SEPTEMBER 3, 2011
Almost five years ago to the day saw the release of The Wicker Man, a thoroughly ridiculous remake of the moody original that transcended its PG-13 rating to deliver one of the most insanely (and seemingly intentionally) goofy horror films released by a major studio in years. It's fitting, then, that Shark Night gives it a run for its money, and luckily doesn't have to worry about angering any fans of the original, because it's also the first original horror movie in wide release since April (along with Apollo 18 - when was the last two originals opened on the same day?).
It will also most likely remain one of my favorites of the year. PG-13 or not, Shark Night is an incredibly enjoyable 90 minutes at the movies, offering up just enough shark action to keep folks from getting bored but also giving you a few characters worth caring about and a wholly/awesomely ridiculous plot that will likely turn some folks off, but for me just added to my overall enjoyment.
As I've explained a zillion times, I don't care how dumb/silly/illogical a plot is, as long as the filmmakers (and characters) commit to that idea. And what Shark Night offers is essentially a slasher movie plot but with sharks instead of a masked killer. How many slasher films have you seen that boil down to someone having a beef with a girl and thus they carry out this complicated plan as a very indirect mode of revenge, often killing everyone BUT her in the process? That's what we're dealing with here; I'm not spoiling any more than the trailers when I say that the shark attacks are not random like in the Jaws movies, but instead the sharks were specifically placed in the lake in order to kill Sara Paxton and her friends. I'll leave the exact reason why for you to discover (there's a bit more to it), but I will say that as a result we get the all time best Morgan Freeman joke in return.
Again, this will probably cause some groans and maybe even a walkout or two, but I love that they actually explained it in such a gloriously silly manner. Because if it WAS random, then the movie has to compete with Jaws and other traditional shark films. With an actual motive, its only competition is... well, Snakes on a Plane (the snakes were released to kill a mob witness, if you recall), which is fitting as this is from the same director. After getting his feet wet on Final Destination 4 (now that there's a 5 we can rename it, right?) with the 3D cameras, David Ellis has provided one of the year's best 3D flicks (tied with Drive Angry, and topped only by FD5, ironically). There aren't a lot of "comin' at ya" shots, which idiots will claim makes this "bad 3D", but that's how I prefer it - saving them for money shots and using the technology for depth. Especially in the underwater shots; it's great seeing how far a shark is "for real", and there's a fun bit where a character swims near the ocean floor in/around seaweed and such - it's incredible to see how far the tech has come and how naturally it fits the image when the director actually knows what he's doing.
Oh, and Kat McPhee in 3D. I hate to sound piggish but I think she's one of the hottest women in the world (she sang with Meat Loaf once too, so it's a mix of attraction and jealousy), so putting her in 3D (in a bikini no less) is hardly a bad thing. But even if it was some girl I could care less about, I was immediately impressed by the fact that all of our characters were actually likable. The best, of course, was Joel David Moore, who almost seemed to be in his own movie at times (watch him during the boat ride to the house - you can't even hear him but he's clearly got his own little monologue going on). And if you are a Hatchet fan, you should appreciate that he has "graduated" to the Marcus role here; mocking his virginal best friend and even climbing a tree to safety. Hell, even the obligatory "himbo" guy was sort of charming in his own way, and apart from a minor squabble or two (largely due to panic) they all got along; it wasn't one of those annoying teen horror films where they have to set up that one girl fucked another one's boyfriend or whatever. Honestly, I even could have used a few more minutes of them hanging out before shit went down, because I was just so happy to have a modern teen horror movie where I wasn't instantly rooting for the killer.
As for the kills, well, there's the caveat. While there's plenty of bloody red water and some hilarious POV shots to enjoy (plus some side boob - it certainly pushes the limit of PG-13; way harsher than the R rated Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, anyway), the rating definitely restricts some of the fun. At least one character doesn't even seem to get eaten by a shark, and the others are pulled underwater or whatever. Oddly it doesn't seem edited, but more like they intended a PG-13 from the start (though an unrated DVD wouldn't surprise me in the slightest), and it's a shame that they didn't go all out - it would be nice to recommend the movie unconditionally (again, as long as you're on board with its intentional silliness), but I understand why the theater was nearly empty - nearly every movie this could be easily compared to (Snakes, Piranha 3D, Deep Blue Sea) were not only R rated, but GLORIOUSLY R rated, making this PG-13 entry seem pointless in the overall scheme of things (especially with the 3D surcharge).
Speaking of the empty theater, what few people there were besides me and my buddy left when the credits began to roll. Not only is this a terrible thing to do anyway, but in doing so they missed what is without a doubt the best post credits scene in movie history. As ridiculous as the movie gets, it almost seems tame in compared to what lies in store for those who opt to stick around.
I know this is a relatively short review for me, but there's a reason. The best compliment I can offer this (or any) movie is that I was genuinely entertained so much that I didn't remember to take notes; I was engrossed enough that thinking about writing the review later never crossed my mind (though I did momentarily think that Sara Paxton has redeemed herself after her obnoxious turn in Innkeepers - she's fine here). According to my poll (and the box office, though not by much) more of you would rather see Apollo 18, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much of a mistake you are making if you think that will deliver more than this movie. And it's sort of sad that Rogue didn't bother screening the flick in advance, because I could have been telling you this a couple days or so ago instead of halfway through the weekend when you're probably not even reading. I really hope I'm not over-selling it or anything, but with expectations in check I think this is a perfect end of summer flick; a big ol' blast of unpretentious fun to laugh with/at before you head back to school or start to endure the cold weather (suckers!). Go enjoy!
What say you?