Making the Grades
About the only thing you can’t fault Shark Night on is delivering the goods to its bloodthirsty audience. The opening credits, with accompanying heavy metal music, are bathed in red-tinged water with gory shots of sharks pursuing and eating whatever their teeth can devour.
Moments after the blood and credits clear we are privy to our first victim. She’s a lithe little blonde whose boyfriend has left her high and wet after removing her string bikini top. Wandering back to the van to get a beer, he doesn’t hear the screams from his sweet little thing over his rockin’ sound system. This hors d’oeuvre leads to the next course, which features the best shark food there is: drunken college students.
It’s summer vacation and med student Nick (Dustin Milligan) joins his beefy buddy Gordon (Joel David Moore) and gamer guy Malik (Sinqua Walls), along with their girls Beth and Maya (Katharine McPhee and Alyssa Diaz), in accepting an invitation from their friend Sara (Sara Paxton). Piling into a SUV with too few seatbelts, the gang heads out on a long overnight drive to her parents’ very large cottage on a salt-water lake in Louisiana.
Arriving at the local bait shop, the party meets a couple of toothless hillbillies. While one views the ladies in the restroom through a covert camera, the other picks a fight with the "college boys" outside. Moments later the group is in Sara’s family’s powerboat heading toward the island cabin. When the local sheriff begins to pursue them, with sirens and lights flashing, the bikini clad blonde behind the wheel just smiles. It turns out the sheriff is a friend of Sara’s family and simply wants a beer or two.
With the other two girls quickly changing into their bikinis (we see them disrobe from the rear), the only thing the audience isn’t certain of is who will get eaten first—unless they have watched movies like this before. Statistically, people of color are far more likely to fall prey to sharks, snakes, monsters or aliens and this movie falls right into the center of the bell curve with the African-American couple attracting the first nibbles. Who will be next? The geeky dude and his Hispanic girlfriend, or the Caucasian couple made up of the handsome med student and the busty, blonde babe? I won’t provide any further hints…
It’s difficult not to poke fun of this movie that is so desperately bad it borders on unintentional parody. It may possibly even win cult status on home video in a decade or two. Stupidity abounds. These are supposedly intelligent young adults, yet they can’t figure out what to do. They are outside of cell phone range, but no one even thinks to check to see if there is a landline in Sara’s huge holiday home. Perhaps these young brainiacs don’t know about telephones with cords.
All laughing aside, parents should be aware of the many reasons why they may not want their kids wasting their time or brain cells on this title. Discussions of drinking and "making babies" are frequent, and many scenes show characters with booze in their hands. In addition to bikinis and women in underwear, rear male nudity is seen when an art model is depicted in a classroom setting. However violent portrayals are what tip our grades into the red zone. Blood effects are plentiful as sharks feast on the ever-shrinking cast. One scene moves the film into truly disturbing waters, when two of the "locals" force a woman out of her clothes at gunpoint and then video her being devoured by Cookiecutter Sharks.
Certainly Shark Night will take a bite out of your wallet, but only if you fall prey to the lure of bikinis and blood.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Shark Night.
Does the character chosen to be the first shark victim in this film surprise you? What racial and regional stereotypes do you see? Who is rich and smart? Who is struggling in school? Why do you think these depictions persist in American movies?
You can learn more about Cookiecutter Sharks here: