2011 - 90m.
As I write this, it has been almost a month since director David R. Ellis was found dead in a hotel in South Africa. I was shocked when I found out about Ellis' death as he was only 60 years old and I was looking forward to many more entertaining b-movies from the former stuntman. One of my fondest memories from working in the film industry was walking down to the abandoned sets on Final Destination 2 first thing in the morning, as I often did, only to find Mr. Ellis sitting alone and preparing himself for the day. It was a special moment and one that I will always remember because he was obviously committed to trying to make the best movie he could. He was a really nice guy who made fun movies and his contribution to the horror genre will be missed. Shark Night 3D is Ellis' last movie and is an entertaining entry in the 'nature runs amok' genre that was obviously influenced by Jaws and Piranha but puts an interesting spin on it with the motivation behind the attacks. There is also a sense of intimacy that differs from the mass mayhem that often provides the biggest set pieces in this type of flick.
Sara Paxton (The Last House on the Left remake) stars as Sara, a college girl who brings her friends to her lake house for a little getaway. Soon after arriving, they have a run-in with her ex named Dennis (Chris Carmack) who seems like he is not quite over her. The group enjoy their first afternoon on the lake but things take a turn for the worse when one of them has his arm ripped off by a giant shark when waterskiing. The others try a number of ways to get their buddy to a hospital but it seems that damn shark is plenty hungry and keeps thwarting their rescue efforts. It also doesn't help that Dennis and his creepy friend, Red (Joshua Leonard, The Blair Witch Project), are lurking around with intentions that are anything but honourable. Through it all, the shark has plenty to eat and we get abundant opportunities to admire Paxton and her blue bikini.
There are a lot of filmgoers who probably will say that this movie is terrible but these are people who do not appreciate what makes a good B-movie. You have to remember that this flick is coming from the guy who made Snakes on a Plane and he provides a kind of entertainment that is rare these days, especially on the big screen. Sure, the characters are stock, the dialogue is cheesy, and the sharks are not entirely realistic but I developed a major love for cult movies because of these qualities. We have seen the structure of Shark Night used many times in the past and I am happy that movies like this are still getting made and released on a somewhat mainstream basis. Back in the glory days of horror flicks when I was a teenager, this was a regular occurrence and not something that only shows up a couple of times a year. I live for movies like this and it gives me a warm feeling inside that I still get to go to a flick like Shark Night 3D or Piranha 3D in the multiplex.
I think of B-movies like a delicious treat that can put a little kick into your life. It is a special part of the world of film that doesn't try disguising the fact that it is like a piece of candy in a challenging world. We know when we are watching a movie like this that we are there to be entertained and nothing else. There could have been more gore, more skin, and maybe a little more cheesiness but this is better than many a SyFy flick and not nearly as over-the-top as Piranha 3D. Still, Ellis knew his audience well and gave the sweet stuff the best he could so it was satisfying but did not try to pack so much in so that the viewer felt bloated after. He also did not take himself too seriously and just let us enjoy ourselves. Shark Night 3D provides the type of escapism that is becoming rare in the horror genre and although it may not have been Ellis' finest work, it certainly had his stamp all over it. Rest in peace. (Josh Pasnak, 1/31/13)
Directed By: David R. Ellis.
Written By: Will Hayes, Jesse Studenberg.
Starring: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katharine McPhee.