If you loved Piranha 3D with a passion, you need to head straight down to you local Blu-ray emporium to check out today’s release of Shark Night 3D! Everybody else…sink into the depths of our review below…
Arriving by boat at her family’s Louisiana lake island cabin, Sara and her friends quickly strip down to their swimsuits for a weekend of fun in the sun. But when star football player Malik stumbles from the salt-water lake with his arm torn off, the party mood quickly evaporates. Assuming the injury was caused by a freak wake-boarding accident, the group realizes they have to get Malik to a hospital on the other side of the lake, and fast. But as they set out in a tiny speedboat, the college friends discover the lake has been stocked with hundreds of massive, flesh-eating sharks! As they face one grisly death after another, Sara and the others struggle desperately to fend off the sharks, get help and stay alive long enough to reach the safety of dry land…
There was only ever one way for Shark Night to really go: back down to the depths from whence it came…and that was obvious from the theatrical trailer alone! Along similar lines to the equally poor Piranha 3D offering from 2010, Shark Night’s real problem is the extent of absurdity within it’s narrative and the level of disbelief that it expects audiences to suspend. I mean, the island the lake sits in is naturally outside of any cell phone signal range and, of course, Sara’s family couldn’t possibly own a landline phone…yet, wait, the bad guys have broadband capabilities…in a SHACK!? The absurdity of the films plot means that viewers will find it impossible not to fall about laughing at the entire shamble. Even attempts at suspense are entirely flawed by this complete lack of credibility. The closing sequence that sees Sara locked in a shark cage and submerged in the lake with a Great White out to get her seems completely ridiculous when it’s obvious that she’s skinny enough to swim between the gap in the bars (plus, surely shark cages were designed to be strong enough to keep sharks out…not weak enough to be mangled by a relatively large Great White butting it’s head against the side?). Essentially, to take the action and drama of Shark Night seriously, viewers need the IQ of a fish…for the rest of us, it’s simply a lightly amusing way to pass 90 minutes.
The film’s second problem is the extent to which it is reliant upon stereotyping. The group of college kids couldn’t get more stereotypical: there’s the pretty, virginal blonde Sara (Sara Paxton), the slightly geeky but ultimately heroic Nick (Dustin Milligan), the sexy grungy slut Beth (Katharine McPhee), the token black athlete Malik (Sinqua Walls), the token bolshy Hispanic chick Maya (Alyssa Diaz), the arrogant and overly vain ‘lady-killer’ Blake (Chris Zylka) and the zoned-out perpetual college loser Gordon (Joel David Moore). However, perhaps even more offensively than this, the film very much plays into 21st century Hollywood’s stereotypical depiction that the rural areas of the US’s southern states are a location to fear, and as such, audiences are expected to believe that not only are all the locals stark raving loons, but that they’re so mental they’ve managed to get their hands on multiple breeds of man-eating sharks… This quintessentially sums up the intelligence behind the narrative of the film, a prospect that was certainly deemed to have enough potential to get a green light from studio execs. Instead, what audiences have got is a film ‘dead in the water’, a premise that was ‘all washed up’ after the umpteenth Jaws rip-off – in fact, in terms of quality, the series of budget killer shark films in the Shark Attack family are closer to Spielberg’s epic than Shark Night is! – and a narrative that ‘drowns in disappointment’ (I could go on, there’s literally hundreds of cheesy metaphors to be used in relation tot his film!).
The slapdash narrative isn’t bolstered much by the roster of stars at its helm: a veritable A-Z of mediocre US television actors (I mean, at least Piranha 3D had Kelly Brook and [to a lesser extent] Elizabeth Shue to entertain audiences!). When a films headline star is Sara Paxton, audiences should come prepared for it to sink faster than the Titanic. Having said that, it is probably Paxton who delivers the most proficient dramatic range out of the group of protagonists. There’s a series of emotional scenes that reveal her back story, but audiences would be forgiven for not really giving a damn. Paxton demonstrates average talent, but she has given much better performances elsewhere (I’d even go as far as saying that her guest spot in an episode of CSI as a child demonstrates her talent more admirably).
Dustin Milligan – one of the bevy of stars who featured in the reboot of TV’s 90210 (need I say more…) – attacks the role of Nick with gumption, but couldn’t convincingly act his way out if a paper bag. Milligan fails to exhibit any dramatic range and is a pretty poor excuse for a hero. Katherine McPhee (a former American Idol contestant…again, need I say more) gives a relatively entertaining performance as the brash Beth, but eventually falls short of being much more than shark feed when her previous brassiness fails to give her the strength to overcome the villains. In the end she becomes a quivering emotional wreck, who can’t even climb over a fishing net to escape a hoard of baby sharks. Even the comedy styling of Joel David Moore can’t raise Shark Night out of the depths of mediocrity, despite the fact he gives an admirable performance. Offering comic relief in moments supposedly tense and dramatic (but in reality, far from it), Moore is possibly the most likeable of the ensemble cast and viewers would undoubtedly have cheered had he actually managed to survive the escapade (think ala LL Cool J in the equally abysmal Deep Blue Sea!). Relatively solid support for the protagonists comes in the shape of Sinqua Walls, Alyssa Diaz and Chris Zylka, but needless to say, it’s obvious that each are only present to become shark feed and none give particularly outstanding performances.
Similarly, the film isn’t even saved by the hilariously over the top performances from Chris Carmack, Donal Logue and Joshua Leonard as the troop of psychopathic villains. Carmack attempts to make more of his two dimensional role than there really is and he fails to make the back story between his character, Dennis, and Sara seem like a justifiable reason to feed her and her friends to the sharks. Carmack never manages to totally convince as a psychopath and he’s barely intimidating by his final scene, again helping make the film totally unbelievable. Leonard, as Dennis’s cohort Red, is far more convincing and the actor gives a suitably grotesque performance. Whilst Red may be little more than a stereotypical, unhinged red-neck, Leonard manages to make the character both comical and unnerving. Logue plays the area’s Sheriff and the narrative toys with the is he/isn’t he a bad guy formula to try and keep audiences engaged. The actor gives an entertaining performance and manages to come across as the most convincing psychopath of the group, although the actor has certainly given much greater performances elsewhere.
Shark Night’s only (extremely) minor saving grace is the quality of both the visuals and audio on this release. Whilst the visuals aren’t quite perfect, for the most part they are free from any major blemishing or distortions. A number of sequences are inflicted with a mild grain that can be slightly distracting, but isn’t sever enough to become a real annoyance (the narrative will do that enough alone!). Some of the locations are beautifully shot and the boat ride through the lush Louisiana waterways is probably the films most attractive moment. Colours are luscious – even tropical-esque at times – and range from the cool, inky blues of the lake to the vibrant, earthy greens of the surrounding forestry. The only real visual issue is the quality of the CGI based special effects. Viewers will expect (and forgive) some moments being very obviously fake – take Beth’s (Katherine McPhee) death at the hands of tiny mutant like sharks as a prime example – but when it’s obvious in this day and age that someone riding a jet-ski is merely in front of a green screen, you know the quality isn’t what it should be… The audio quality fares better, with the majority of dialogue crisp and clean throughout the narrative. The depth of sound is proficient, making background ambient noises or special effects sounds extremely powerful. The only negative in relation to the audio is that these background sounds occasionally overpower what’s in the foreground, engulfing dialogue and more subtle ambient noises. However, these are brief moments scattered throughout the narrative and do not occur often enough to pose any real distraction from the proceedings.
This Blu-ray release has been padded out with the most meagre collection of bonus material possible. The three mini-featurettes last less than 5 minutes a piece and do very little to shed any particularly engaging light upon the production. The most enjoyable and informative piece looks at the special effects techniques used within the film, but even this is far from comprehensive. Viewers will find the following on the release:
Both 2D and 3D versions of the film (of course, the 3D version requires a player and television equipped to handle these capabilities)
Shark Night’s Survival Guide Featurette
Fake Sharks, Real Scares Featurette
Ellis’ Island Featurette
Film: 1.5 out of 5
The sharks at the heart of the plot have far more bite than the narrative itself, but ultimately viewers will probably wish that they’d drowned themselves rather than sit through Shark Night 3D…
Visuals: 3.5 out of 5
Images are sharp, bright and an extremely pleasant distraction from the course of minor character and plot development. CGI effects have not transferred brilliantly into HD, but generally speaking the release is of a solid quality.
Audio: 4 out of 5
A strong range and depth of sound fills audio channels to submerge audiences into the depths of the film. Dialogue is clean and clear, as well as special effects and ambient sounds. There are moments when background sound or the musical soundtrack overpower the foreground, but these are an exception and not the norm.
Extras: 2 out of 5
A rather unsatisfying collection of extremely brief documentaries look at subjects ranging from the mechanics behind the special effects (the most interesting) to facts about shark attacks (hardly worthy of being considered a special feature. Blu-ray releases should have far stronger offerings these days, surely?
Presentation: 2.5 out of 5
The front cover imagery over-exaggerates the extent of the shark menace, but does enough to make a rather crude film seem far more interesting than it is. But this is certainly not Jaws for a new generation… Video menus are simple and easy to navigate and, like the extras, seems like a half-arsed job.
Overall: 2 out of 5
An extremely paltry film has received an equally disenchanting release. The quality of the images and audio is admirable, but the product housed on the disc is quite simply poor. Worth a rent for a laugh, but nothing more.
Shark Night 3D is released on Blu-ray from today.