Tragedy, comedy, irony, post-irony, paint-by-numbers Hollywood, post-celebrity, lurid, ascetic, penis, vagina, bull shark, tiger shark. Shark Night 3D is all of these.
Shark Night 3D is directed by David Ellis, who brought us the movie-meme Snakes On A Plane. Ellis originally wanted to call this film Untitled 3D Shark Thriller, a formal acknowledgment of the film's lowbrow high concept, until studio politics intervened.
This anecdote makes reviewing Shark Night 3D somewhat difficult. For example, was this quote a pomo critique of Hollywood's usual August effluvium? Or was it preemptive critical jiujitsu that prompted Ellis to acknowledge he's making a potboiler?
Is it worthwhile making a value judgment when the art bellows "I'M TOTAL CRAP?" When the black guy's bitten first and the dog survives, when does satire become intellectual laziness (or vice versa)? Is this the first film to ever showcase a fistfight with a hammerhead shark?
I could devote a small novella to the narrative intricacies of Shark Night 3D, but I have deadlines and a caffeine headache. What I will say is that Shark Night 3D is a creature feature whose 3D only seems to work when the camera settles on coeds' yoga-pantsed fannies. This movie is a roiling maelstrom of dumb-as-balls.
In a nutshell, Shark Night 3D is Jaws for the Saw generation — Saws! — with a not unsubstantial plot point cribbed from Videodrome. A group of Tulane stock hardbodies (such as the Virginal Bookworm Hero, the male doppelgänger of Rachael Leigh Cook in She's All That) go up to The Rich Blonde's saltwater bayou estate for some boozy good times.
But when Bootstrap-Yanking NFL Draft Pick's arm is gobbled off by a bull shark while wakeboarding, characters like Narcissistic Nude Model and The Nerdy Guy From Avatar come to a frightening realization. The Rich Blonde's island mansion is surrounded by forty-something species of sharks — bull, hammerhead, cookiecutter — whose thirst for panicked horndog stops only at land and a namby pamby PG-13 rating.
Incidentally, gravity does not hamper the sharks. They regularly launch themselves out of the murk like aerodynamic Vienna sausages. Also, the CGI is so lackadaisical that most of the sharks look like finned bratwursts.
With their wriggling Jimmy Dean bodies and pink yawning maws, the sharks are the embodiment of Freudian terror, a breed of tube-meat Transformer who are equal parts severed phallus and vagina dentata. The sharks give the audience's sexual urges a carnivorous release — I assume this is why there are no topless scenes.
So yes, these crappy sharks will give you psychosexual piss shivers. But other than a devilish sequence where a school of cookiecutters nibble on The Girl With The Boring Tattoo, Shark Night 3D is an inept horror movie. Its jump scares piggyback on the audience's memories of Jaws or, God forbid, Deep Blue Sea or Orca. Shark Night 3D clings remora-like to your memories of less inept sharks. It may unearth terrifying childhood memories of Jabberjaw.
And for those Clinton administration babies who came of age during the mid-2000s torture porn boom, plenty of attractive, doomed kids are slowly lowered into shark-infested waters. It's worth noting that the recent Syfy Saturday night movie Swamp Shark had more stars than this. Fuck, Swamp Shark had Wade Boggs.
In conclusion, if Shark Night 3D is every contradiction of Western culture smoothed out supine, then culture is the ending of Live and Let Die spread out over 91 minutes. Surprisingly, I can live with this.