The Austin Chronicle

Shark Night 3D

Rated PG-13, 91 min. Directed by David R. Ellis. Starring Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Joel David Moore, Chris Zylka, Katharine McPhee, Joshua Leonard, Donal Logue.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 9, 2011

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.

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