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Shark Night

Fox // PG-13 // January 3, 2012
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted January 8, 2012 | E-mail the Author
Shark Night is kind of like that remake of Piranha from a couple years back, only instead of being a campy, gleefully trashy splatter-comedy, it', not. I don't get whatever it is that Shark Night is
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going for, and I'm not exactly left the impression that the movie was copied on that memo either. There are sporadic swipes and stabs at camp but way more scenes with one-note characters blandly sitting around an' talking. The explanation behind why a lake in the middle of nowhere is teeming with sharks is brilliantly batshit, but it's been shoved in the middle of a paint-by-numbers dead teenager flick. You know from word one who's gonna live and who's gonna die, and the body count piles up in the exact order you think it will. Shark Night is, for whatever fucking reason, PG-13, so there's pretty much zero gore in your shark attack flick and not even any jiggling boobs as a much-needed distraction. Zero tension. Even less suspense, at least if there were a way for that to pan out mathematically. I tore into Shark Night hoping for an hour and a half of dumb, sleazy fun, and instead I kinda just slouched on my couch, bored. So...yeah, that's kind of everything I have to say about Shark Night. Can I just stop the review now?

No? Oh, then I guess I should slap together a plot summary or something. Anyway, Shark Night is about a gaggle of juniors or something from Tulane University who decide to a spend the weekend at a ritzy lake house. You'd think being on a lake in Leeziana would keep them pretty safe from sharks,, not really. The Black Guy gets his arm gnawed off, and the only way they're gonna save his life is to go back in the water and make the couple hours' trek to the nearest hospital. (See, they don't get a signal this far out in the boonies, and despite being at Sara's house, I guess she and her family have no way of communicating with the outside world. But whatever.) So, anyway, you know how this sort of movie goes. You start out with a bunch of good-lookin' twentysomething archetypes who keep getting munched on one-by-one, and eventually you're down to a couple of clean-scrubbed hero types, a few sinister masterminds, and a whole lotta sharks.

It's just...I don't know, Shark Night doesn't really aim for much of anything. The movie never gets around to latching onto a vaguely consistent tone, settling for room-temperature camp and telegraphed jump scares. It doesn't work as a straight horror flick and flounders as a so-bad-it's-good sort of deal. I don't think a PG-13 rating is inherently a bad thing -- I mean, Jaws is my absolute
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favorite movie of all time, and I'm pretty sure it'd score a PG-13 if it were being rated today -- but this sort of shark flick kinda screams out for an R. No gore. No sex. No boobs. Very little blood. Okay, you get a look at a dude's ass, there's a little sideboob action, and Sara Paxton spends pretty much the entire movie in a bikini and leans over a lot. The characters are cardboard cutouts, like The Beautiful Blonde with a Mildly Tragic Past, The Kinky Girl, The Black Guy Who Wants to Go Pro, The Virginal Nice Guy Who Is Too Busy for Fun But Clearly Spends Five Hours a Day in the Gym, His Quirky Dweeb of a Roommate, The Generic Handsome Asshole, The Hispanic Girl Who...Is There Too, the Boo-Hiss Rednecks, The Stinging Betrayal...blah. I'm not demanding my trashy horror movies to be teeming with lush characterization or whatever, but...I mean, if you're not going to give me cacklingly demented kills or anything, at least gimme characters I could give a shit about. Shark Night comes up a-cropper on both counts. Most of the movie is boring characters doing boring things, and all but one of the shark attacks are aggressively routine. Those sequences tend to be really short too, not making even a little bit of effort at building any suspense. David R. Ellis -- the director behind Snakes on a Plane and both the best and the worst Final Destination sequels -- tries tossing in a little visual flair as a distraction, like an oooh-it's-going-faster-and-now-it's-slow-mo-and-oooh-it's-speeding-up-again party montage at the lake house. Shark Night is so toothless and bland that it's kind of hard to believe this was a big theatrical release that played on a few thousand screens. Even most made-for-cable schlock is more ambitious than this.

I mean, it's a movie called Shark Night that's set mostly during the day with only a couple minutes' worth of shark attacks. Strip out the credits and the awesomely ridiculous music video at the end, and you're left with a runtime of something like 78 minutes...yet somehow it still feels way too long. Shark Night doesn't wanna commit to camp but isn't all that keen on being a straight horror flick either, so it kind of just waffles in some completely I-don't-care territory in between. It's one thing to set out to do something really awesome and fail, but it doesn't feel as if Shark Night is even trying. Skip It.

Shark Night looks alright in high-def, at least for a while there. When the sun is bright and beaming or whatever, the digital photography is sharp, richly detailed, and vibrant. Once the whole shark night deal starts to
I thought having The Black Guy be the first of the main characters to be attacked was stereotypical enough, but having him pick up a spear...?
kick in, contrast flattens out and the palette gets really muddy looking. Some of the day-for-night stuff is horrifically unconvincing, awkwardly tinted blue while leaving fleshtones more of an oddball greenish-orange. It's really bad on the actors' faces, and...yeah, no idea what's going on there. Okay but less than great.

The AVC encode for Shark Night is served up on a single layer Blu-ray disc, and it's very lightly letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Oh, and despite making the rounds in 3D theatrically, there isn't a BD3D release, at least not on these shores.

Shark Night's 24-bit, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is kind of a letdown too. There's so little going on in the lower frequencies that I actually got up at one point to make sure my subwoofer was even on. The surrounds are mostly reserved for gurgling water, lapping waves, and reinforcing various bits of music. You do get some discrete dog barking, a few cookiecutter sharks cooking-cutting, and scattered debris from a big-ass explosion, so I guess there's that. The multichannel setup isn't exactly used to ratchet up the intensity or anything, though. A good bit of the dialogue winds up getting drowned out whenever anyone's moving on the water, not that it's really missed all that much. Distinctness, clarity, and all that are passable but pretty thoroughly unremarkable. Not a five star effort so much.

No dubs or downmixes this time around. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) and Spanish.

  • Shark Attack! Kill Machine (6 min.; HD): The first of the extras splices together pretty much every single shot in Shark Night with
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    a shark anywhere in the frame, and since the whole thing clocks in at 5 minutes and 43 seconds, that kinda tells you how little there is going on in this flick.

  • Fake Sharks, Real Scares (5 min.; HD): The only extra on this Blu-ray disc that's really worth talking about is "Fake Sharks, Real Scares", a reasonably in-depth peek at the effects work behind Shark Night's toothy fishies: a mix of animatronic rigs and digital wizardry.

  • Shark Night's Survival Guide (4 min.; HD): Featurette numero two-oh uses each of the kills in Shark Night as a springboard for Fun Facts About Sharks.

  • Ellis' Island (4 min.; HD): There's a little bit of chatter about shooting in 3D and the research that went into the shark featured in the flick, but this featurette is really just four minutes of winks-and-thumbs-up to director David R. Ellis.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): Last up is a high-def theatrical trailer.

The second disc in the set is a digital copy of Shark Night. The whole thing comes packaged in a glossy slipcover that seems unusually snug for whatever reason.

The Final Word
There's so-bad-it's-good, and then there's...well, Shark Night. Skip It.
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