Shark Night 3D

Shark movies are great aren’t they? But, you know, wouldn’t they be even better if they were in 3D? David R. Ellis thinks so, and what a perfect means of countering claims of two-dimensionality. Sharks may not be able to swim backwards, but with the help of new-wave stereoscopy they can now swim in every other direction you could possibly nightmare of. Skinny dip at your own peril, for this is Shark Night. 3D.

Exam season is rapidly encroaching and, naturally, Tulane’s undergraduates are planning to celebrate. Having been invited to Sara Powski’s (Paxton) familial summer home, Nick (Milligan), Beth (McPhee), Malik (Sinqua Walls), Maya (Alyssa Diaz), Blake (Chris Zylka) and Gordon (Joel David Moore) stock up on vodka and hit the road. Arriving at Lake Pontchartrain to find the house situated out on a secluded island, the group split themselves between the family swimming pool and watersports on the (salt water) lake. When Malik is savaged by a shark, however, their lives take a turn for the dead as more and more sharks find their way into the area – a mystery which might not be as easily attributed to the recent spate of hurricanes as initially suggested.

Chances are that if you’re taking the time, and parting with the money, to watch Shark Night 3D, you have some idea of what to expect: half-naked heroes, pantomime villains, and more underwater shots of jiggling buttocks than you can shake a man-eating shark at. You’ve seen Jaws, right? Deep Blue SeaPiranha? Well, this might not be as scary, as entertaining, or as beautifully tongue-in-cheek as the above, but that’s not to say it’s a total waste of time. And there is a lot to like about Shark Night 3D once you’ve overcome the film’s most glaring flaws; speaking of which…

If Deep Blue Sea accomplished anything, it was by demonstrating just how effectively sharks could be portrayed onscreen, both animatronically and through CGI. As such – and taking the intervening 12 years firmly into account – it is immensely disappointing just how unrealistic director David R. Ellis’ sharks actually look. While it is certainly nice to see such a wide variety of species on screen (how has it taken this long to see a hammerhead shark in a movie that’s not Flipper?), the special effects struggle to maintain a satisfying balance between quasi-realism and the kind of ramped-up horror required to deliver on the film’s promise. It is a weakness that ultimately impacts on everything, both detracting from the surprisingly capable performances (nobody looks good when acting opposite glorified Clip Art) and the script’s numerous attempts at social commentary. Neither shine through when you’re busy fishing for pixels.

The actors really do hold their own, however, with Sara Paxton in particular bringing  real vulnerability to her character, no doubt aided by her experience playing a victim in 2009’s The Last House On The Left. Chris Carmack and Joshua Leonard both manage to impress too, bringing a real sense of sexploitative schlock to their roles as resident hill-billies Dennis and Red, while the rest of the ensemble manage (more often than not) to pout and glisten on cue without garnering any real bad-will in the process. The commentary element is nice too, even if it is a little too late to the game to be particularly revelatory.

On the whole, then, Shark Night 3D is amiable enough, making entertaining use of the extra dimension whilst delivering a story that holds together relatively well and performances that go above and beyond the (admittedly low) call of duty. Although it does pale somewhat in comparison to its competition, the sharks-eating-people genre is still sufficiently sparse to ensure that there is room enough for everyone. If only the sharks themselves held up under scrutiny.

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