So, what’s wrong with this review…

From Time Out magazine, regarding Shark Night 3-D:

“Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water again, along comes…a PG-13 rating.

By A.A. Dowd

You’ll spend more time with the food than the fish in Shark Night 3-D, a Jaws clone stranded in the PG-13 end of the pool. A gaggle of brain-dead coeds fends off various species of eating machines in a salt-water lake. But after a blond bather does her best Chrissie Watkins impersonation—sans the blood, the boobs and the moonlight—it’s a veritable eternity before any of the film’s remaining beach bait get the gnashing they deserve. Director David R. Ellis (Snakes on a Plane, Final Destination 2) knows how to rack up a body count, but he’s limited by that pesky MPAA rating. His toothless attack sequences unfold under cover of dark water; the film is the equivalent of a skin flick in which all the sex scenes are tastefully obscured by blankets and sheets.”

  • fish eye no miko

    Jaws was PG, wasn’t it?

  • Rock Baker

    So plot, characters, acting, production values, script, music, etc. are not what makes for a good thriller, but rather the important item is the ammount of blood shed? I’d throw up if I didn’t think this guy would want to see a video of it.

  • Flangepart

    A.A.Dowd…any relation to Edwin?

    yeah, gotta have nakked flesh and bloody bits to make a proper movie.
    Hummm…think he’s realize that last line was sarcazim?

  • BeckoningChasm

    To be fair, I suspect if “Jaws” was released today, it would probably be rated R. Heck, the original “Andromeda Strain” had lots of dead bodies and a topless woman, and it was rated G.

  • fish eye no miko

    I’m not sure Jaws would get an R, I think it can squeak by with a PG-13. Yes, even with the nude scene. I can think of two movies that featured full female frontal nudity and got PG-13 ratings (Orlando and The Bride).

  • Rock Baker

    That shot of the camera rising up toward Chrissie’s goodies airs on regular television all the time. I recall a doc about science fiction films made to promote Return of the Jedi which featured the clip, and it was brighter than you see in the movie. I remember when I finally got to see the scope version of Jaws, and I was surprised to see how dark the scene is in the actual film.

  • Rock Baker

    For those who care:

    I’ll mostly use it to post artwork and comment on what movie I’ve recently watched that prompts a mention. You know, real earth-shaking stuff.

  • Fish Eye — Yes, I agree. The nudity is all elliptical, anyway. Definitely a PG-13.

    I guess what really irked is that Time Out critics tends to push the idea of being ‘serious’ critics. I don’t think it’s very serious to say horror has to be R-rated to be scary; or, for that matter, apparently to be unaware that Jaws wasn’t R-rated.

  • Foywonder

    I actually agree with the reviewers sentiment because I was thinking the same exact thing as I was watching it. Only thing this movie has in common with Jaws is that it’s about sharks (and they steal the opening scene verbatim). This is trying to ride the coattails of last year’s Piranha 3D. That movie may not have been everyone’s cup of tea but it was a movie built around blood and boobs and nobody can say they didn’t more than their money’s worth of those two things. This is a movie about half-naked buff college kids on holiday getting eaten by sharks and terrorized by crazy rednecks making snuff movies; making it PG-13 makes about as much sense as making a PG-13 Friday the 13th flick. Without the gore or the boobs it’s pretty hard to justify making a movie like this and expecting viewers to pay to see it in a theater when even Syfy makes bloodier campy shark movies on a regular basis.

    Still amazes me that the writer of that review seems to be of the impression that Jaws was R-rated. And if Jaws was made today it would be PG-13. If the PG-13 rating existed in 1975 it would have been PG-13 back then, too.

  • Elizabeth

    Foywonder, I agree. I definitely don’t think you need gore for a horror movie, but if you’re going for a Piranha 3D sort of thing, you need that R rating. What’s the point of 3D, a college-aged cast, and CGI monsters if you’re not going to have nudity and sex and severed body parts flying at the screen? This is why I didn’t bother seeing it.

    Ken, I also agree with you that this person is really stupid for not knowing that Jaws was not rated R. Mind you, I kind of think it should be rated R because it’s scary as fuck, but I know that’s not exactly how it works. I just, y’know, wouldn’t want anyone to look at the PG rating and show it to a little kid.

  • SFoy — I should stipulate that it’s entirely possible that THIS exact movie may have benefited from being R. However, the tone of the review seems more like, “You can’t make a scary non R-rated movie, so they crippled themselves from the beginning.” I don’t think that’s a very serious or knowledgeable argument.

    Also, making it PG-13 makes sense from a commercial standpoint, as least potentially, since it means kids can go see it. Piranha didn’t make a huge amount of money after all, just enough based on its small budget. Shark Night doesn’t look like it’s going to be a breakout, but it could have been. There have been plenty of PG-13 slasher remakes the last several years, which on the face of it REALLY makes no sense, but many of them have done quite well at the box office.

  • Liz — Considering how many times I used to see Moms renting Friday the 13th movies for their ten year-olds back in the video store days, I think that’s a lost battle. Maybe parents could still be shocked by something like Re-Animator, but most seem quite content to rent whatever gory flick will keep the kids quiet for a couple of hours.

  • Ericb

    My 13 year old niece’s favorite tv shows are Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU. Though they might have less fake blood and breasts they do make 80s slasher movies seem kind of tame.

  • fish eye no miko

    @Ken: Yeah, there’s a difference, IMO, between, “this horror movie really should have an R-rating” and “all horror movies should have an R-rating”. I’ve seen plenty of horror movies with PG-13 or even PG ratings that were incredibly effective. Hell, some of the horror films I’ve seen with R-ratings, like Blair Witch, only got them for language.

    But if I’m watching, say, Friday the 13th, I’m expecting blood and gore (and possibly boobs as well. Hell, one of them even had some male butts in it!). That’s kind of the point of a slasher film; to watch annoying “teenagers” die in creative ways. It’s hard to do that when you’re constrained by the rating.

    So while criticizing this specific film for its PG-13 rating might be valid, to decry all horror films with PG-13 ratings it just ridiculous.

  • Foywonder

    Ken – The reviewer, while fairly clueless all in all, could very well be correct about not being able to make a truly scary horror movie these days without it being R-rated considering the remake of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is actually tamer in terms of violence (of which there is little), language (of which there is even less), and sex/nudity (of which there is none) and still the MPAA slapped it with an R-rating because they deemed it too scary to even give a PG-13 too. That’s insane. Especially because it isn’t even all that scary. But – and this is my theory to explain that R-rating – most of the terror involved a child which is almost certainly their loopy justification for giving it an R. Now that I think about it, one of the main victims in Jaws is a kid, so there’s a chance Rock may have been right in his belief that if Jaws was made today it would be R-rated.

    Making Shark Night PG-13 probably made commercial sense to the studio but it still made even less money than the hard-R Piranha 3D, go figure. Despite not exactly being a hit the studio clearly believes it garnered enough of a cult following in the year since to lure people back for more when Piranha 3DD opens in November. It will be very interesting to see how that does. Those PG-13 slashers you mention (namely Prom Night) all had one decent opening weekend and then tanked, the same exact box office pattern as their R-rated counterparts. The debate doesn’t matter much anyway right now because after Final Destination 5, Fright Night, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – all R-rated – either underperformed or outright flopped the studios are now wary of greenlighting any new R-rated horror movies. That’s how one explains the director of the terrible teen thriller The Roommate being hired to make a PG-13 teen-friendly Hellraiser remake. Seriously.

  • Foywonder

    Let me clarify something I mistyped. The director of the The Roommate WAS going to direct a PG-13 teen-friendly Hellraiser but the studio execs realized that was an insane idea. Instead they decided the best course of action was to hold off on rebooting Hellraiser. Instead they decided the better idea would be to make another Halloween sequel in 3D with no ties to any of the recent Rob Zombie Halloween movies. That will open next October a week or two apart from the latest reboot of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, also in 3D. If that’s not enough recycling for you there are also rumors swirling of yet another Friday the 13th reboot, not to be done in 3D, but instead shot as a found footage flick.

  • Speaking as a person with some experience of horror movies, I think the point is to make the movie without worrying about the rating. Some movies need an R, or even an NC-17 rating in order to work. Some movies can scare the bejeesus out of you with a G or PG.

    Case in point – George Romero refused to tone down DAY OF THE DEAD to get an R rating, despite being offered millions more in budget. I love him for that, because DAY is one of my top fave films.

    Counterpoint – the cussing in BLAIR WITCH, which probably gave it the R, is, to me, distracting and weakens the suspense. The scenes where they are frightened, but don’t cuss, are superior. This is not “Sandy Being A Prude” – the cussing in DAY OF THE DEAD works fine for me.

  • Sandy (and Fish Eye) — I agree about Blair Witch, and I think the swearing there was because they largely (as I recall) improved the dialogue, and all ended up swearing every sentence. I think it would have worked better if one of the actors had decided to forgo swearing, just to differentiate his or her character from the other two. But yes, a very scary film, DESPITE the more ‘adult’ content, not because of it.

    The Haunting is a G film and still a very, very scary film to watch alone in the dark.

  • fish eye no miko

    @Sandy: In a perfect world, ALL films would be made without regard to the ratings; directors would make the film they want, and it would get rated whatever was appropriate (and the ratings would actually make some damn sense, bu that’s a whole other issue). But… well, in fairness, it is called show BUSINESS, and directors–and more importantly, studios–are about the bottom line (which I don’t really blame them for–again, it’s show business, and business is about making money). If the studios see that R-rated films don’t do as well as PG-13 ones (and indeed, that’s pretty much the case), they’ll put pressure on directors to go for that rating, even if it means altering their films.

    And I have to say: While I have a lot of respect for directors who refuse to edit their films to get better box office, I honestly find it hard to get too upset with directors who agree to edit their films. That’s especially true in this day and age when a lot of sales come from DVDs, and director’s cuts are ubiquitous, so the director’s vision can be seen; and in some cases, even more people see it than if they’d’ve released it unedited in the theater.

    Actually, when it comes down to it, I guess I just don’t think that the theatrical version of a movie is the end all, be all of film making anymore. So, really, the idea that [gasp] a director edits his film for the theater, but then releases the version he wants on DVD is fine by me. Yes, in the past it was different–your Romero example is valid, since home video was in its infancy when Dawn of the Dead was made. But don’t most sales come from DVDs these days? And if so, why would it be so hard to imagine a director focusing more on that than what gets put out at the theater for a couple of weeks?

  • Rock Baker

    I can only imagine what Val Lewton would say. The best movies were made under the Hayes code, so there’s something to be said for placing restraints on movie makers. Shock-type horror also is only effective if it isn’t the norm. Admittedly, The Crawling Eye is fairly gory for the time in which it was filmed, but it sets up a mood based almost entirely on the thought of isolation that still kicks the viewer hard in the psyche. And really, is gore scary in any sense other than its (today impotent) shock value? I remember seeing one or two of the early Saw movies. Some things (like digging around in a tub full of hypos) made my skin crawl, but they weren’t scary movies. I’ll go back to Lewton, what you don’t see is what scars you. There’s no reason at all the majority of horror films shouldn’t be made for general audiences, other than its the accepted wisdom. Think about how scary it is that studios used to make films for general audiences for fear an R or M or X or whatever might limit the ticket sales, and today the thinking is opposite.

  • Fish Eye — Check the blog post Hollywood is Doomed right before (or after) this one. DVD sales are cratering lately, probably as a result of a) everyone having most of the films they want on DVD now, and perhaps b) people looking towards streaming content. In any case, Hollywood has bee papering over major industry problems with scads of DVD monies over the last ten to fifteen years, but now those are drying up, and the film industry is kind of screwed.

  • Petoht

    Frankly, I think there are certain genres (or sub-genres) that, yes, do require certain ratings. In a broad sense, Horror isn’t one of them; The Watcher in the Woods was perfectly fine as a PG flick.

    In fact, I’d say that a lot of suspense and psychological thrillers would usually be better off as PG-13, because they don’t need lots of gore, swearing, or tits to get their point across. It’s not about the overt, it’s the covert (2005’s Red Eye is a fantastic example of this; perfect at PG-13).

    However, the splatter sub-genre needs an R, because the blood and guts (and tits) is the whole point. Saw would not have worked as a PG-13. Regardless of your views on the relative merits of these movies, you can’t make a proper one PG-13. The problem is, studios want to rake in fat PG-13 theater dollars, so they chop up the film for theatrical release, and then put it all back in for the DVD (see: Wrong Turn, for instance).

    To me, a movie called SHARK ATTACK 3D needs that R rating. It’s an underwater killer animal movie, which screams exploitation to me, and exploitation just doesn’t work at anything less than a hard R. Piranha 3D did it “right”: insane amounts of gore, violence, and three dimensional nudity. It may not be my sub-genre of choice, but that’s what I would expect from a movie like this.

    I’ll admit, I hate it when people say you can’t have a non-R horror movie that’s any good, because horror is such a broad genre. “Killer aquatic animal” is a pretty narrow sub-genre, and should probably be left to being R.

    Furthermore, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was just chopped up for theatrical release, which always hurts the final product.