It is painfully abundant from the outset of Shark Night 3D that director David R. Ellis (behind such entertainingly shlocky fare as Final Destination 2, Cellular and Snakes on a Plane) has attempted to capitalise on the surprise success of last summer’s boobs-laden bloodbath Piranha 3D. However, while that film was chock full of self-aware humour and gleefully over-the-top gore, Shark Night, which like Piranha was not screened for critics, is an irony-free snooze-fest which can’t even deliver some basic bloody satisfaction thanks to a studio-mandated PG-13 rating in the U.S., which transcribes to an incredibly meek “15″ in the U.K.
Like Piranha, Shark Night suffers from an overly long buildup in which characters are pointlessly introduced to us as though they will actually come to mean something to the audience, but at least some of the banter coming out of Joel David Moore’s mouth raises a smile, ensuring he’s not just a stereotypical geek character as you would come to expect. Problematically, once the shark shows up and begins chomping limbs off, the film just isn’t in touch enough with its own sense of gratuiuty, the studio-dictated PG-13 ensuring that director Ellis, used to the gory thrills and spills of the Final Destination films, is unable to become fully invested in the forthright boobs and blood ethos that made Piranha 3D such a guilty pleasure. Instead it’s a shockingly mild product; there isn’t a single bare breast in sight, and the attacks themselves mostly consist of the boneheaded characters thrashing around in crimson bodies of water. There is no bone-crunching mayhem, and alas, pretty much no purpose for the 3D.
It isn’t too pointful to delve into the thematics of a film like this, yet whereas Piranha’s carnage occured as a result of some palpable hysteria and Spring Break-infused mayhem, here we get idiotic characters and incomprehensible implausiblities; a chase between a boat and a shark, for instance, occurs simply because one brain cell-impaired teen incorrectly dressed a servered arm, causing it to drop blood into the boat’s drainage system, leaving a trail of viscera for the poorly reproduced CGI shark to follow. Scripting is indeed dreadful in all aspects, as one character nonsensically shouts to Sara Paxton’s protagonist, “You brought us here, this is your fault!” entirely out of context. It isn’t that one dares expect Academy-grade writing, but something approaching dramatic and emotional plauisibility would be nice.
For a film so eager to flaunt its B-movie spurs, Shark Night is also far too interested in the insignificant dramas of its characters. At least Ellis is smart enough to let Sara Paxton – a talented actress who proves here and with Ti West’s soon-to-be-released The Innkeepers that she’s a definite scream queen in the making – though her character’s monologue about an accident with an ex-boyfriend kills the little momentum the film had, stopping it dead in its tracks. Things become even less interesting once the human antagonists reveal themselves with a woeful predictability, allowing an even higher level of tedium to leak into the final reel, leading up to a finale which ends abruptly with the same sort of fake out, sequel-baiting jump-scare climax as Piranha, but with none of the charm.
The film is hokey and poorly marketed enough that it shouldn’t do good business, so thankfully we won’t have to count on a Shark Night 2 any time soon at least. Little more than a brain damaged, irony-free, and curiously toothless attempt to retread the success of last year’s surprising summer gorefest, Piranha 3D.
Shark Night 3D is in cinema’s now.