About this time last year, I saw a movie called "Piranha." It was a loose remake of a 1978 cult favorite produced by Roger Corman; the sort of cheesy B-movie that was so laughably bad that it ascended to being good fun. That was, of course, the original film, not the remake, which made it onto my list of the worst movies of 2010. Now, exactly one year later, my hopes for seeing a good creature-feature on the silver screen have once again been crushed by what was, essentially, the exact same picture I saw last fall. The only difference is, now the obnoxious, hard-to-endure stick-figure characters are being munched on by big fake CGI sharks instead of big fake CGI piranhas.
But it's really the same scenario. Some brainless young adults are frolicking about on a big, freshwater lake when all of a sudden, people are being tossed about and pulled under by unseen attackers. About thirty minutes in, it's revealed (as if we didn't already know) that the lake has been infested by sharks. And not just great whites, either. No, there are hammerheads, tiger sharks, bulls, and even cookie-cutters. How are all of these oceanic species ending up in a freshwater lake? Well, the movie gives an explanation, but it's one of the most outrageously bad plot twists in recent years. And remember, I'm an aficionado on the junk monster movies that pop up on the SyFy Channel every weekend. Now, I do not go to a monster movie looking for great character study or plot logistics. I go there looking for good old-fashioned, escapist fun. Only when a B-movie becomes so incredibly empty and devoid of joy do I start nitpicking on things I might otherwise overlook until after the credits have rolled. But the writing and directing of "Shark Night" (which by the way, mostly takes place under a bright sunny sky) is so bland, so unenthusiastic, so absent-minded that it left me looking at my watch after about twenty minutes. After the first attack sequence, which starts with a predictable twist and then becomes a practical shot-for-shot knock-off from the all-more-effective opening scene in "Jaws," the only thing that ran through my mind was wondering how long it would be before Steven Spielberg and Universal decided to pitch out a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
The whole movie looks and feels very much like it was made directly for a television release, giving it a sort of schizophrenic, out-of-place feeling. The fact that the performances are beneath comment does not help any, since they are on screen far more often than the cartoony, computer-generated sharks who can twist their necks as flexibly as a human arm and snarl like lions. In addition, there is the other big problem that I also had with "Piranha": dopey exploitation. The movie's far more interested in ogling at the hindquarters and torsos of partially-naked models-turned-'actors' than it is in developing plausible attack scenarios or engaging the audience in the way only a good B-movie can.
Well, at least there weren't any underwater lesbian scenes this time. No chewed up, sex organs either. Thank heaven.
If the writers had realized that they were making a movie for the big screen and not for television, "Shark Night" might have proved to be a solid, lighthearted matinée. Instead, it fails to recognize what it ought to have been and pretends to be a grade-A exploitation flick, falling flat from the beginning. In regards to its 3D: it's thoroughly unimpressive. Granted, I am not the biggest fan of 3D; I think it's a cheap, unengaging gimmick. But half the time, you wouldn't know this were a 3D movie if it weren't for the bulky glasses sitting on your nose. It's still murky and nothing jumps out from the screen except for a few pieces from a motorboat and some seaweeds. Not scary, not entertaining, not even remotely interesting, "Shark Night" was one of the more unhappy times I've had at the movies.
It seems like the only folks who can still produce good monster flicks are the Japanese. Their contemporary rubber monsters smashing miniature Tokyos and Osakas are far more interesting than any monster mayhem I've seen on the big screen in a long while.