Shark Night (2011) – Review

1 Star


Shark Night opens with a tiring classic homage to Steven Spielberg’s JAWS and then promptly forgets about sharks for the next twenty-five minutes. During this stint of time a group of college kids head out to a lake house in the Louisiana Gulf, conveniently cut off from cell phone access (if those pesky cell phones ever worked they’d ruin most horror flicks these days). Many bikini shots, CGI sharks and a twist with the locals later we end with a “thank you” (more like a “thank God”). Got it? Good. Now let’s tear this up with three rows of critically sharp teeth.

Child actor turned stuntman turned director David R. Ellis has made a few movies I really enjoyed, namely Final Destination 2 and Cellular. This falls more into the lines of his Snakes on a Plane misstep (albeit without any f-bombs, at least on screen). Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg’s script is so flat and uneventful even decent actors couldn’t save it. The CGI sharks are incredibly fake and non-menacing, which did allow for them to not cut away from some kills as the scenes are now ridiculously cartoony. Any attempt at real filmmaking is lost after the opening teaser (which wasn’t much of an attempt either) resulting in a film that looks as if it shot itself (in the foot).

This is the type of film that gives PG-13 horror a bad rap. This movie wants to be rated R so bad that it winds up being nothing more than a tease. Girls in bikinis (I’m fine with that) is as far as it goes, no nudity here. The problem’s start when they stick in some side-boob and changing scenes in which topless girls turn away from the camera. Who are they hiding from? It’s unnatural and draws unnecessary attention to the PG-13 rating and the awareness of a camera in the room. There’s no gore in the film either, just a lot of blood. Not that gore is required to make a good horror flick, but suspense is, and it’s completely missing here. With the recent uproar over The Expendables 2 rating change from hard R to PG-13, you might think this is a shining example of why that’s a bad idea. It’s not. It’s a shining example of why good filmmaking and storytelling will trump any rating any day. Even if Shark Night had been rated R it still would have stunk up the theater.

The lovely Sara Paxton and Dustin Milligan do what they can with the limited roles they’re given, as does the rest of the cast. The meatiest part goes to Chris Carmack (The O.C., Into the Blue 2: The Reef) as a crazed local. Unfortunately the twist in the film takes the sharks out of the equation as the “bad guys”, instead making them unknowing participants in a Faces of Death filmmaking scheme.

It’s not that I dislike low-budget shark movies, I enjoyed the incredibly campy yet fun swim that was Swamp Shark. I can’t say the same for Shark Night. Skip this one and wait for the inevitable sequel, Shark the Morning After 3D.

Director: David R. Ellis
Stars: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack

3 thoughts on “Shark Night (2011) – Review

  1. I’m ashamed to admit that I paid to see this in 3D. To be fair, it was the filler film for me the night of a triple feature that started with Moneyball and ended with Drive. At least the bookend films were worth the price of admission.

    I think you nailed it on the head when you say that the film wanted to be rated R in a real bad way. I was okay with the kinds of things you’d expect in a PG-13 film of this nature (i.e. the bikinis and the lack of gore). It was when the film started pushing the enveloped, that I became irritated by it and wish they’d just had a sac and made it an R rated film. What a load of garbage!

    *************************SPOILER*********************************************

    I will say, I almost shot my $9 soda through my nose when the shark jumps up and snatches the dude off the jet-ski.

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