I just noticed that it's been over a week since my last post and, upon thinking about it, I guess I have to chalk up the inactivity to a case of the Post Shark Night 3-D Blues. For the record, I enjoyed Shark Night 3-D just fine. I didn't love it - or even like it all that strongly, for that matter - but I thought it was serviceable. It lacked the gonzo, grindhouse attitude of last summer's Piranha but on the upside it's 3-D was the real deal, not a shoddy post-coversion job. Piranha's fun factor was seriously diminished by 3-D so murky it made my eyeballs ache. In contrast, I was able to enjoy Shark Night in ocular comfort and that compensates for a lot of other failings.
I do wish that the movie had been far nuttier than it was but in the end I can't get too fussy over director David R. Ellis hitting only a double rather than a triple (I wasn't even hoping for a home run). As is, I enjoyed the movie's daffier moments (of which there were several) - all the moreso for their being played absolutely straight-faced. I also got a kick out of Donal Logue as a sheriff who has a penchant for '80s hair metal as well as a virtually unrecognizable Joshua Leonard (Blair Witch Project) as a sinister redneck. And I also love that they gave props to L.L. Cool J's still howl-provoking soundtrack tune "Deepest Bluest (Shark Fin)" from Deep Blue Sea by including their own equally absurd rap tune (delivered by the entire cast) after the end credits. On a side note, the mystery only deepens as to why Don't Be Afraid of the Dark was slapped with an R-rating. How this passed with a PG-13 while DBAOTD earned an R is baffling.
So while I'm putting Shark Night 3-D in the win column (it's a marginal win, granted, but still a win), it's position as an underwhelming curtain call to a dry summer season for horror films has me wondering with a hint of despair when a really quality horror movie is going to hit theaters again. That unhappy feeling that horror is currently stalled out wasn't helped at all by my viewings of Contagion and Creature this weekend, two movies that only served to deepen - albeit in different ways - my post-Shark Night malaise.
Contagion was in fact, a very solid film, a clinically told "what if" detailing what might happen should we ever face a worldwide pandemic. But while director Steven Soderbergh has described his film in interviews as a horror film, in fact it's really just a tense, occasionally chilling, drama. Now, if Ridley Scott had directed an adaptation of Richard Preston's The Hot Zone - if Outbreak not went into production first and tragically scuttled plans for Scott's film - I bet that would've been a true bio-horror movie. Contagion, not so much. I was hoping to be truly unsettled by Contagion, yet Soderbergh's coolly intellectual perspective towards the material made it more a movie that I objectively appreciated for its skill rather than felt fully engaged by. And, again, it's not a horror movie.
As for Creature...yeesh. I would like to be heartened by seeing a throwback like this scoring a nationwide release but sadly Creature gives old-school monster movies a bad name. There's a generic set-up, which is fine, but then once the cast of twentysomethings end up in the titular character's swampland stomping grounds, the thrills just never come. There's no memorable splatter, the action is spare (often confoundedly so, as opportunities for exciting fight scenes are set up but then fail to be acted on), and there's no suspense or scares. It's so rare now for a movie like this to be made (much less to make it to screens across the country) that it's doubly depressing to discover that it's been made by people with no feel for the horror and exploitation genres.
While it hasn't been an eternity since anything worthwhile has hit screens - I really liked last spring's Insidious as well as the gleefully gory Final Destination 5 and the lightweight but pleasingly atmospheric Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (I haven't had the chance to see Attack the Block yet but that sounds more sci-fi than horror) - it's still clear that horror has been experiencing a profound lull with no immediate turnaround in sight. My summer-long anticipation for Shark Night 3-D had been enough to keep me distracted but now that's gone and somehow I don't think the prequel to The Thing is going to do as good a job of keeping my spirits up. It just doesn't have that same Shark Night 3-D magic (he said with a sigh).
The year's remaining theatrical releases do feature a few titles that I've got my fingers crossed on but unfortunately I don't think any will be the kind of surprise hit that horror could use right now. The genre can withstand the occasional valley but the pressure is going to be on the films of 2012 to give horror a creative and commercial shot in the arm.