I've got three words when I watched David R. Ellis's latest B-movie called SHARK NIGHT 3D -- JAWS rip-off. Okay, fine. As long as the movie captures its satisfying amount of guilty-pleasure moments, I'm up for it. Unfortunately even that fundamental element alone Ellis can't get it right. If that's not insulting enough, it also comes with a dreary PG-13 rating. Now can somebody tell me, since when PG-13 rating works well for a movie that features shark? Yeah, I thought so.
The plot is standard stuff: A group of Tulane University students consisting of Sara (Sara Paxton), pre-med bookworm Nick (Dustin Milligan), Nick's nerdy roommate Gordon (Joel David Moore), tattooed wild girl Beth (Katharine McPhee), art class model Blake (Chris Zylka), football star Malik (Sinqua Walls), and Malik's sexy girlfriend Maya (Alyssa Diaz), are heading for a long weekend vacation to Sara's family's secluded island chalet on Louisiana's Lake Crosby. En route, they encounter some of Sara's old friends she hasn't seen since going away to college for three years which includes Dennis (Chris Carmack), Red (Joshua Leonard) and a local sheriff named Greg (Donal Logue). At the beginning, they are having a good time at the lake until one day Malik ends up getting his arm maimed by a shark during a wakeboarding incident. Everyone starts to panic and begins to wonder the sudden existence of a shark at a lake. They try to get outside help but cell phone reception doesn't work at all. Worst, night is falling and Malik has to get to the hospital as soon as possible since he's losing a lot of blood.
At the first glance, Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg's screenplay is actually competent. They do make some efforts to polish these pretty young things into plausible human characters, despite their occasional appearance in either shirtless or stripped down to tiny bikini. That's not all, the story also attempts to be different than just a straightforward shark movie. As the movie goes by, you will notice there's a slasher genre undertones somewhere in the third act. And I have to admit, it's kind of a smart gesture. Also somewhere in the middle, there is a timely comment on today's modern society regarding about fame and pop-culture from SHARK WEEK, FACES OF DEATH and MARCH OF THE PENGUINS.
Unfortunately, at a compact 91-minute long, everything about this movie is shockingly toothless. Thanks to the PG-13 rating, it's no surprise that the action are lackluster -- yup, we hardly get our chance to see all those necessary violence during the numerous shark attacks throughout the movie (There is one though, a brief scene where we see Malik is crawling into the beach with arm already being maimed off). Even if Ellis has the intention to showcase all the shark scene mostly in suggestive moments, he's no Steven Spielberg. It's a shame that his direction remains as pedestrian as usual. He might have plenty of ideas in his head but he doesn't know how to execute them in a satisfying manner. The way he did here reminds me the same mistake he made before in 2009's THE FINAL DESTINATION and 2006's SNAKE ON A PLANE -- all interesting gimmick but poor execution.
Technical-wise, the movie is average at best while the mostly CGI-looking sharks are rather rubbery and no, they are not scary enough to register that certain uneasy feeling needed for this kind of movie.
You have been warned.