Friday, September 2, 2011
"Shark Night 3D" (opening September 2 throughout San Diego) had a big Comic-Con presence but Relativity Media didn't see any point to screening it for the press.
Is "Shark Night 3D" a good movie? No. Is it worth $16? Well, almost. So why would anyone want to see a bad movie for $16? Two reasons... no, not that. This is not "Piranha 3D," this is a PG-13 movie (more on that later). No the two reasons are sharks are awesome creatures and there's a post credit rap video that is totally worth seeing.
Premise is simple: a group of college kids head off to the Louisiana Bayou for a little vaca on an island and turnout to be shark bait. Like "Piranha," the danger is simple to avoid: just stay out of the water. But of course there's always a reason to go back in.
But unlike "Piranha," "Shark Night" is a PG-13 film so the blood and boobs are both less readily on display. I don't know what Relativity Media was thinking when they made that decision but one of the things that made "Piranha 3D" so much fun last year was that it's R rating let them do pretty much what they wanted (including some rare male nudity... or at least floating body parts). A PG-13 is generally a turn off to fans of the genre, and then if you throw in coeds and don't go for the R, you tend to lose a certain chuck of your typical horror fan base. But there's not much that's fun in theaters right now so "Shark Night" might still find an audience.
Director David R. Ellis has some B-horror movie creds having made "Snakes on a Plane" and 2 "Final Destination" movies. He also has a long career as a stuntman going back as far as "Smoky and the Bandit" and "Game of Death." He knows what he's expected to deliver and moves in an efficient manner to hit all his marks. The nice thing is there's no pretense about what he's doing. This is totally a formula film with no aspiration than wanting to pack the theaters opening weekend before going on to BluRay sales where it will probably put the theatrical PG-13 rating to good use by marketing a special "uncut" R rated home video version of the film. Ellis engineers a couple good kills and uses the 3-D well. Horror is the only genre that makes no bones about 3-D being a gimmick and it uses it well making the technology shine in a blood splattered way. But nothing here is quite as fun or clever as the 3-D kills in "Piranha" or "The Final Destination" (the latter Ellis also happened to direct).
But Ellis' work is upstaged by one of the young actors who gets credit for directing a rap video that comes after the closing titles. Dustin Milligan, who plays a pre-med students, gets a directing nod for the DIY-looking music video that ends the film and allows for all the characters to return rapping about the sharks. This is hilarious and almost worth the price of admission. It's like the music video gets an 8 out of 10 stars while the feature film only merits a 2 or 3. So if you do end up going to see the film I suggest opting for 2-D and definitely staying through the entire end credits.
Okay I want to say a couple things about the film that will contain spoilers so skip past this paragraph if you don't want to know the order of the kills. (Although everything I mention is alluded to in the current "show-all" tradition of today's horror trailers.) Any diehard horror fan already know everything that I am about to say because I'm talking about genre conventions that we all know. And that's one of my complaints. I thought horror films had moved past certain cliches, especially racial ones. But "Shark Night" follows a very predictable course of events: kill a cute girl in the open teaser; go for the black man next; and then the Hispanic. Um, really? Then to make matters worse, the black character -- who also happens to be the star athlete (another racial cliche) -- decides to run out into the water to take on the shark mano-a-mano and what does he grab but a spear that looks like it came out of "Shaka Zulu." Again, really? There's all this hi-tech gear everywhere and he has to grab a rusty old school spear that makes him look like a cartoon stereotype? That's really unfortunate. But the scene, like the human punching out the alien in "Skyline," does have a certain silly appeal when it comes to pummeling the shark with his bare fists.
The film doesn't avoid white stereotypes either so naturally, being out in Louisiana, we get some redneck types who look like they've dipped into the same gene pool once too often although one of the rednecks is a real life model so he boasts a nice six-pack (and I don't mean the drinking kind). The only nice twist to the rednecks is that they turn out to be shark experts. One, played by Donal Logue, gets to do his hick version of Mr. Blonde's torture scene from "Reservoir Dogs," and in his pale imitation of a Quentin Tarantino monologue he does get to fire off one funny line about having Morgan Freeman do the nature doc voiceover for a shark attack snuff video.
END SPOILER ALERT
"Shark Night 3D" (rated PG-13 for violence and terror, disturbing images, sexual references, partial nudity, language and thematic material) is exactly what you are expecting but probably with far less gore and nudity. The 3D is far more fun than what's on display in "Conan" or "Fright Night," and the film embraces it's cheesiness rather than pretending to be something more. Since I love sharks and the film highlighted an especially cute toothy one, I was satisfied shelling out $16, especially with the unexpected rap bonus at the end. If I felt guilty I'd call this a guilty pleasure but since I don't I'll just call it trash I enjoy. So if you decide to go don't complain to me that the film was crap. I warned you.
Companion viewing: "Jaws 3D," "Piranha 3D," "The Final Destination"