Review: Shark Night (15) / Director: David R. Ellis / Screenplay: Will Hayes, Jesse Studenberg / Starring: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack / Release date: Out Now
A couple of summers ago, Piranha 3D was released and did some good business. It wisely went completely over the top and crazy in terms of both its plot and the gore on display. Since then we have had a sequel that looks like it’s going straight to DVD and now Shark Night, which so badly wants to be Piranha 3D but with sharks. Problem is director David R. Ellis is not Alexandre Aja and the film feels like it doesn’t go far enough.
The plot is the standard plot from an infinite number of 'youngsters head to the wilderness' horror films. Six or so college kids decide to head to Sara’s parent’s house out on a lake in the countryside. On the way there they encounter a friendly Sheriff and two threatening bumpkin types from Sara’s past. They settle in for drinking, flirting and water sports, but the lake has been invaded by several different species of shark and they are picked off one by one. Gradually they learn that despite wild theories about hurricanes and waterways, someone has released these sharks into the lake on purpose and it may have a connection with Sara’s troubled background.
Shark Night is ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous. The sharks in this film do not obey the laws of nature or physics. Have you ever wanted to see a large shark leap like a dolphin out of shallow water? Here is the film. Furthermore the sharks all roar like lions underwater and in the air and can swim just as fast as a speedboat or jet-ski. Some of the effects are on a par with the endless low budget Mega Shark series and for some reason apart from a severed arm, there is a serious lack of gore.
It feels odd in these extreme times to complain because a horror film doesn’t have more violence and unpleasantness but it’s seriously lacking in Shark Night and you can’t help but notice. The story is so ridiculous that the extra gore and violence should be a pre-requisite but it never comes. If they really wanted to make something in that over the top camp that has become so popular recently, then they should have turned on the gore fountains because the film without it is pretty slight. The film also has a curious lack of nudity, despite having the oh-so-adorable Sara Paxton (The Innkeepers) in a bikini; there is no nudity beyond the tease. Fans of Piranha 3D and a certain sequence in particular are going to be so disappointed with this film.
David R.Ellis has previously made some great films like Final Destination 2 and Cellular. With Snakes on a Plane he made a movie that became a cult before it had even been released and subsequently was a let-down because it wasn’t as crazy bad as everyone expected. Shark Night suffers from the same problem, the plot is silly but has some pretty good bad guy motivations and performances and in certain scenes the effects work stands up enough to provide some good kills. Problem is the whole thing feels very much like a rushed cash-in job and it is surprising this even got a cinema release at all when the Piranha sequel is relegated straight to DVD.
There could have been a great film here and with a little more care and consideration we could have got a cult classic. As it stands, Shark Night is merely an entertaining film to catch on late night TV when it screens in a few years.