It’s not that I went into Shark Night 3D expecting anything particularly intelligent, obviously. I was just looking for something entertaining about pretty people being eaten, and that’s what I got. So I’m not complaining here, you understand; I enjoyed the film. But despite that, I did come away with rather more than the usual number of nagging questions.
Some questions are pretty trivial. For instance, did our heroine Sara (Sara Paxton) never once think that now might be a good moment to pop upstairs and put some trousers on? I don’t mind that she didn’t; I was quite happy for her to spend about three quarters of the film in her bikini (left). It just struck me as odd.
I was rather more concerned with the details of the villains’ evil plan (and the spoilers start here). Their plan really is pretty stupid, even for stupid villains in a stupid film (and one that comes from the director of Snakes on a Plane, so he’s not without form when it comes to films with implausible plots); it’s so stupid that you wonder if the characters (or the writers) have really bothered to stop and think it through.
Essentially, three men (I suppose they could have further partners who we don’t meet during the film) have decided to put lots of sharks into a salt water lake in order to create snuff films to be sold online – the logic being that Shark Week on TV is popular, so some people must be prepared to pay to see the real thing. Now, even if we avoid wondering too hard about how they got hold of all these sharks and put them in the lake, and what is happening to the lake’s ecosystem as a result, this plan seems riddled with holes. First of all, assuming the target market even exists (they don’t appear to have done any actual research), how do these rednecks expect to deliver the product? Sure, they’re savvy enough to attach cameras to the sharks and get footage of their kills. But where’s their website? How will they take payment? How many customers do they need before they can even cover their start-up costs?
One villain, while explaining his evil plan to the tied up hero (thereby giving him time to escape in the traditional manner), points out that Faces of Death “can be downloaded by any 8 year old, for free!” Without seeming to realise it, he has hit on a major problem for their potential business, one that should be factored into any film distributor’s business plan: the threat of online piracy.
The snuff movie angle makes the film sound a bit like a late arrival to the torture porn bandwagon, but it’s a bit too lightweight for that – anything too nasty, that might have cost the film a lower certificate, is carefully avoided. This does mean credibility suffers further (and I realise that discussing the credibility of a film like this is a pointless exercise), as the redneck villain who leers over the female victims in the early scenes then simply throws them to the sharks. I’m certainly not bemoaning the absence of an attempted rape scene, least of all in a ‘fun’ b-movie like this; just regretting that the film bothers to set up an implied sexual threat, but then acts like it doesn’t exist.
A further question (one that also kept popping into mind during this year’s FrightFest): how the hell do these fuckwits expect to get away with it? They’ve filled a lake, which people do appear to visit, with dozens of sharks. Will none of the locals notice? Are they all in on the plot? And clearly, they will need a steady supply of fresh victims in order to keep their potential customers coming back for more. This kind of killing spree only seems credible if the location is so incredibly remote that a huge search could conceivably fail to find the missing people (as in Wolf Creek, or Wrong Turn). How many vacationing college kids can they throw to the sharks before someone takes notice?
I enjoyed Shark Night, despite what the above might suggest; if you like this sort of thing, it’s worth a watch. I’d even accept that its barefaced fuckwittery added to the entertainment, in a way. But given that it’s sillier than Shark Attack 1, 2 and 3 put together, watching it in an actual cinema rather than on DVD seemed wrong somehow.