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Review: Shark Night (2011)

Shark Night (2011)

Directed by: David R. Ellis

Premise: A group of college students take a weekend getaway to an isolated cabin but find themselves under siege.

What Works: The opening credit sequence is slickly produced and the acting by the lead performers actually has a few bright spots. Although Shark Night isn’t going to earn anyone a golden statue, actors Sara Paxton and Dustin Milligan do show promise and with the right script and proper direction these performers could deliver reliable performances in a better film.

What Doesn’t: There have been a lot of direct-to-video shark films made in recent years. Recent entries in the genre—from Shark Attack to Red Water to Psychoshark—have been consistently terrible and most have not even managed the charm of the Jaws imitators released in the late 1970s and early 80s such as Orca and Piranha. All shark movies made post-1975 are inevitably compared to Jaws and all of them are worse for that comparison. But Shark Night does not deserve to be compared to Jaws or even Jaws 2 or Deep Blue Sea. It shouldn’t even be compared to Great White, the Italian shark film so similar to Jaws that Universal successfully sued to keep out of the North American market. Shark Night’s true inspiration is found in films like Mako: The Jaws of Death and Eaten Alive in that it combines the animal attack genre with the when-rednecks-attack genre. Despite that distinction, Shark Night’s producers clearly had the resources to make decent film. And yet, despite obviously benefiting from a budget that could afford convincing special effects and managing to cast a few capable actors, Shark Night is one of the worst shark films ever made. Suspension of disbelief is a given in any film and viewers of science fiction and horror pictures generally indulge that suspension of disbelief to a greater degree. But Shark Night is a movie who premise is based around a freshwater lake that is inhabited by huge saltwater sharks and the only explanation given is that the contributing rivers sometimes flood during hurricane season. And that isn’t even the biggest leap of the movie. One of the students has his arm taken by a shark and after fading in and out of consciousness for a third of the film he recovers and wades into waist deep water to fight the shark with a stick. And later on the audience learns that these sharks have cameras mounted on them by the locals as part of a shark attack conspiracy. All this ridiculousness might be fun if the filmmakers gave a hint that they were being ironic or self-consciously channeling the animal attack films of the 1970s like Day of the Animals. But the filmmakers behind Shark Night seem to think they can make a film with this many disastrous choices and still be taken seriously. And of course the film cannot be taken seriously. In fact, it cannot even be taken as a bit of silly fun because the execution of the film is equally disastrous. Ignoring the inane premise, there are all sorts of other story problems as characters behave inexplicably and show up in places for no reason. Shark Night is terribly directed; the attacks are staged clumsily, sequences are full of major continuity errors, it isn’t scary, and there is no tension even when one of the students is bleeding to death. To top it off, Shark Night goes for a PG-13 rating so even the lascivious thrills of exploitation films have been stripped from it.

Bottom Line: Shark Night is as bad—and perhaps—worse than the direct-to-DVD pictures cluttering the bargain bin at your local video store. It isn’t scary nor is it even entertaining trash.

Episode: #356 (September 18, 2011)