I am a self-professed fan of aquatic horror, though my viewing of the subgenre definitely has some holes. Sharks are some of the most imposing and scary creatures in the ocean; so it is no surprise they are host to some terrific films—Deep Blue Sea, Jaws, and Shark Night 3D are a few of my favorites. New RLJE/Shudder shark movie, Great White, does well by the sea creature of its title, but is an otherwise middling survival drama that does little to set itself apart from SyFy Channel quality productions.
After a bloodless (but effective!) opening kill where a couple gets dispatched on the water, our main characters become retired marine biologist Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko) and his pregnant girlfriend who also happens to be a shark survivor, Kaz (Katrina Bowen). The pair is commissioned by domineering Joji (Tim Kano) and his gentle wife, Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi), in an effort to keep their struggling seaplane business from going under. Joined by Benny the tour guide (Te Kohe Tuhaka), the group of five heads off to a dangerous destination. When their seaplane lands at a remote beach known as Hell’s Reef, it gets destroyed in a dastardly accident. Stranded with an inflatable raft and limited supplies, they fight for survival as two bloodthirsty sharks converge on their territory.
This is one very silly movie, and though effort is made to build up the characters—particularly Charlie and Kaz—they can’t help coming off as more than hollow caricatures. Joji hates the water and almost drowned as a kid, so at the mere sight of a fin (even if it is just a dolphin) he freaks out. Joji is conveniently an analyst who readily shares that their chances of survival are less than five percent with a shark nearby. He also spouts dialogue like “If there’s a cold beer in my hand I’ll be happy” and seems possessive and controlling of Michelle, whose story seems to exist just to give her a confidence-boosting redemption arc. A bulk of the movie is simply spent on a raft, as they try to make their way back to shore. I did not sign up for a dull survivalist lifeboat movie—more shark action, please!
Speaking of the shark, it is content with just popping its head up out of the water and not much else. When it does appear, the effects are good at least. The best part is the all too brief finale where the remaining survivors finally fight back against the beastly shark. Here, the creature becomes an impressive animatronic. This late sequence is gripping and tense, a standout amongst the slower middle half. With little gore, minimal entertainment value, and a forgettable storyline, Great White left me with barely anything to sink my teeth into, yet it may please people looking for a breezy seaside escape.
Great White flashes its fin July 17th on digital platforms.