Tedious Maneater a Nightmare of Aquatic Monotony
I’m a sucker for killer shark movies. Good. Bad. Fair. Chintzy. You name the killer shark movie, and it’s almost a certain guarantee that, if I haven’t watched it, I sure as heck will at some point. Even the worst of them make me smile for some strange reason, and as “animal attack!” subgenres go, this is the one I unquestionably adore the most.
Not to say some of do try my patience something fierce. Sure, I’ll still watch – maybe even hate-watch – them all the way through until the end credits roll, but that does not mean I would recommend others do the same. There’s only so much time in the day, and unless you’re a die-hard killer shark junkie like me, there are better ways to spend an afternoon. Do laundry. Twiddle thumbs. Go get a root canal. That sort of thing.
This is sadly the case with Maneater, the latest low-budget slice of horror inanity from writer-director Justin Lee (Big Legend). While I appreciate how brutally cutthroat his thriller is, and although there is one somewhat decent moment of authentic tenderness between the survivors near the end, holy cow did I still find it a struggle to sit through all 89 minutes. It’s a slog, and I’m honestly a little surprised by how much the picture annoyed me.
After her engagement ends days before the wedding, Jessie Quilan (Nicky Whelan) still takes her honeymoon trip to a tropical island, only with six of her college friends – including best buds Will (Shane West) and Sunny (Porscha Coleman) – instead of a nameless ex-fiancé. They take off on an overnight boat cruise with the agreeably laidback Captain Wally (Ed Morrone), never thinking that a serial killer silently lurks in the water beneath them tracking their every move.
Local fisherman Harlan Burke (Trace Adkins) knows what is going on, though, and he’s on a single-minded quest to hunt this beast down. He’s confirmed it is a rogue Great White that’s stalking these waters, and it isn’t killing because it is hungry. Instead, it’s ripping victims limb from limb, leaving their pieces to wash up on random shores, almost as if it were sent from the depths of Hell to murder all of humanity one swimmer at a time.
Honestly, as schlock grade-Z killer shark scenarios go, I’ve watched (and enjoyed) far worse than that. To his credit, Lee does make an attempt to craft two dueling sets of characters with interesting backstories and established relationships, which should make them worth caring about. He also doesn’t try to conceal that his razor-toothed killing machine is basically Jason Vorhees in shark clothing, meaning this undersea monster will have an uncanny ability to pop up at the perfect time in order to inflict the maximum amount of damage.
So what’s the problem? It’s boring. The turgid pace annihilates all momentum. Most of the secondary characters have zero charisma. Almost all of the attacks are presented with zero imagination. Scenes are cut together with jarring suddenness. Adkins is about the least believable professional tropical fisherman in cinematic history, with the requisite wooden countryfied disposition to match.
I do appreciate that Lee takes no prisoners, and other than one obvious exception, it is a genuine question as to who will live and who will die. This is a bloodthirsty endeavor, and the director makes no bones about having his camera lovingly linger over a recently munched-off leg as if they were filming a sunset at magic hour or the climactic kiss between two long-distance lovers reconnecting for the first time after years apart.
Which makes it all the more frustrating that this creature feature is borderline unwatchable. I can live with the mediocre digital effects, that’s par for the course with these efforts nowadays, but the leaden tediousness of the storytelling and the visual clumsiness were more than I could bear. The worst thing I can think to say about any killer shark movie is that it has no personality, but that’s the situation here, Maneater a flesh-eating nightmare of aquatic monotony.
Film Rating: 1 (out of 4)