Shark Night 3D

Certificate: PG13
Running time: 91 mins
Director: David R. Ellis
Starring: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katharine McPhee
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
Country: USA

There are reasons why shark movies have continued to be successful since the release of the ultimate great white, Jaws, back in 1975. Think beach babes, gruesome gore, monstrous beasts, special effects and usually a semi-decent plot to tie all of these guilty pleasures together. Sadly, Shark Night 3D is lacking in all of these areas and simply doesn’t stack up against other recent aquatic atrocities such as Piranha 3D or even its much older predecessor Deep Blue Sea. Perhaps the film was hampered by its PG-13 rating which meant that the ‘attack’ scenes were feeble rather than ferocious, and even the customary semi-nudity that we come to expect from these sorts of films had to be kept to a disappointing minimum. Either way, it lacked the gruesome (or laugh-out-loud, depending on how you look at it) shock factor of Piranha 3D and any kind of credible plot.

The film follows a bunch of stereotypical college students (including the jock, the slut, the nerd…you get the idea) as they head off for a weekend of partying at Sara Paxton’s Louisiana lake house. In true American fashion, the film begins with an infamous road trip across the country - cue soft top convertibles, loud music and the sort of reckless driving that would make anyone with classic car insurance weep. On the way they have a sinister encounter with some creepy rednecks from Paxton's past who she seems suspiciously reluctant to talk about. However all is forgotten amidst clumsy teenage romances and beer, bikini and water sport montages, until the fun is abruptly interrupted by one of the party goers having his arm bitten off by a great white. In their bumbling attempts to get him to hospital, the cast numbers slowly dwindle down and it transpires that there is more than one species of shark living in the salt water lake. How is this possible? There must be dark forces are at work and it seems that the hillbillies from earlier on have something to do with it. 

With director David Ellis at the helm, viewers will no doubt expect a substantial amount of blood and gore. Given his track record with Snakes on a Plane and Final Destination 2, we accept that it may be tongue-in-cheek, humorous gore that will leave us chuckling rather than chucking, but it will be present nonetheless. The clear lack of this along with long lulls between attacks and very little actual sighting of the CGI monsters makes for misguided and disappointing viewing. Admittedly Ellis knows how to use the 3D element (if you have the technology to appreciate it at home) and the audience can take pleasure in having sharks swimming straight at them and limbs being thrown in their faces. However, the CGI sharks weren’t great and after a while the ‘shark jumping out of the water unexpectedly’ gimmick becomes…well, expected.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the film, however, is the ludicrous explanation for why 45 species of sharks have made it into a Louisiana salt water lake in the first place. We discover that demure Paxton has a complex past with one of the rednecks who didn’t take kindly to her dumping him in favour of a college lifestyle. Embittered, he subsequently decides to set up a carefully cultivated array of sharks with help from his redneck buddy (ironically called Red) and the local, corrupt sheriff. Apparently there is money to be made from selling videos of shark attacks online (who knew?) and so feeding and filming them has become a lucrative source of income for this grizzly threesome. The link between Paxton’s love life and this ‘shark-snuff-movie’ plot twist is tenuous to say the least, and when the most monstrous beast in a shark film isn’t the shark but a sinister redneck called Red, the credibility of the film has to be called into question.

Often with these sort of films however, viewers aren’t expecting an insightful or inspiring plot and are happy with a few cheap thrills, a few 'jump-out-of-your-skin moments' and a film they can later refer to as a guilty pleasure. Sadly, Shark Night 3D hasn’t utilised either of these concepts which is a shame given the reasonable cast and potential for clich├ęd fun.


Reviewed by Lily Redding


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