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Shark Night (2011)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/3/2012

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/4/2012

Some of my earliest movie memories are the hype surrounding Jaws. Back then, entertainment news and publicity were nothing like they are today, but Jaws stuff was everywhere and sharks peered out from the covers of many magazines. Perhaps it was this environment that lead me to be fascinated by sharks and a few years later when I was finally old enough to see Jaws, shark movies. In the intervening years, the Jaws sequels were basically the only shark movies which we got, save for the Italian imitators. However, things have changed as of late, as Roger Corman and the SyFy channel have attempted to shove sharks and shark mutations into every movie possible. Even still, we've yet to get another classic shark movie. Shark Night promises to meet that challenge, as it offers a new twist on the shark genre.

Shark Night follows a group of college students who are planning a weekend getaway to Sara's (Sara Paxton) lake house. Nick (Dustin Milligan), Beth (Katharine McPhee), Gordon (Joel David Moore), Malik (Sinqua Walls), Maya (Alyssa Diaz), and Blake (Chris Zylka) pile into the SUV and travel to the lake. From there, Sara pilots a boat through the open water and the marsh-like trees to the secluded island where the house is. Once there, the partying immediately begins. The group takes out the ski-boat and Malik demonstrates his skills on the wakeboard, but this is cut short when he's injured in an accident. It's presumed that he hit the propeller. However, when Nick investigates, he comes face-to-face with a shark! The group attempts to take Malik to the mainland, but it doesn't work. As the night wears on, they begin to realize that there are several sharks in the lake and that the locals aren't friendly. Is there any way to survive 'til dawn?

Shark Night opens with a daytime scene which appears to be a homage to the first scene in Jaws. Is this simply a reverent nod, or is the movie saying that it's going to show us all of the things which Jaws couldn't/wouldn't? Well, as it turns out, one second of Jaws is better than all of Shark Night, and the only thing that this movie is a homage to is shoddy filmmaking and misleading advertising.

This is one of those movies which is so bad that I don't even know where to begin. I suppose that I'll start with the visual effects. I've come to accept the fact that we live in a world where CG is the norm, but shouldn't the CG at least be halfway decent in a movie from a major studio? Twelve years ago, Deep Blue Sea offered some pretty convincing CG sharks. The same can't be said for Shark Night, as the sharks have a very stiff and cartoony look. However, the worst part offenders are the fins. Instead of having some poor guy swim through the water holding up a fake fin -- which would have probably been thousands cheaper -- the movie insists on having CG fins which don't look the least bit realistic. Nothing will pull you out of a movie faster than the fact that a character is being pursued by a computer graphic.

Next we have the story. Shark Night introduces the idea of sharks being in a lake which is occasionally exposed to ocean water during large storms. This is a somewhat unique idea, but it's only an excuse to get the sharks near their victims. I won't go too far into the movie's big twist, but suffice it to say that someone is using the shark's for murder. OK, that is a great idea (and one which I once explored in an abandoned script), but the movie takes it in the totally wrong direction. If the concept has been used in a giallo fashion, where the killer's identity had remained a mystery, then it could have been very effective. Instead, the movie goes in a Deliverance-like direction and the focus is taken off of the sharks. Isn't that why we came in the first place? The movie promised different kinds of sharks, and it delivers on that, but we see very little of them. But, when we do see them, they are feeding on people. This is one of those "animal amok" movies which assumes that the animals are always hungry and will kill anything in sight.

The final straw comes in the movie's overall tone. I hadn't expected a movie called Shark Night (or, as the director wanted to call it "Untitled Shark 3D Thriller") to be great art, but I had expected it to be, and I rarely use this word to describe a movie, fun. 2010's Piranha went way too far in the direction of camp, but it had the right idea when it came to not taking itself too seriously. Shark Night does not take this position and it sees itself not only as scary movie, but a seriously scary movie at that. It's easy to spot the moments where the movie wants us to ooh and ahh, but these are all ruined by bad special effects, poor pacing, or a total lack of logic. I usually don't complain about a movie's rating, but the PG-13 really hurts Shark Night, as there's little blood and the party seems relatively tame.

Stuntman turned director David R. Ellis has made some good movie in the past, like Final Destination 2 and Cellular, but he really drops the ball here. I honestly can't think of a positive thing to say about Shark Night. I typically dismiss comments from the "major" critics about horror films, as I feel that they simply dismiss them, but everything that you've head about Shark Night is true and shark's everywhere should hang their heads in shame.

Shark Night offers a great white which is more like a mediocre white on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is impressively sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The daytime scenes are very crisp and show great depth, even in this non-3D version. The colors look very good, most notably greens and reds. The image is never overly dark or bright, even at night. The level of detail is good and we can make out textures on objects. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects are well done, from water sounds to jet-ski sounds to the underwater effects. Combined with the detailed stereo effects, we certainly get the impression of being in the middle of the action. Subwoofer effects help to punctuate this.

The Shark Night Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Shark Attack! Kill Machine!" is simply a 6-minute reel of all of the shark attacks from the movie, just in case you want to be underwhelmed all over again. "Shark Night's Survival Guide" (4 minutes) mixes clips from the movie with narration which includes shark attack statistics. "Fake Sharks Real Scares" (sic) (5 minutes) takes us behind the scenes with effects supervisor Walt Conti to see how the animatronic sharks were created. It's sort of depressing to see the amount of work which went into this considering how much lame CG was used in the film. "Ellis' Island" (4 minutes) includes interviews with Director David Ellis, as well as comments on the cast who talk about his work style. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long