Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, circling fins come into view, and the duty lifeguard has a panic attack in the middle of a vertigo effect dolly zoom shot.
Kids! Get back to the shore! It’s a terrifying, bloodthirsty shark attack, and it’s coming to get you in Digital 3D and Real D 3D! (I think the ‘D’ in ‘Real D 3D’ stands for Dangerous, which means pregnant women and those who suffer heart conditions or acute nervous disorders should avoid the cinema and go to the aquarium for their weekend treat instead.)
Unfortunately, it’s not the relaunch of the Jaws franchise, or even a remake of Jaws 3-D for the new generation of movie technology. What’s actually swimming on to multiplex screens, eager to bite into the box office, is Shark Night 3D.
As suggested by the title, it’s a film tailored for three-dimensional exhibition, and it’s directed by the man who made the modern B-movie masterpiece Snakes On A Plane. This, however, is Sharks in a Louisiana Lake, and I wish David R Ellis had called the film that to give it an air of pulp fiction romance, and avoid the irritating 3D suffix.
Sharks in a Louisiana Lake sounds like an excellent black-and-white film noir featuring Robert Mitchum, illegal gambling steamboats, sleazy hoods and a voodoo lady femme fatale who lures her lovers to a drowning death in the bayou. That would be absolutely brilliant, but because we’re no longer in the 1950s, Shark Night 3D it is. There’s no place for Bob Mitchum in the 21st century, and I’m expecting Ellis to deliver a B-flick more similar to Snakes On A Plane in style, tone and content.
I’m all for breezy shock-and-gore schlock flicks about wild, enraged animals attacking beautiful young people. The problem with Shark Night 3D though, if we’re to accept it is a horror film, is the eponymous monster itself. Sharks just aren’t scary, and haven’t been since Jaws. Sharks are, in fact, endangered creatures that should be appreciated as incredibly beautiful, mighty sea beasts. It’s a bit of a travesty that instead they either get turned into shark fin soup for rich Chinese Triad bosses, or abused as the generic water-dwelling bad guys of cheap seaside cinema.
Shark Night 3D probably doesn’t offer anything new to the killer shark genre beyond the fact it’s in 3D, and that in itself isn’t an incentive to cinemagoers. The gimmick has worn out its welcome, and having to wear glasses and pay extra to watch a movie puts some viewers off.That’s certainly true for me personally, and if they want me to embrace a 3D film in theatres, moviemakers are going to have to try a lot harder, and really make it worth my while. I want extra-dimensional horror films to be visceral, nauseating, genuinely nightmarish masterpieces of dread and despair. I want the 3D experience to be an all-out terror ride that tears my nerves to shreds and traumatises me.
Sharks aren’t frightening, and a 12A certificate suggests that Shark Night 3D isn’t the physically violent force I wish for. If Ellis and his crew had really wanted to scare us, they could have gone with one of the following easily constructible 3D B-movie pitches…
Cat Night 3D
Harmless household pets? Not at all – no matter how cute and fluffy cats are, you can never trust them. They share the same vicious feline predator genes as lions and tigers (and ligers) and, having been domesticated since the age of the pharaohs, have cultivated incredible insight into civilisation. The moggies may look tame, but really they’re sinister, cunning creatures that could easily best their human masters.
If you look to the Siamese twins of Lady And The Tramp, the dastardly Mr Jinx of the Meet The Parents films and the mad, vanishing Cheshire Cat that torments Alice throughout her Wonderland trip, you’ll see what I mean. Furthermore, observe how those alley strays psychologically unhinged Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns, and pushed her over the edge into a part-time career as a kinky spandex vigilante who wants to kill Batman.
I’m pretty sure that in the early 007 pictures, Ernst Stavro Blofeld was just a puppet megalomaniac, and that the white Persian cat was really calling the shots. Cat Night 3D is the cinema event that finally allows the Feline New World Order to reveal itself and commence Operation: Cat Scratch Fever.
Presented in invigorating 3D, expect to leave theatres shaken, having been pawed by psychotic giant pets, and stirred, having been bombarded by flying claws, fur and the entrails of the lonely old cat lady spinsters they sacrifice to Michelle Pfeiffer.
Hen Night 3D
It’s a hit comedy in the style of Bridesmaids, except it adds an extra dimension and consequently has additional visceral outrage and uproar to assault audiences eager to let their hair down. An oestrogen-packed party parcel of excess, viewers will be hit by flying pink feather boas, spilled vodka shots, projectile vomiting and the loose accessories and appendages of male strippers.
In the climactic sequences when the bride has her heart-to-heart sentimental blub to her “bestest girlfriends forever” in a karaoke bar, the tears will flood the auditorium, and cinemagoers will believe that they’re drowning to the tune of My Heart Will Go On. It’s like Titanic, except instead of a ship and an iceberg, you get full-frontal male nudity and a nasty hangover once you’ve suffered through it all.
Lynch Night 3D
The surreal and uncanny subconscious of the quiffy auteur is despatched to unnerve arthouse cinemas, with the Blue Velvet director making his first foray into 3D moviemaking. It’s a nightmarish dirge of droning noise that pushes ultraweird oddballs, dancing roast chicken dinners, car crashes, mutant babies and the chipmunk-cheeked Lady in the Radiator from Eraserhead out of the screen to invade viewers’ personal spaces.
These figures then gleefully cut off the spectators’ ears and hand them to a deformed dwarf who’s hiding in a mystery blue box, and no one will ever get to the bottom of what all this means.
It has a happy ending though. Nicolas Cage rides in wearing a snakeskin jacket and breaks the fourth wall by treating everyone to a beautiful rendition of Love Me Tender. It’s just a shame that no one can hear him now they’ve lost their ears.
Hmm. Maybe Sharks in a Louisiana Lake (in good old-fashioned 2D) is a better option after all.
James’ previous column can be found here.