I don't bother going to see movies in the theater very much these days, with the paltry horror offerings Hollywood's been serving up, I've usually got a sort of cinematic sixth sense when something's gonna suck eggs just by perusing the trailer once or twice. That said, I was pretty stoked to see tonight's review from the comfort of a reclining theater seat, a perfectly timed shark-based thriller to accentuate the choking heat of long summer days. I was there when Jaws was released in 1975, and I suppose I was optimistic of director Jaume Collet-Serra's chances to recreate at least some of that fear that I walked out of the theater hand-in-hand with all those years ago. As an added bonus, the theater was packed with kids on a summer camp outing, just days after I screened Ivan Reitman's Meatballs (1979) over here to usher in the season, as usual. They were probably there to help find Ellen Degeneres. All the elements necessary for a choice experience at the movies were in place. So was it that? Let's see...
I feel compelled to take a bite outta this myself, to be honest.
After we see a Mexican boy discover a bitten up GoPro helmet with intact camera in the surf, we see through rushes that whatever unlucky sumbitch was wearing it got up close and unpleasantly personal with a sizable Great White shark. Some time earlier, Nancy (Blake Lively) is a surf-crazy gringo on her way to a secret, nameless beach forever immortalized by her late mother, as driven by Charlie (Oscar Jaenada), a nice enough local fellow. Finding herself all alone when her surfing partner is too hungover to make the trip doesn't sway Nancy's enthusiasm one iota, and she's soon hanging ten with a couple of local blokes to some accompanying electronic music that seems out of place somehow. It's when she decides to paddle out for one more wave, as the sun rapidly fades, and without the company of her two acquaintances, that the otherwise idyllic afternoon quickly turns into a real shit show. As she lets the tide carry her, she stumbles upon a floating, bloated dead whale carcass that happens to be being scavenged by a massive Great White shark, who gives Nancy a painful kiss on the leg before returning to it's whale dinner. Bleeding profusely, she manages to climb onto a series of rocks only two hundred yards from shore, where she can better assess the damage and the harrowing pickle she's gotten herself into.
"Abba-abba-abba!" screamed Clamhead as Jabberjaw momentarily allowed normal Great White shark urges to overtake him.
On the tentative rock formation that she shares with a wounded seagull (Steven, as we find out in the credits, haha), she performs a DIY suturing of her shark bite with pieces of jewelry and passes out, battling shock and hypothermia all night long. When she tries to signal to a sleeping drunkie on the beach, he chooses to rob her of her belongings instead. When he spots her expensive surfboard floating limply in the shallows, he tries to swim out and retrieve that, too, for himself, only to get bitten in half for his greed. Later, the two surfers from the previous day return for more, but get treated like brown fur seals for their zeal. Left to her own devices, Nancy begins timing the shark's systematic circling to allow for escape routes, and to recover the floating GoPro helmet nearby (remember this?) for an impromptu video message to her kid sister and father back home, just in case she ends up getting Robert Shaw'ed by the impulsively ever-hungry predator. I won't say much about the final reel here, leaving it for you to experience on your own, in the theater, as I did, as it fits the summer movie role rather glove-ly. Just don't expect much variation from the current Hollywood ending pattern that they've leaned on far too often of late...
"I'd gladly not bite you in half on Tuesday, for a brown fur seal today..."
If Collet-Serra sounds familiar to you, it's probably because he directed things like Orphan (2009), Unknown (2011) with Liam Neeson, and the notorious House of Wax remake back in 2005. Blake Lively, who you may recognize from the Gossip Girl tv series, or even Saturday Night Live circa 2008-10 (I haven't watched that show with any regularity, since Piscopo was Sinatra. Let's leave my age out of this, eh?) does an admirable job delicately balancing being a choice Cali dimepiece and a hotter upgrade on Ripley from the Alien series here. I dug her contributions, man. Overall, this one's got some effective and realistic shark cg that you'll pick out in certain instances, and be fooled by in others. There's also some decent blood and a few vicious attack sequences for gorehounds in attendance. Still, it reeks of dark horse summer blockbuster more than a future indie cult classic, and it falls short in the final reel, because of it, to the tune of a one Wop deduction. Nevertheless, you're gonna want to see it anyway, and if the ending doesn't rub you as wrongly as it did me, you might even want to throw that subtracted Wop back on. For me, two Wops on the scale is what it's going to have to be. A good movie that failed to capitalize on it's potential to be a great one. Recommended.
From the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants to the Sisterhood of the Shitty Bikini Bottoms.