A group of friends heads to paradise, visiting islands and boating to help of their own forget a bad breakup. Soon, they find themselves stranded as a shark starts hunting them.
Written and directed by Justin Lee, Maneater is a boatload of bloody fun, but has a few issues. Thankfully, the story is kept fairly simple, if not a little cliché. Then, once the carnage starts, things go pretty much as expected, but honestly, that’s not really an issue. This movie is made to give the viewer maneating shark carnage and that is what it delivers. It actually delivers it starting early on. The film starts almost looking like a made for television family movie, but it quickly takes a turn for the bloody and then doesn’t let us for most of the film. Here, the filmmaker and the viewer are present for the same thing, to see a shark eat and hurt people, in bloody ways. This is understood and it is delivered. Now, does the technical side of things deliver on this, well, yes and not.
Let’s start with the acting. It’s decent with Nicky Whelan in the lead, giving her best sad but not too sad broken-hearted damsel. She’s joined by a few friends because the shark needs more fodder, or um, the film needs to make connections. Yeah, that must be it. Playing her friends are Shane West, Porscha Coleman, Kelly Lynn Reiter, and a few others. They all get to play somewhat of a cliché character, some making theirs work better than others. The main goal here is not to really get to know these people, but to get to know them just enough to care once they become endangered. The film also throws in an early kill unrelated to these folks, a grieving father played by Trace Adkins, a shark specialist played by Jeff Fahey who barely gets any screentime, a sea captain played by Ed Morrone, and his wife played by Kim DeLonghi. The film gives the viewers plenty of characters to watch and is absolutely not afraid to kill any and all of them. The performances here are solid for the subgenre, giving us victims that the viewer can get somewhat attached to before they get dispatched.
Going with these performances are the special effects which are sadly absolutely, completely uneven. From wounds that look completely gnarly in the best sort of way, done in practical effects to some of the worst visual/computer effects seen this side of 2005. The practical effects here are fantastic and gross and exactly what the film needs. The cgi is atrocious in spots and terrible at best in others. The shark looks cheap and once it gets moving, it’s just really bad. Thankfully, a lot of its appearances are shielded by water splashes and a lot of movement so these help cover-up what can only be assumed to be cgi made on a really low budget after the cast and practical effects, as well as getting everyone to the stunning location, must have cost. When your shark looks this bad in a movie called Maneater, perhaps hiding it or keeping unseen would have been a better choice than throwing bare minimum money at the visual effects team.
Now, working for the film is the cinematography by Eamon Long who did decent work showing the viewer the beauty of the location. When this much budget goes to location and bringing everyone there, might as well make the most of it. However, there are a few scenes and sequences that could have a used a bit more attention. For example, why hide the face of a good actor in their death scene partially behind a bottle of rum? Or why is the horizon line just slightly askew at times? Those are details that show a lack of attention to details. Especially when some of the other scenes, including the opening look so good. The opening has perhaps the best shot bits of the entire film. Here is something that could have been elevated beyond good into fantastic territory with just a little bit more attention to details.
Maneater is an uneven film that missed its release window being sent onto VOD just about a month after Shark Week. Nonetheless, it is quite entertaining even if quite uneven. The effects, the cgi ones that is, are just not on point while the practical effects are great. The acting is good, solid even in some cases, but the cinematography seems to not want to let some actors get their screentime when it counts. There is some good stuff in here, such as the film being entertaining as can be and not being afraid to go for the kill over and over, but some of the more technical aspects of the film could have used a bit more attention and time.