The main reason I wanted to see Shark Night was that it starred Sara Paxton, whom I saw most recently in the excellent indie ghost story, The Innkeepers. Unfortunately, she gets to flex none of her charm in this fish-based horror film, but is instead required to spend most of the time in a bikini. Such is the life of a young actress in Hollywood, it seems.
The good news is that Shark Night 3D is certainly better than stunt coordinator-turned-director David R. Ellis’ previous films, The Final Destination and Snakes on a Plane. In fact, it’s even better than Piranha 3D (which for some strange reason, people liked). The bad news is that such praise doesn’t really count for much.
We get introduced to our young slim/buff cast in a fairly routine manner, though extra care is taken to ensure that they’re not particularly likeable. They’re all visiting the family home of Sara (Paxton), which is in the middle of a huge lake, miles from civilisation. Before you can say, “my cell phone’s got no signal”, they’re set upon by a shark that has somehow made its home in the saltwater lake. As far as character archetypes go, Paxton she gets to play the ice queen, whilst supposedly nerdy yet surprisingly buff Nick (Dustin Milligan) attempts to woo the young lass in the most awkward fashion possible. There are extra characters but they only really exist as bait to get knocked off one at a time. Chris Zylka is the only one who stands out, and hopefully it’s because he’s delivering a deliberately over the top performance, rather than actually struggling with the less than perfect material.
Shark Night exists to have fun with the shark movie genre, and it generally succeeds. It’s an entertaining diversion that features some rather ridiculous death by shark moments, and the good news is that the 3D aspect of the film isn’t distracting. I was concerned that, being a horror film, the proceedings would be too dimly lit to suit 3D, but thankfully the filmmakers have taken that into account. The only times it’s hard to see anything is when they’re trying to cover up the rather shoddy CGI effects. Such effects don’t really ruin the film, mainly because Shark Night never calms down enough to attempt any true Jaws-like tension. The narrative skips from one toothy death to another in a wonderfully lean 90 minutes.
As far as crappy horror movies go, Shark Night 3D is pretty decent. It doesn’t reach the giddy heights of ridiculousness shared by such films as Deep Blue Sea or Lake Placid, but it does the job. I hope that Paxton gets to sink her acting teeth into something more substantial soon, but alas I notice that she has another Ellis-directed horror movie on the horizon, The Briar Lake Murders.Rating: