Sara invites a group of her college friends to spend the weekend at her lake house on a small island in the Louisiana bayou. Whilst they’re out skiing, one of the group has his arm ripped off by a shark but attempts to get him some medical assistance are thwarted by the presence of even more species of shark in the lake. Someone has been introducing them into the lake for their own nefarious purposes and Sara and her friends are about to find out.
Shark Night 3-D came along during the height of the 3-D obsession in the years between 2010 and 2011, where just about everything from Yogi Bear to the Smurfs was receiving a glossy 3-D treatment. Whilst Shark Night 3-D doesn’t take its cue from either of them (thankfully), it does owe a great deal of debt to Alexandra Aje’s Piranha 3-D which showed filmmakers that the technology didn’t just have to be restricted to big budget effects-driven blockbusters and could be embraced by gloriously over-the-top exploitation films. And that’s the sort of impression I was expecting Shark Night 3-D to make on me just like it’s fishy friend had done a few years prior. Alas whilst Shark Night 3-D may deliver some decent 3-D, it forgot to accept it’s trashy, B-movie premise and instead plays it all straight, predictable and too derivative for its own good.
Shark Night 3-D wasn’t screened in advance for critics and that’s always a sign that the studio knew that it was distributing a turkey, or in this case a minnow. What should have been a winning premise – loads of hot chicks getting devoured by a variety of species of sharks – winds up coming off like a more high brow TV movie which has been neutered for the big screen and stripped of any of the potential that it had. Director David R Ellis (Snakes on a Plane) and his writers clearly understand the type of film they’re trying to make yet somehow managed to avoid making it. There’s no self-aware camp. The film isn’t deliberately trashy enough. There aren’t enough throwaway scenes or gags. And the gore is severely lacking. Shark Night 3-D plays out like any other run-of-the-mill teen horror, only with a bunch of sharks instead of psychotic redneck or guy in a mask.
The explanation given for why the sharks are in a remote lake in the middle of nowhere is completely out of leftfield and is the sort of barmy ingredient that the script should have run with. But the novelty doesn’t count for anything when it struggles to find any sort of life amidst a generic teen horror flick. Between the annoyingly-perfect teenage characters and their Deliverance-style yokel tormentors, there’s no one to get behind. You can’t root for the teenagers because, aside from being nearly flawless in looks as if they’d been pulled from a catalogue, they’re so self-obsessed and up their own asses with how good they think (and know) they are compared to everyone else. But you can’t cheer the rednecks on as you know they’re the bad guys and we’re programmed to boo and hiss at them whenever they appear on-screen. Guess the sharks take my vote for this one then.
Shark Night 3-D isn’t exactly boring. Though it takes the film a while to get going with the necessary character exposition at the start, once the sharks make their presence known to the teenagers then it’s full steam ahead. There’s a decent sized group of shark fodder to be systematically thrown to the sharks every so often. The sharks get little screen time as it stands, though when they do appear the film significantly picks up (no coincidence!). The CGI is about as good or bad as you’d expect, though considering this received a cinematic release I’d have expected more than the usual Asylum or Sy Fy standard FX that we see here. At least with there being a variety of species of sharks, the animators get to try their hand at different models so some sharks look better than others.
One of my biggest pet peeves with this is how the gore has clearly been cut back so that the film could scrape a lower certificate and therefore more potential cinema goers (ie. the teenagers not old enough to see a full blown 18 rated film). We are dealing with sharks which are not known for their dining etiquette so why isn’t more made of the kill scenes? I’m sick of seeing films where actors splash around a bit before being dragged underwater with a bit of red thrown around in the water. I expect that from low budget TV movies which need to conserve cash but this was a cinematic release. The film has the budget to do more so where has all of the money gone?
Shark Night 3-D really is a glorified Sy Fy Original with a full blown budget. Clearly trying to ape Piranha 3-D‘s success, it forgot what made that film such a genre fan’s treat to watch. This film is too serious for its own good, when a lighter touch was required.