Shark Night 3D

Shark Night 3D


Reviewed by: David Graham

Just when you think it is safe to go back in the movie-going water, sharks always seem to pop up again to take a bite out of the box office. Recently there have been some admirable attempts to portray the real-life threat that the finned foes represent, through the cinema verite-style Open Water and Australian thriller The Reef.

On the other hand, there's been plenty of direct-to-video exploitation guff with ever bigger and more mutated Megasharks facing off against other outsized monsters, while the success of the gleefully OTT Piranha 3D has also proved there's still a market for shameless tits'n'gore trash. Former stuntman turned B-movie maverick David R Ellis's latest offering falls right in the middle of these approaches, aiming to provide hokey old-fashioned thrills and dimension-enhanced chills for as broad a Saturday night crowd as possible. It's hampered in places by some overly serious dramatic drags but elevated by an inventive premise, immersive camerawork and engaging set-pieces.

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A group of vacationing students take a trip to attractive but unattainable Sara's holiday home to party by its private lake. Run-ins with backwater residents fail to put a dampener on the atmosphere, and the group indulge in some boozy speed-boating and water-skiing fun. Some surprise visitors to the salt-water expanse soon make their presence known, the situation turning deadly when the group are attacked by a series of ravenous sharks. Like the razor-toothed predators, the youngsters find they're fish out of water in an escalating game of survival, engineered to teach them a lesson that could cost them all their lives.

Plenty of pleasingly familiar conventions are in full effect here, from the obligatory Deliverance-style locals to the predictable pecking order of victims (no prizes for guessing who gets chomped first). There are flashes of outrageous humour that's surprisingly sharp at some points and uproariously silly at others - the cynically inclined might even find the script's handling of the 'token' black character either slyly subversive or offensively un-PC - with Joel David Moore's geeky smart-ass, Joshua 'Blair Witch Project' Leonard's rat-fanged redneck and Donal Logue's hair metal-loving sheriff hogging all the best lines and stealing pretty much every scene they show up in. Eagle-eyed and rabbit-eared viewers will have fun picking up on the frequent pop culture and cinematic references, and likable lead Sara Paxton even gets to pay tribute to Phoebe Cates' legendary "how I found out there's no Santa" speech from Gremlins with her own, admittedly inferior, moment of character-developing confession.

A commendable attempt to inject some social commentary comes late in the game (the clue is in the title) but is sunk for the revelation being communicated through the sort of villainous exposition you'd normally get in a Scooby Doo cartoon. The lack of explicit grue isn't really a problem since the kills are already pretty snappy but for many horror fans who've feasted on the comparable and overtly gory Piranha 3D, it will seem like a missed opportunity, as might the lack of any gratuitous nudity.

There are plenty of amusingly brazen close ups of jiggling butt-cheeks to keep the target audience of young males happy, while the guys gratuitously flaunt their bronzed buffness, but some misogynistic sexual taunting can seem a little mean-spirited in something as throwaway as this. The film climaxes a little abruptly too - the final set-piece features the film's most believable and frightening shark (we're light years from Spielberg's Bruce) and is actually just starting to generate some real tension when suddenly, sadly, it's all over.

It's not quite as ludicrously entertaining and exciting as Deep Blue Sea, but it's definitely not a Jaws 3D-style disaster either. The nicely varied CGI sharks are sometimes a bit more Finding Nemo than David Attenborough, but the 3D effect is deployed in imaginative and involving ways, especially during the underwater scenes; Ellis uses the technology more thoughtfully than he did with The Final Destination to maximise lighting and depth, as well as throwing it in your face with old-school abandon.

Visually, it's a stunning movie, and not just because of the flesh-flashing ensemble. The scenery and cinematography are spectacular and the camerawork keeps the action suitably visceral even though the gore isn't. Like the director's similarly unrefined Snakes On A Plane, the pieces don't quite come together to offer the full-on riot this promises to be on paper, but Shark Night 3D is certainly smart enough in the right places and dumb enough in others to be a worthwhile waste of your time.

Reviewed on: 03 Oct 2011
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A group of holidaymakers find their trip a private lake has rather more bite than they were looking for.
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Director: David R Ellis

Writer: Will Hayes, Jesse Studenberg

Starring: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katharine McPhee, Chris Zylka, Alyssa Diaz, Joel David Moore, Sinqua Walls, Donal Logue, Joshua Leonard, Jimmy Lee Jr., Damon Lipari, Christine Quinn, Kelly Sry, Tyler Bryan

Year: 2011

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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