Shark Night 3D (2011)

Rogue.  Director: David R. Ellis.

Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Most Educational

“Shark Night 3D” is the first mainstream sharksploitation film I’ve reviewed on here, and I’m not quite sure how to handle it.  I mean, this movie played in theaters.  Actual movie theaters!  Possibly with an audience!  That being said, it’s still pretty awful, though it may be worth a watch if only to remind yourself of what a real movie looks like.  Since it has a plot that develops over time, I should mention that this review may give some things away (normally not a problem with sharksploitation films).  I will also note that while “Shark Night 3D” sticks to its PG-13 rating in terms of nudity and gore, it definitely falls more toward the horror than the sci-fi end of the spectrum.  If it were a better movie, some viewers might find its sadistic elements disturbing.

Though it takes place in Louisiana, “Shark Night 3D” sadly does not feature any swamp sharks.  Instead, it chronicles the adventures of seven college students as they spend the weekend at Sara Palski’s (Sara Paxton; I assume they also had to name her character “Sara” so she wouldn’t get confused) family vacation home on a saltwater lake.  Nick (Dustin Milligan) has a crush on Sara, but she spends all of her time with her dog Sherman, who is by far the most sympathetic character in the film.  Lackluster partying and minor drinking ensue as the students make a lame attempt to have a good time.  Then one guy has his arm eaten off while wakeboarding.  The kids manage to kill a shark, but it’s not the same one!  Could there be more than one shark in the water?  Maybe Sara’s ex-boyfriend Dennis (Chris Carmack) and his creepy friend Red (Joshua Leonard) can explain…

The DVD Cover

The mainstream nature of this film is truly a double-edged sword.  Yes, the characters are fleshed out more fully than in most sharksploitation films, but that only makes their shallowness all the more aggravating.  I despised every single character in this film.  I wanted them all to die, and quickly.  I didn’t even care if they died slow painful deaths; I just wanted them to get off the screen as speedily as possible.  The lesson I’ve learned from this is that sometimes a completely flat, stereotypical character can be much more enjoyable than a realistic one.  Just because “Shark Night 3D” does a good job of presenting its characters as real people, it doesn’t mean that they are likeable real people.

Nonetheless, my favorite part of the film is probably the fact that everyone in Sara’s home town is evil.  All four of them.

Spoiler: The tattooed, drunk, stupid, racist guy is evil.

I generally try to stay away from the actual science of sharks as much as possible.  If I knew the average speed of a Great White, I’d just end up tearing my hair out every time one is shown going as fast as a speedboat in one scene, but failing to catch up to a swimmer in another.  I’m simply better off not knowing.  That being said, “Shark Night 3D” is by far the most educational sharksploitation film I’ve seen yet.  Before the villains feed someone to the sharks, they stop to announce the Latin name and any identifying characteristics of the species.  As one of the bad guys explains, they’ve noticed the popularity of the Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week, and are filming all of their shark murders to sell to people who just can’t get enough.  Sharksploitation films are usually pretty self-referential, but this is a new spin on it.

I noticed something in this movie which I would like to pass on to future sharksploitation filmmakers: silence adds realism.  At several points during the movie, I was struck by mild feelings of anxiety and even interest in the events of the film.  It turns out that those scenes were the ones without obnoxiously suspenseful music, or any music at all.

Unfortunately, the irritating cinematographic techniques used in “Shark Night 3D” more than compensate for its tasteful music choices.  The producers must have gotten a great deal on film, because they used it like there was no tomorrow.  While I suppose you could argue that the whole movie is a waste of film, I’m specifically talking about the use of pointless jump cuts and unnecessarily sped-up scenes.  Either one of these techniques is annoying enough by itself, but combined they are an awesome force of evil.  Many of the film-wasting scenes in “Shark Night 3D” are mercifully short, like the one where the girls dance while deciding which bikini top to wear, or where a shot of Sara walking to a chair is needlessly repeated three times in a row.  But near the beginning of the film, we literally see the entire car trip from the university to Sara’s home town.  Judging by the movement of the sun, this journey takes over 12 hours, and while we only have to sit through the 45 second sped-up jump cut version, it’s tedious enough.

As a mainstream movie, “Shark Night 3D” has a large amount of supporting materials.  For example, it has its own annoying website, complete with bladder-baiting water noises.  The movie also inspired its own short parody, “Shark Pool,” which I reviewed a few weeks ago.  In terms of trailers, you have your choice between the full version:

And the (official) “bouncing butt girl” version:

If you want to save time, you can just watch the bizarre music video that follows the credits.  It hits most of the salient points of the film but only takes 4 minutes of your time:

Finally–and this is the best one– the DVD boasts a special feature titled “Shark Attack!  Kill Machine!”, a 6 minute montage of the shark attack scenes from the film.  I take this as an admission by the filmmakers that all of that other plot and characterization stuff in the movie is garbage.

“Shark Night 3D” is available on Amazon.

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