THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Shark Night 3D (2011)
Directed by David R. Ellis
“I’d call it perfectly stupid entertainment with some teeth.”
It sure seems like the world has caught one of those nasty viruses that comes around every few years because the last few weeks have been very shark-centric. With the stupid, yet brilliantly titled Sharknado and Discovery Channel’s Shark Week (hell just before I posted this a shark story was flashing across Yahoo), the fish with the big teeth have been everywhere. The only two things missing this year is no overblown news story about the bloody waters of Cape Cod and a big time blockbuster at a theater near you.
In fact, unless I’m completely wrong, the last successful shark tale was probably Deep Blue Sea (or Shark Tale?), but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been entertaining movies released, namely 2011’s Shark Night (which was released in theaters as Shark Night 3D, but that seems to be dropped). Ok, so it drowned a miserable death at the box office, but somebody should have shot up a fancy flair or at least tossed a big, round life preserver its way (ok, enough puns). The film isn’t as bad as you think. In fact, I’d call it perfectly stupid entertainment with some teeth (last pun).
Now for the uninformed, there isn’t much of a story beyond a group of seven friends who decide to spend a vacation on the Louisiana coast. Actually, the movie starts with the death of some random who never is tied back into the story, which I found annoying considering lead character Sara (Sara Paxton) has a secret past. Anyway for whatever reason, sharks start killing them…one by one. Good times!
What does the movie do right? Late director David R. Ellis tried to stack the film with girls, explosions, girls, sharks, beer, blood, rednecks, boat chases, shootings, stabbings, fire, blood...and girls and sharks (though he made two major errors that I’ll explain in a minute). The script is utterly dumb with setups so freakin’ preposterous that it’s hard not to love it because it's so obviously over the top.
Take when one of the many sharks (don’t ask...there's a gaggle of them) attacks their speed boat, knocking out navigation which somehow redirects them back to their dock where…a pile of propane tanks wait to be exploded.Or how about when one of girls falls off the boat. They toss her a life preserver and then drag her across the lake as unintentional bikini bait. What the hell did they think was going to happen pulling a bloody body through infested waters?
What's worse than all that is that I hate to admit it but Shark Night actually surprised me with the plot twist. In my defense there wasn’t much of a plot until around one hour mark, so maybe I was just lured by any plot beyond these characters having a good time/being eaten alive. I won't spoil it and it's rather obvious now that I think about it, but still...any time a B camp horror movie can throw an unexpected curve, good for you, movie.
What does the movie do wrong? Well…nudity. Ellis gives plenty of skin, but he didn’t give what the B-movie goer wants…bare skin. None of the girls are above teasing to the point of annoyance, which perhaps makes it worse. At the same time, Shark Night's gore is relatively calm considering what the reboot of Piranha delivered. That film pushed all the right boundaries (sex and violence), which if Ellis had sleazed things up more, it probably would have been something more than it is. I dig it now, but if everything had been amped up slightly that might have had something really damn good. Instead, we have something really dumbly good. There's a difference.
Ellis (who died in 2013) made his name giving the world theater bound B movies like Final Destination 2, The Final Destination, Cellular, and the immortal Snakes on a Plane. But before we write him off as a one trick pony, I’d like to give him his due as a long time stunt coordinator and assistant director on such flicks as Lethal Weapon, Patriot Games, Matrix Reloaded, Master and Commander, and the upcoming 47 Ronin. Dude had a hell of a career. For whatever reason, his directing duties lead him to over-top flicks, which he nailed quite well. Sure, sure, no one is gonna say Shark Night is fantastic, but it’s damn fun. It never pretends to be anything more than what it is, which kinda sounds like Ellis himself if you read about him.