AUGUST 5, 2012
If you've seen Shark Night (and I suggested you should during its theatrical run, only to discover it did not hold up at all on a second view), then you'd know that the kids weren't just the victim of random attacks - in a twist, we learn that the sharks were specifically put in the lake near their house by vengeance seeking hicks who also wanted to film the carnage and sell it to cable for "Shark Week" programming. And that makes Shark Week the yin to its yang, as that's the actual plot this time around but has nothing to do with "Shark Week" at all (and also has more scenes set at night, for what it's worth).
But whereas the villain in Night just had a beef with one girl and the others were collateral damage, our bad guy here has assembled the group of eight people for a very specific reason: to avenge the death of his drug dealing son. Everyone that he kidnaps and brings to his island compound had a hand in the young man's death (in his eyes, anyway): the cop who shot him, the junkie who sold out his location, the OTHER drug dealer who was supposed to be there instead, etc. Personally I like when it's more like Saw II or Deadly Game, where everyone had wronged the villain in different ways, instead of "how are we all connected?", because there's no way for us to figure it out, which makes for a dull mystery. To be fair they get most of it out of the way pretty early, unlike Saw V which made it like a big reveal that meant absolutely nothing (and never did), but it just seems perfunctory to explain it and then proceed without it having any bearing on what happens for the rest of the movie. They might as well have just been random people plucked off the street because they were dumb enough to get caught.
It's also time that they could have used to create more interesting characters, because simply knowing what their jobs are ("I'm a reporter", "I'm a judge", etc) doesn't quite cut it. While no one is really hateful, they're just bland stock characters; the only way to even identify the Final Girl is due to the fact that there are only two other women, and one of them is older while the other is a junkie. Process of movie-logical elimination. Picking which guy will last is a bit trickier, because I could barely tell most of them apart, but I was thankful that it was NOT the guy playing the doctor because he was without a doubt one of the worst actors I've ever seen in a non-found footage Asylum film. I also liked how long the asshole businessman lasted, if only because it kept me guessing exactly WHEN he'd follow the lead of all asshole businessmen characters in horror history and sell out one of his fellow victims in order to save his own ass.
But bland characters and a less than thrilling story is hardly a surprise when it comes to this stuff. What WAS surprising is how relatively slow paced it was, with a body count of 10, 4 of which were in the final 10 minutes. Usually these Syfy films, particularly the shark ones, offer up tons of random carnage to keep people from switching the channel, but it took its time here. Hell, half the movie doesn't even take place on water, as the protagonists take multiple treks through the jungle or along the beach safely out of shark's way (a minefield tries to make up for it, but come on - the movie isn't called Minefield Week).
Thankfully, there is a variety to the sharks - little "pups", a hammerhead, and of course a Great White, but Chris Olen Ray (yes, Fred's son) directs them as incoherently as possible (or was forced to cut around typically bad CGI); the hammerhead scene in particular is just a disastrous collection of shots with next to no connective tissue, rendering it nearly impossible to tell what is going on as close-ups of the shark show it by itself while the "above water" shots with the humans show them practically hugging the damn thing. Some of it is remarkably half-assed, too - one major character falls in the water and then a shark jumps up (and roars, sigh) and presumably eats him; the camera is like a half mile away from the action and thus you can't actually see what happened.
And that's the film's primarily problem - it's too slow paced to work as one of their usual brain-dead but carnage heavy entries, but also impossible to take seriously as an actual movie, which can get away with this sort of pace if it has a good story, interesting characters, and satisfying payoffs. No, Shark Week has a villain that resembles the World's Most Interesting Man on the World's Least Flattering Bender (plus his wife, Yancy Butler, who looks ready to nod off during most of her scenes), actors so bad or bland that Syfy couldn't even be bothered to credit them at the top of the film even though they're on-screen for 90% of the movie, and... well, a story about a guy flying people halfway around the world to kill them with sharks. It also makes no explanation for the frequent surveillance shots we see, where the camera not only moves as if hand-held but occasionally even cuts to closeups. None of the characters ever notice these cameras, even though at least one of them would had to have been floating above the sand a few feet away. He also speaks to them through some sort of PA system that we never see, and we see a "elimination screen" (for who's benefit? No one is watching this but him and his wife - can't they keep track of 8 people they're watching at all times?) whenever someone dies, giving me unwelcome flashbacks to Doomed. Come on guys, if you're not going to deliver a fresh kill every 5-10 minutes, then you gotta at least try with the stuff you're giving us instead. This movie is the opposite of having your cake and eating it too.
What say you?