Maneater debuts in limited theaters and On-Demand and digital on Aug. 26.
Justin Lee’s Maneater continues 2022’s cursed surge of forgettable to horrendous shark thrillers like The Requin, Shark Bait, and The Reef: Stalked. It’s the epitome of everything wrong with the subgenre at its worst, from inexcusably poor digital predators to throwaway plot development slathered in sunscreen. The only thing Maneater remotely salvages is an absurdly hilarious shark hunter role for country music superstar Trace Adkins, whose ammo-loaded hero is a B-movie standout — for all the wrong reasons. Entertainment evaporates as Lee mishandles his eyesore of an alpha Great White that would make Bruce from Jaws demand a refund, which once again proves how filmmakers continue to misunderstand what makes a successful fin flick.
In short, low-budget independent studio The Asylum no longer has the boneheaded shark sector cornered with movies like Maneater swimming onto screens, he types with furious frustration and critical condemnation.
Maneater follows Nicky Whelan’s heartbroken Jessie as she embarks on a Hawaiian getaway with jubilantly boozy buddies (Shane West plays chatterbox Will, most notably). While Lee takes his time getting Jessie on Captain Wally’s (Ed Morrone) seafaring vessel before they dock at a secluded nearby island, we watch as fisherman Harlan’s (Adkins) daughter is mauled by a massive Great White. Jessie’s besties combat her relationship problems with Maui Brewing Company beverages and boating shenanigans, while Lee lets their eventual foe munch through swimmers in odd one-off death sequences that feel inorganically inserted to get blood in the water. Lee struggles immensely with pacing, as shark attacks are often blink-and-miss while second-rate performances bog-droll exposition dumps.
There’s no hesitation to showcase the film’s big bad, but such fearlessness is baffling for once. Creature features often underplay their monster moments at first, yet Maneater flaunts its horrendous computer-generated killer too soon, too often, and too visibly. Lee’s post-production effects department makes shark appearances in The Reef: Stalked seem Oscar-worthy, as Harlan’s inexplicably wrinkled aquatic rival looks worse than beasties locked inside Nintendo 64 cartridges. It’s a problem with so many contemporary shark flicks, in the same way countless found footage filmmakers foolishly think all they need is a camera and someone’s backyard. Aquatic horror creators keep forgetting the best shark-starring thrillers use as much practicality as possible and, when unable, invest ample funds into worthwhile animation (The Shallows, ahem).
Maneater doesn’t even use practical effects for a chewed torso framed so close it covers your entire screen — which bodes embarrassingly unwell for the Great White we’re supposed to fear.
As Lee ratchets action (lax definition) and starts offing focal characters instead of vacationers doing backflips into shark mouths (why not), Maneater devolves into a churning cloud of crimson water with purposeful distortion. Characters are dispatched in moronic fashions quicker than they can even develop personality attributes outside what color is most prominent on their bathing suits. Violence is tough to watch because it’s primarily pixelated thrashing, which hampers whatever entertainment one might enjoy when Dudebro #2 gets tail-whipped unconscious, or Harlan fires infinite shells from his magical, never-needs-a-reload shotgun. Storytelling flaws are abundant as emotional moments land like a painful belly flop, rendering eventual death scenes (slick with digital blood) devoid of impact. The Casio keyboard elevator-music soundtrack, a noticeable lack of funds to fulfill ambition, the collection of performances that barely break beyond cookie-cutter stereotypes — Maneater starts sinking upon its champagne-bottle christening.
Maneater torpedoes an underwater thriller formula that many think to be foolproof.“
Whatever you’re expecting from Maneater, lower your expectations. Captain Willy’s job at one point is to describe sharks that are surfacing alongside his vessel as his latest passengers watch in awe — a scene that demands our imaginations replace effects or even stock photography. The film’s crew clearly knows cinematography is better focused on actors looking off-screen and doing their best to make us believe sharks are swimming because animated creations would hit infinitely worse. At least, for a not-so-brief few minutes, Lee seems to understand his restraints — then we’re right back to gazing upon one of the worst sharkies in cinematic history. It’s all disastrous, no redemption — poor Mr. Adkins in his shark-toothed hat, attempting his best vengeful papa warpath. You truly deserved better.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Matt Donato