Shark Night or Shark Night 3D was a 2011 horror movie that is pretty… Well, I love it, but it’s pretty special. It’s a goofy shark horror movie that I think works out well because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s not trying to be purposefully bad, but it also embraces its campy nature. It was directed by David R. Ellis and was sadly his last film before his death.
Obligatory note that I make for most shark movies I give my thoughts on. I love shark horror, but I also love sharks. I feel like we are getting over the age of “shark movie means sharks are evil,” but we aren’t totally over it yet. Sharks are beautiful creatures that are important to the ocean ecosystem and don’t kill all that many people each year. Love the shark
Shark Night follows the stereotypical slasher movie formula, just with sharks rather than a killer, which is the direction I think a lot of these more campy shark movies go in. Instead of being a creature feature, they get a lot of their tropes, setup, and pacing from slashers. We get a cold opening with a victim dying from an unseen being, which we can guess is a shark. We then flash to a college where we are introduced to our players. Nerdy boy, Nick, jock guy, Malik, and the slightly rougher but still nerdy guy who wants to bring Nick out of his shell, Gordon. As a thank you for Nick helping Malik pass a class, Malik invites the two to go to his friend (and Nick’s crush) Sara’s house. Malik brings along his long-time girlfriend, and Sara brings her “slutty” (ugh) friend Beth, but also the male “slut” Blake. All the players get together, and we get the typical Sara is from this small-town backstory.
She used to date one of the people, Dennis, and their relationship ended in less-than-ideal circumstances. Sara also has a seemingly decent relationship with the sheriff, who, unlike others, seems (pretends) to understand why she left and has never been back. It’s all pretty predictable and goes in a predictable direction.
As the college kids are messing around on the water, Malik is attacked by a shark. Then when they try to save him, things start to progressively get worse. Locals Red and Dennis start to separate the group. Eventually, the plot is revealed, Red, Dennis, and the Sheriff have brought sharks into this saltwater lake and are slowly killing people while filming it for money.
It’s not the greatest plot. I mean, heck, it’s not the greatest movie. It’s a bit over the top, cheesy, overly sexualized, and the pacing and acting are a bit off. The CGI for the sharks is pretty ridiculous as well. And yet… I really kind of like it. It is not my favorite dumb but fun horror movie, but it’s pretty high up there.
There are some good intense moments. The kills, while hammy, can be decent and amusing. The heroes all genuinely fight back the best they can and get some really decent moments in. And while, yes, super duper cheesy, it is also pretty fun in that aspect. Also, some of the characters are shockingly likable even though they play into their tropes.
In fact, that is the stand-out part of this movie to me. In the midst of this being a pretty mindless dumb, but fun slasher/shark movie, the side characters have some genuinely interesting development that works against their clear tropes. Malik is the jock that struggles with school and sees sports as his only way out of his life. Yet, he is also extremely devoted to his girlfriend, Maya, and is very sensitive to those around him. He also cares more about losing Maya than he does his arm and, thus, his potential career. He is ready to bounce back from that but becomes suicidal in the face of losing his love… that’s entirely unexpected.
Blake is a pretty straightforward shallow dbag, except he cares for his friends. He also notably apologizes for starting a fight in the middle of all that’s going on, something I rarely see from any character in horror movies, let alone the “dbag” character. His death is caused by his being willing to completely risk himself for the life of his friend, another entirely unexpected twist.
Gordon is the “not cool but not total nerd” guy who is also desperate for sex, just less capable than Blake. He is constantly pushing Nick out of his comfort zone, something we see in a lot of horror movies. But he also, again, is a decent guy. When Beth wants to go off with Red and Dennis, he agrees to go along. He knows it’s a mistake but knows that Beth won’t be talked out of it and refuses to leave her alone. It’s also not some misguided “I’ll get the girl in the end if I do this” but actual concern.
It is really insane to see these characters, especially male characters, go so far against what they are set up to be.
Sadly Beth is little more than what we expect from her, and her death is right along those lines; I mean, they get her nearly naked before throwing her in with the sharks. She does at least have one strong moment before she meets her fate, though.
Interestingly the two flattest characters, aside from the bad guys who are exactly what you expect them to be, are Nick and Sara. They aren’t bad, just pretty in line with the “final two tropes.” Nick, the nerd that becomes the hero, and Sara, the shy, quiet girl with the past all this revolves around, who does have her moments but ultimately must be saved by the nerd. They push a bit back on what we expect of them but not nearly as much as our three side-player guys.
While I find myself thoroughly entertained in the best and worst possible ways by this movie. My biggest “wow, this is truly something” about this is really how much this movie manages to be exactly what you expect it to be, then bam will hit back on the trope and do it hard in weird and unexpected ways.
It’s not enough to redeem it or make it a great movie, but It is enough to give it something more than a lot of dumb but fun movies offer though.
So bottom line? Look, movies like this are hard to recommend. You either like trash horror movies, or you don’t. If you do, I recommend this one. It was panned by critics and not well received, but I think it has some truly decent things going on while managing to be dumb fun. If you don’t like those types of movies, this one isn’t good enough to convert you. If you are looking to fill out your October viewing, I think you should consider this one. It deserves a touch more credit than it gets and can be a really fun watch, which sometimes that’s all we want, right?
If you like my Impressions, then consider signing up for my Patreon! Each month I share an exclusive Impressions piece there, and you can find other of my works/writing! Thank you so much! https://www.patreon.com/meganezombi