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Director David R. Ellis’ 2006 feature, Snakes on a Plane, got some steam for being a giggling exemplar of memetic marketing, but the most Shark Night 3D could hope for is to latch on, remoralike, to the success of Shark Week; the toothless plot even name-checks that Discovery Channel institution, with more than a whiff of desperation.
Shark Night 3D’s scripters Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg stick close to the playbook here: a collection of young, comely bodies (names are of no import; bait is bait, people) are trapped in [insert “a lakehouse”], menaced by [insert “many, many sharks”], and picked off one by one. The winkingness of these well-worn tropes marks half the fun in this kind of entertainment, but Shark Night 3D is about as humorless – and joyless – as they come. There’s little inventiveness in the many bloody ends the bland cast meets, and the 3-D photography is weirdly coy about giving us a good look at the sharks. (An underwater-cam shot of a dog paddling proves more engrossing than any of the titular predator’s moves.)
But back to that desperation: Not content to restrict itself to an exercise in “When Nature Attacks,” the filmmakers take a hard, ugly turn into torture-porn territory. Initially, Shark Night 3D is constantly leering – it even rewinds and replays a back-end shot of a bikini blonde walking poolside, with the music-video-inflected stylings that constitute an aesthetic here. (One can’t resist pointing out that one of Hayes’ last credits is a TV show called Assy McGee, which seems apropos.) But with the introduction of a snaggle-toothed townie who demands a terrorized girl strip down to her undies, the filmmakers enjoy the benefits a cynically calculated misdirection: They get to have their titillation shots – the camera literally pans up and down the shuddering woman’s chest and pubic area – with an exculpatory hands thrown in the air (it’s all in the service of the plot, you see). That’s what I like to call having your rapey cake and eating it, too.