David R. Ellis
Will Hayes, Jesse Studenberg
Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katharine McPhee, Joel David Moore, Donal Logue, Joshua Leonard, Sinqua Walls, Alyssa Diaz, Chris Zylka
PG-13 for violence and terror, disturbing images, sexual references, partial nudity, language and thematic material
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There's one part of 1980's horror films I don't really miss. The generic nature of the hapless denizens who make up the body counts of those films. With the proliferation of new takes on the old genre, it's a bit surprising that something like Shark Night can't distinguish its chum from the next teens-in-peril slasher flick.
Ever since Jaws terrified beachgoers everywhere in 1975, audiences have embraced nautical adventures that put their prey underwater at risk of both being drowned and eaten. Not much has changed in 35 years, as frolicking teens have once again been set upon by toothy carnivores bred for evisceration. Taking their cues from nearly every teen slasher three decades prior, an interchangable lot of college students have descending on a remote, waterfront home isolated from "civilization" by a vast series of Louisiana lakes and bayous.
In these salt water depths, non-native piscean species have begun to feast and their latest encouragement is the scantily clad twenty-somethings who only meant to have a little harmless fun. Sara Paxton plays her namesake, the protagonist of the film whose past has come back to haunt her. Her new romantic interest Nick (Dustin Milligan) is a medical student whose past is also playing tricks on him. The rest of the cast might have pasts, but we're barely privy to them. Among the other fish food are array of buxom, studly and geeky, most audiences won't recognize apart from perhaps Joel David Moore, who's been in everything this side of Avatar; or Katharine McPhee, the American Idol runner up whose music career is as unimpressive as her feature film debut.
There are two relatively experienced thespians in the cast, one less interesting than the other. Donal Logue takes time away from serious film and television roles to appear as the sheriff, one of Sara's family friends. Logue has talent, but why he'd waste it on such dreck is beyond me. Perhaps he was looking for a financial pick me up after his one-season wonder Terriers was cancelled. Any other reason would seem trivial. The other, the less interesting one, is Joshua Leonard who got his start a decade earlier in the celebrated found footage horror progenitor The Blair Witch Project. Since then, he's appeared in a varied number of films, including the critically acclaimed Humpday. Since he made his mark in the genre, it's understandable why he'd continue with it.
Long ago, Friday the 13th and its ilk, sequel-happy endeavors looking to carve out their niche of a fear-starved audience, began trying new and interesting things to revive a flagging genre. To throwback the medium in such a malignant way is exemplary of the desire studios have of making cheap, quick profit. Even as a box office disappointment, a film like Shark Night will bolster revenues in small amounts and the low overhead helps to make them profitable. It's no wonder that, in spite of all the lambasting the genre received for it, that the same type of thing keeps happening. Thankfully, audiences have grown wise to such techniques and although many of them are still susceptible, films like Paranormanl Activity and Saw are stepping out of the box to varied degrees of success.
If you can't wait to see more attractive youngsters getting hacked to bits, or in this case eaten, Shark Night will provide all the unoriginal visceral thrills without the headaches of trying to understand an innovative plot. Of course, the next-morning recriminations might not be worth the short-term pleasure...unless your intentions are to get your easily frightened significant other into your strong, comforting arms.
September 20, 2012