Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; constantly in need of a bigger boat. Remember when Junkfood Cinema only covered crusty old cheese that you didn’t care about or crappy movies out of theaters just long enough to have completely vanished from your consciousness forever? Those were good times, simpler times. You were safe from it as long as you stayed in the boat and didn’t venture into my usual feeding grounds. But now, like some God-awful 3D gimmick, I am bursting through your computer screen and invading your local movie theater to take a massive bite out of a brand new movie. I will chomp apart all of this film’s many, many faults and drag it down to a watery grave. But then, like Matt Hooper, my love for this movie refuses to stay submerged and comes bubbling to the surface. I’ll wrap it up by chumming the waters with a tasty snack food themed to the film.
Today’s Catch: Shark Night 3D
It is a true rarity that brand new movies, in those fancy shmancy multiplexes with their hoity toity 3Ds, XDs, and D-students, perfectly exemplify the core values of Junkfood Cinema. But in the case of Shark Night 3D, the confines of a traditional review would simply do no justice to the complex, near-paradoxical experience of seeing this terrible/amazing film in a theater and, despite all its best efforts, loving it so much that you unironically hope it wins an Oscar so that a hundred more movies just like are released within the next year. This was one such transcendent experience. And even though the 3D in this film did little more than perfectly replicate how uncomfortable and irritating it is to go swimming in a lake, I admit I enjoyed it. If you see only one shark movie in your lifetime that doesn’t rhyme with SHMAUZ, see Shark Night 3D.
What Makes It Bad?
Shark Night 3D is a stinky fish. It is loaded to the gills with every imaginable screenwriting SNAFU and FUBAR and WTF and POS and all the other acronyms that amount to something totally inept. It is so bad that your brain won’t let your eyes believe what its seeing, so instead it goes into panic mode and starts chucking out buckets of IQ points and critical thinking skills as the flood of idiocy comes rushing in. Shark Night 3D is a marvel of bad movie evolution, largely unchanged from its schlock ancestors. All this thing does is swim, and kill, and make little sense. It is like a SyFy original movie made by an MTV executive. This is evident immediately in the title sequence featuring stock footage of sharks set against red color tint and industrial heavy metal. It was like David Attenborough’s Planet Earth as directed by Trent Reznor. If I tried to load up all of the problems with this film, your brain boat would sink. So instead, I’ll try and narrow it down to just the top fifty or so.
Let’s start with our hero and all his little chums; pun not only intended, but maliciously intended. The characters in Shark Night 3D are not human beings. No they are actually flesh-covered cardboard cut into the shape of reality TV contestants. Much like those “reality” TV dopes, these characters are founded on archetypes that are so force-fed to us that each of them is actually introduced surrounded by environments that further the hackneyed idiosyncrasy that defines them. It’s like when you package Astronaut Barbie inside a diorama of the Milky Way galaxy…just in case the enigmatic space suit wasn’t a dead giveaway. We have the rebellious slut replete with tattoo on the ass, the nerd gamer, the shallow, spray-tanned Adonis, the brainy med student, the chaste blond heroine, and the black athlete. And yet somehow, and with great aplomb, they all still manage to be ill-defined. Beyond their assigned stereotype, which they wear like nametags on their chests, the only thing we know for sure is that there is no way in hell thirty-three-year-old Joel David Moore is actually in college. And their dialogue to one another is so flat and ham-fisted that the first twenty minutes feels like sitting through the worst episode of Saved By the Bell ever conceived, think on that and despair.
Also true to the reality mold, the movie even features the “we just got into the house for the first time” montage replete with high-speed photography, trendy (read awful) music, girls stripping, and exact shots repeated thrice to emphasize…the fact that a girl just walked by. It was like watching the premiere episode of The Real World: Amity Island. They also have music video sensibilities when it comes to cinematography. Every woman in this film is introduced and subsequently photographed ass-first. Not that I’m complaining mind you, but with the added effect of 3D, it’s like residing inside Sir Mix-a-Lot’s subconscious for two hours.
// Thar Be Spoilers In This Paragraph //
Horror movie tropes are well-established and plenty of entries into the genre have comfortably fallen back on those tropes like they were a trust exercise at fat camp. But Shark Night 3D is not satisfied simply being conventional, and instead injects each of those tropes with a strain of bovine growth hormone from Barry Bond’s private stash. Sure, we get the plot device that they are on an island and none of these kids can get a signal on their phone as to create a feeling of isolation. But then they go and crash their boat in a ostentatious explosion that lasts somewhere in the neighborhood of four-and-a-half minutes. And yes, the ingenue is naive. But there’s naive and then there’s trusting a guy who once refused to save you when you were drowning which caused you to, in a panic, slice part of his face off with a boat propeller. This makes even less sense when paired with the fact that said scarred doucebag now runs with a Deliverance reject whose teeth are, I shit you not, filed into points to resemble those of a…anyone…anyone…shark! They basically lobotomize their female lead to the point that you not only wonder how she could survive this onslaught of sharks, but if the reason she almost drowned was because she couldn’t figure out how to close her mouth and stop looking up during a rainstorm. Oh, and it is never explained why scarred douchebag, who was her boyfriend at the time of the incident, tried to let her drown. But when the impetus for his overarching evil scheme is revealed later in the movie, you’ll understand why this little loose end is comparatively air-tight.
// NO MORE SPOILERS NOW //
Apparently nobody who worked on this goddamn movie had ever actually seen a shark in their entire life or, God forbid, picked up a book on the subject Or, if they have, it was a pop-up book in which a friendly cartoon shark warned them of the dangers of shoving small objects up their noses or sticking forks into electrical sockets; judging by this film, they didn’t heed those warnings. My favorite thing about the sharks in this film is that they are not mutated or genetically altered in any way. Why does that matter? Because despite that fact, these sharks are able to chase down speeding boats and jet skis. I did a little research, and it turns out that this is fucking stupid. The fastest shark on the planet is the shortfin mako which has been clocked at speeds up to 20mph; speeds UP TO 20mph. Which means most of the time they don’t even go that fast. So unless your speedboat is actually a canoe with a racing stripe, and even then only if you aren’t in decent shape, I’m betting you could outrun a shark. Oh, and the sharks not only understand that they can totally defeat a boat at full speed, but also instinctively know to target and systematically dismantle the steering mechanism. Yup, that boat crash/explosion I mentioned? Totally caused by a bull shark with a bad temper and an engineering degree. That’s a big load of bull shark alright.
Few movies have the boldness to include an epic geography fail; Shark Night 3D is so bold. In the movie, our merry band of reproBAITs travel from Tulane University to Lake Crosby, Louisiana. Through the magic of what appears to be a Moby video, we see that this drive starts at dusk, continues through the night, and puts them in Lake Crosby at the dawn of the next day. Let me see if I can break this down like the fractions these writers couldn’t grasp in the third grade. First off, there is no Lake Crosby in Louisiana. So let’s assume they meant Crosby Lake which is both the name of a real town and its very real namesake body of water. That’s not too much of a stretch. The problem is that Tulane University is also in Louisiana. Now I don’t know if the screenwriters got drunk and seriously misinterpreted the Google Earth data they were looking at intermittently alongside their favorite up-skirt websites, but it only takes four hours to get from Tulane to Crosby Lake. If anything, you’d think all those obnoxious montage-y camera spasms would have put them there even sooner. But apparently to get to Crosby Lake they drove north through Mississippi, across the Arctic Circle, down across the prime meridian, and around the Cape of Good Hope to arrive promptly in WhyTheHellDontWeOwnAGPSVille.
Why I Love It!
// PESKY SPOILERS AGAIN //
I have never seen a film go flying off the rails with more maniacal glee than Shark Night 3D. There are things that happen in this movie that are so insanely inexplicable, that I wonder if they were intentional or if the writer had a massive stroke by about page ten. When the black athlete has his arm torn off by a shark, you’d think he’d spend the rest of the movie bed-ridden. But no, once he learns that his girlfriend was gobbled up, he goes looking for revenge on that shark. He wades out into the water, still bleeding from the gaping hole in his shoulder, brandishes a freaking spear and fights mano y fish with a hammerhead shark. He’s like a one-man army, minus an arm. Think that’s absurd? He also wins! Take that nature, and common sense. Or how about the fact that one of the bad guys carries around a baton with an impact device at its head that fires a single bullet? In other words, an actual, honest-to-goodness boomstick! Where does one get such a device? Other than the inside of Sam Raimi’s head of course. It’s one thing when a SyFy channel or otherwise made-for-TV movie pulls these shenanigans. But when a theatrically-released movie pulls something so outlandish and irreconcilably moronic that you whip your head violently around the theater to make sure everyone else saw what you did, thereby assuring yourself that a blood vessel did not pop in your brain, you know you’ve stumbled onto something truly special.
No matter the faults of a film like this, sharks are still goddamn scary. There’s a reason National Geographic does not devote an entire week to giraffes. Because not even an advancing pod of the surliest giraffes could ever match the intense dread and sheer terror of even pondering being attacked by a shark. Shark Night 3D understands this. It knows you are afraid of sharks and seeks to allow them to leap out of the water and into your nightmares. And do they ever leap. The kills in Shark Night 3D are so over-the-top and balls-out spectacular that they make Deep Blue Sea look like Deep Blue Something…and they’re a band so I don’t even know what that means. I like that the kills are subtle at times and only show the victim thrashing about, but it was nice to also be treated to a high-flying, teeth-nashing, reality-flipping-offing murder-by-fish every now and again.
// You Read The Paragraph, Spoilers In The Paragraph, Shark Night Spoilers //
As with any killer shark movie, Shark Night 3D is beholden unto Jaws and, as such, genuflects to the master with references. But instead of merely hurling lines from the original film at the screen with absolutely no context, the film opts instead to utilize subtle, plot-based references to Jaws; can’t believe the words subtle and plot managed to sneak their way into association with Shark Night 3D. In other words, it’s a case of reference what they do and not what they say. First, we have the opening kill. A girl, swimming alone after her boyfriend wanders off, is attacked by a shark we don’t see and dragged from one side of the screen to the other. When angry, armless athlete kills the hammerhead, he thinks he’s killed the shark that dined on his girl but he actually just killed a shark; similar to the overconfident fisherman in Jaws. We also get a severed limb residing at the bottom of the lake, a line about how a certain type of shark will eat anything including license plates and tin cans (the exact contents of the tiger shark’s stomach that Hooper cuts open), and even a brief moment wherein characters compare scars. The girl’s scars are emotional while the villain’s perforate his face like he lost a knife fight to Seal. The way these references are sewn into the plot and the way in which Shark Night makes them unique to their film suggests a movie a little smarter than its…everything else would have you believe.
The dog lives. One of my least favorite tropes in any genre is the propensity for horror films to kill innocent dogs. It’s usually in a lazy attempt to establish that a certain character is a real “evil dude.” As a dog lover and dog owner, this irritates the crap out of me. Why do you have to kill Spot to prove your a psychopath when there’s a whole batch of stupid teenagers in the camp next door. In Shark Night, it’s been established all to crap that Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Fat Rapist are complete bastards, and by the time the dog was brought aboard their ship they had already killed two human people. So when Dweedle Fat Rapist throws the poor mutt overboard, I was ready to throw my finger at the screen and walk out. But guess who comes back at the end of the film to provide our hero with some much needed assistance? That’s right, the crafty canine. This movie makes the bold, atypical choice to let the dog live and that alone is enough to warrant praise from me.
Shark Night 3D is the epitome of a midnight movie, and no, I don’t mean that simply in the sense that I happened to catch it at a midnight screening. It has just enough awareness of what it is and who its audience is that it is able to elevate something absolutely worthless into something that captures the spirit of schlock past. This is the Jaws ripoff that Joe Dante would make today, as opposed to the one he made thirty-three years ago with no money. It doesn’t desperately clutch at the obvious visual aesthetics of a b-movie; no artificial film scratches, no missing frames. Instead it matches the excitement, the lack of pretension, and the absurd ride that makes bad movies so much fun. This is a timeless bad movie; a new classic.
Junkfood Pairing: Betty Crocker’s Shark Bites
Fruit snacks shaped like sharks of many varieties you say? How fitting! There are also several different types of sharks in this film, although they will be the ones eating you. The added bonus here is that when you sit down to watch Shark Night 3D, you will think it too is a “crock,” but oh Betty if it doesn’t amount to one sweet bad movie.