Shark Night (2011)
By: Stuart Giesel on August 30, 2012  | 
DVD
Icon | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 86 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: David R. Ellis
Starring: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katharine McPhee, Joel David Moore
Screenplay: Will Hayes, Jesse Studenberg
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Purchase YouTube
You know that ominous warning in the pit of your stomach that you sometimes get when you're watching a film and you know - you just know - it's not going to be very good? Sometimes it hits you in the first-third, maybe twenty minutes in or so. You get the feeling that things aren't going to get better and, if anything, they'll just get worse. Well, I got that feeling whilst watching Shark Night. The problem is, I got it in the first minute. The opening credits, in fact.

I know, I know, Shark Night was never meant to be as good as Jaws. Hell, it shouldn't even be mentioned in the same paragraph as Jaws. But when the crappy industrial music came over the credits and they went ultra-stylised and everything turned red, I thought, "Yep, this is gonna blow big chunks of suck".

And, of course, Shark Night does invite comparisons to Jaws other than the whole "shark-puts-people-in-peril" thing. For one, it starts off mimicking Jaws's classic opening with a nubile bather out in the middle of nowhere being hunted by a merciless eating machine. Unfortunately there is none of Spielberg's inventiveness, nor a soundtrack that in any way approaches the brilliance of John Williams's score to Jaws to underline the tension. Instead, the girl gets attacked, thrashes around and dies. Yawn.

The main problem with Shark Night is that it's toothless (pun intended). Well, there are the usual modern references which will be outdated in ten years, and a collection of characters who are as unmemorable alive as they are when they become shark chum. The makers should have gone for broke, like Alexandre Aja did with the Piranha remake - pile on the boobs, the gore and the shlock. Instead they went for a US PG-13 rating, which neutered the film and my interest.

Oh, there's a plot in there somewhere. A bunch of college kids go to a lake for some reason and they get picked off one by zzzzznnnnnn....wh? Oh, that's about it. It's the sort of movie where there's no phone reception because... well, because, and there's no phone or Internet at the house because, hey, who needs communication with the outside world? The sort of movie where people can hold their breath for five minutes underwater, where a shark can outswim a motorboat and take the time to tear off a guy's arm but not bother with the rest (I would assume the torso and the buttocks is where the good eating is).

Stupidity reigns supreme. The supposed medical student doesn't know how to fashion a tourniquet out of a towel or anything, so he just sits there next to his buddy doing nothing and looking stupid. Then he goes hunting for the arm because the shark just left it lying around - presumably it wasn't hungry, it was just screwing around with the kids for shits n' giggles. Then the shark chases after him (presumably tired from chasing the motorboat, since it can't keep up with a guy swimming with one free arm). And now we get into a series of contrived events to make sure our "heroes" remain stranded on the island, because after all it's not like the shark is a serial killer that can stalk them on land. Oh, look, it can catch up to the motorboat again. And the guy who's mortally wounded (and who can't be moved because apparently he's lost too much blood) decides to walk back into the water with a spear for some payback, and when he gets injured again his friends are all so concerned (look, you choose to go back into the water, you deserve no sympathy from now on). Oh, a jetski will totally work, sure. And look, here comes the shark, somehow getting in front of the jetski and ambushing it... ah, to hell with it.

The cast is nothing special; presumably they were hired to fit a certain character mould; i.e. the black guy, the slut, the nerd, the jock, and so forth. The two leads are a tad more likeable than the other shark bait, but that's not saying much. Sara Paxton, who plays the lead Sara Palski, looks good in a bikini so presumably that was the foremost thing on the casting director's mind. Dustin Milligan who plays Nick, aka wannabe Doctor Moron, brings little to the proceedings. It's not that he's bad, it's just that the character is so bland it could star in its own sitcom. There are a few redneck-types who do their redneck-iest, and ***SPOILER ALERT follows, though who really cares*** it turns out they are responsible for unleashing a bunch of sharks in the Bayou. Get this; they do this to get back at Sarah for some pissweak accident that happened three years ago, and to make some money because apparently there's an audience out there for snuff-shark films (even though any such footage and the disappearances of a bunch of people would be immediately investigated by the authorities). So even though their motives are explained, they're not convincing in the slightest. Why not just stalk Sara when she's by herself? Why use an expensive system of tagging, setting up cameras and releasing sharks outside of their natural habitat to lure Sara and her friends to their deaths? And why use sharks in the first place, given that in real life sharks rarely attack humans? Then again, maybe they stumbled across a secret government breeding program for really aggressive sharks. And how much money could these retards make from real-life shark attack footage? You just look on YouTube for that sort of thing anyway - the idiot sheriff even says that stuff like Faces of Death can be downloaded for free, so why bother? Who's going to buy this crap? (Maybe the same people who buy copies of Shark Night on DVD or Blu-Ray). Maybe because they've already sunk millions of dollars into their idiotic operation they feel they have to keep going with it (aka the sunken cost theory). God almighty. *** END SPOILERS ***

The CGI is pretty woeful too. The shark looked better when it was a mechanical turd in Jaws. At least it looked like it had mass, because the damn thing did in real life. Shark Night's shark looks like a VFX-reel demo and about as threatening as a paper cut. And then it jumps out of the water, and suddenly what little menace it possessed has evaporated. And the better said for the cheesy 3D gimmicky effects (because this was filmed in 3D in the hope of making a few more bucks) the better.

Look, I don't want to make out like Shark Night is the worst film ever - it's not all bad. The cinematography, particularly of overhead shots of the Bayou, is quite nice, and director David R. Ellis milks some suspense out of the early chase scenes. There's also a nice gore effect at the end. But lordy is the film stupid. If they'd stuck with a straightforward shark attack plot and upped the gore it might have been a decent watch.

Shark Night is just so unbelievably stupid that it can't really be recommended, even to die-hard fans of shark movies. Deep Blue Sea is a masterpiece next to this. Shark Night isn't even smart enough to revel in its own stupidity. Add some bland stars, poor CGI, a lame 3D gimmick and the most ridiculous concept ever for a bad guy motive, and you have a missable snoozefest.

Oh, and there's an idiotic music clip after the credits, presumably there to up the film's running time above 80 minutes.
Video
DVD video quality is very good; even in murky underwater shots there's not as much ghosting as I was expecting, and in general colours are evenly balanced. Scenery shots are the best. Unfortunately the clarity in the video presentation means the dodgy CGI stands out, much like what happened in Piranha 3D.
Audio
The audio is immersive across all five channels, with solid support from the rear speakers. The ominous bass-heavy menace of the shark and the meaty sound effects all come through nicely.
Extra Features
Shark Night's Survival Guide is essentially footage from the movie with an annoying voiceover guy and some shark facts that seem to exist solely to support the preposterous happenings in the screenplay. Okay, so sharks can swim up to 68mph, can they smart guy? Is that for all of the shark breeds or only certain ones? All the time or just in bursts? In certain surroundings or particular temperatures? When they've just eaten? Piss off.

Fake Sharks, Real Scares is an okay look at the making of the animatronic and CGI sharks for the movie. It's unfortunate that most of the good model work has gone to waste, since in the final product the terrible CGI overshadowed the animatronics.

Ellis Island is a wankfest about how great David R. Ellis is to work with. I'm sure that's the case, shame he created a sucky end product.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Shark Night is one of the dumbest, watered-down, so-called 'horror' films I've seen in a long time. It makes the old 80's slashers look like plothole-free inspirations of genius. The shark in Jaws is more animated and realistic than anything in Shark Night, and that includes the actors.

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