I’ve been on a miniature horror movie kick lately, ever since I watched Cabin in the Woods and rediscovered my old affection for this type of entertainment. When I was in high school, I loved the Saw franchise, Final Destination, and my most favorite of all, Teeth. My favorite horror movies are bad horror movies, because while I’ve never really loved being frightened or repulsed, I do love me some comedy, and there’s a special place in my heart for horrible scary movies.
That being said, I scrolled through my Netflix recommendations the other night and found what I figured would be the perfect fix for my strange cinematic craving: Shark Night. Nothing beats promiscuous, dumb teenagers being devoured by sharks in the middle of a sexy Spring Break vacation.
Shark Night had all the ingredients for a hilarious horror movie gone wrong: attractive sleazy actors, a terribly simple plot, a wave runner, and yet I was shocked to discover that by the end of the film, I was totally invested in the story. The absolute impossible had happened: I wasn’t rooting for the sharks.
It was the characters, dammit, the characters. Only strong characters could transform me from someone who, at the beginning of the film, literally said, “I like shark movies because whole limbs get severed from bodies,” to someone who could hardly watch the end out of fear and excitement.
I actually cared about these characters. They were selfless and strong. They sacrificed themselves to save their friends. They made decisions that reflected courage and goodness. I mean, the sharks were in a lake the whole time, okay? This should not have been a decent movie. But it really was.
I’m not saying it should win an Oscar or anything, but it does underline the importance of characters and relationships. You can have a terribly simple plot, cliched all over the place, a lake, Spring Break. You can throw some vicious, blood-thirsty sharks into that lake, but if you sprinkle in good enough characters, you can have yourself a good story.
Maybe it isn’t ALL about the character, but maybe it’s mostly about the character.