The goofy new horror flick Shark Night will appeal to precisely one sort of person: one who would happily walk up to a box office and yell "One for Shark Night, please!" with a big grin on their face. If you don't qualify under the aforementioned credential, never see this flick. If, however, you're a big sucker for killer shark flicks, and you'd like to curl up with a new one with a solid cast and a mostly winning sense of humor, Shark Night will most assuredly fit the bill.
The premise is nominal stuff indeed: seven rather diverse college friends decide to party at a house at a beautiful but remote lake, and wouldn't you know it? A big school of (equally diverse) sharks have taken up residence nearby. Prior to a water-skiing tragedy that kicks the carnage into (relatively) high gear, Shark Night spends an ample amount of time setting up its characters, a few romances, and a patently silly back-story for our heroine. Aside from a game ensemble and some quick cutting, there's nothing in the first 35 minutes of Shark Night you haven't seen before. Probably recently. But once the threat becomes known, and the poor college kids split up for a variety of legitimate reasons, Shark Night starts to fire on most of its cylinders.
To their credit, director David R. Ellis (Snakes on a Plane) and first-time screenwriters Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg never fail to approach this basic premise with tongues in cheek and with eyebrows fully cocked. Although not nearly as jokey as the recent Piranha remake, Shark Night is fully aware of how silly it is -- yet it never tips too far in the direction of self-parody. Mindless, yes, but not exactly stupid. Leading lady Sara Paxton (she spends the entire film in a bikini, natch) is as likable as she is easy on the eyes, and she's got some capable support behind her. The always-amusing Joel David Moore, for example, brings some nice wise-ass humor to the proceedings ... at least until he gets an eyeful of the ravenous sharks, that is. Indie and sitcom star Donal Logue also contributes an unexpectedly funny turn as a clueless sheriff.
But Shark Night isn't all giddy fun and games: the narrative often slows down to a halt while we're waiting for another shark attack; the CG effects range from slick and cool to clunky and chintzy; the 3-D presentation (as usual) adds nothing to the experience; and (my biggest gripe) much of the carnage seems to have been toned down in an effort to woo that always-coveted PG-13 rating. But hey, when I go to see a movie called "Shark Night," I don't want to see victim #2 just fall into the water with a splash and then vanish for good. In other words, Shark Night has some of the most unremarkably bloodless devourings you'll ever see. That's not to say that all PG-13 horror movies need to be harsh and gory -- but this one sure freaking does.
On the whole, though, Shark Night is precisely what you want from a film called Shark Night: it (mostly) moves pretty quick, it has an amiable cast and some decent dashes of suspense, the humor helps a lot, and the screenplay (get this) actually delivers a few crazy surprises. Call it junk if you like, but at least Shark Night is junk that delivers on its promises. Well, most of them, anyway.