“Shark Night” hit theaters with two strikes against it – “Jaws” and “Piranha 3D.”
The former remains the quintessential shark movie, while the latter proved you can weave genre trash into fine art if you didn’t take the material seriously.
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Director David R. Ellis finds an unsavory middle ground with "Night," coming to Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 3. The clumsy "Night" is too serious for its own good and unable to scare up many B-movie shocks. And the sharks themselves feel like CGI leftovers even though the Blu-ray's extras tell us the crew spent serious cash on making models to chomp on the cast.
A group of Tulane University students decide to let loose on the quaint shores of Crosby Lake, but little do they know the water is teeming with nasty sharks. Uber-athlete Malik (Sinqua Walls) learns the hard way, and his friends race to re-attach the poor guy's arm after an early shark assault. Meanwhile the old beau of the beautifully dull Sara (Sara Paxton, "The Last House on the Left") arrives on the scene with washboard abs and a mischievous glint in his eye.
These two share a back story you know will be mined for maximum dramatics, but it's how the sharks got into these otherwise calm waters that turns the film into a poorly realized farce.
"Shark Night" utilizes the same underwater angles seen in the genre for decade with only an occasional hunk of flesh approaching the screen to remind us of its 3D roots.
The cast members acquit themselves as well as could be expected here, with Walls going way over the top to fight back against the sharks. "The Blair Witch Project's" Joshua Leonard draws the unfortunate assignment of playing the racist redneck meant to make our heroes even more uncomfortable. But you'll won't blink as one by one they all end up as shark food.
The film delivers a few moments of B-movie high jinks, like when a dog dutifully retrieves a weapon for one of the dwindling band of survivors.
Ellis, a stunt man turned director, found greater pulp success with projects like "Cellular" and "Snakes on a Plane." With "Shark Night," Ellis simply plugs in the horror movie essentials - pretty girls, hunky dudes, generic rock soundtrack and a high body count - without the requisite chills.
The Blu-ray extras include some real-life tips on how to avoid becoming a shark snack, a cast tribute to Ellis and a kill mode that lets users skip right to the attacks.
"Fake Sharks Real Scares" breaks down the FX team and how it brought those hungry sharks to life. Casual viewers will assume CGI brought every shark to life, but the film's crew actually consulted marine biologists and constructed 700-lb. models to keep the actors honest.