of the shark’s presence. However, David R. Ellis takes this fear one step further by dumping buckets of blood into the water for each of the attacks, assisting with the feeble effort of simulating a real shark encounter. Not only did the victims look like they were on a crazy roller coaster ride, rather than being brutally killed, the reactions to the characters’ deaths were mostly neglected, except for one exception where the acting had been extremely over dramatic, taking away from all seriousness. Where the acting had gone wrong, the special effects were worse. The sharks looked phony, with badly rendered CGI and lacking much detail in their appearance. There were several explosions, and while they were quite the eye-candy, they were hardly necessary.

Most viewers expected nothing more than a mediocre horror movie. Generally unappealing characters made most of the scenes either boring or humorous, both of which were probably not intended by its film crew. However, the film could have been worse. As of now, it sets the bar pretty low for the upcoming Piranha 3DD.