Maneater is the twelfth feature film from writer/director Justin Lee (The Most Dangerous Game, Apache Junction) since he came on the scene in 2018 with Big Legend. And it comes at an opportune time since it’s been a couple of months since we’ve reviewed an old-fashioned shark attack film. Shark Side of the Moon and Sharkula don’t count for obvious reasons.
Jessie (Nicky Whelan, Tragedy Girls, Trauma Center) got dumped just before her wedding. But since the honeymoon was already paid for, her friend Sunny (Porscha Coleman, Christmas in Compton, Gangland: The Musical) convinced her to turn it into a vacation. So, along with Will (Shane West, Escape the Field, Mid-Century), Brianna (Kelly Lynn Reiter, No Name and Dynamite, Amityville Uprising) and the rest of the crew they set sail with Captain Wally (Ed Morrone, 11th Hour Cleaning, Killing Lazarus) and Beth (Kim DeLonghi, Code Name Banshee, Castle Falls).
As this is happening, Harlan (Trace Adkins, The Desperate Riders, Old Henry) is running around town demanding the police do something about the shark that killed his daughter. He also consults Professor Hoffman (Jeff Fahey, Assailant, The Long Night) who tells him it might be a great white that’s started killing for sport. When nobody else has a plan to get rid of the maneater he decides to go all Captain Ahab and sail the seven seas looking for the creature, armed with a shotgun and a hunting vest full of shells.
The first part of Maneater is heavy on dialogue and touristy footage of whatever resort it was filmed at. We do however get some shark on human action, via the death of Harlan’s daughter and a couple of nameless pieces of chum. The big problem is that most of the characters range between bland and unlikable, so listening to them ramble on gets tedious fast. This is especially true of Adkins’ character. We can sympathize with how he feels about his daughter’s death, but his dialogue is so badly written he comes off as a massive jerk rather than a heroic Quint-esque character.
In contrast to that, once the maneater catches up with the film’s main characters it tears through them in almost no time. There’s no real buildup or suspense and it not wastes a reasonably good setup but fails to provide adequate payoff after all the time we spent with the characters. Given the size of the cast, it would have made more sense to space the deaths out and keep the tension on. Instead, it sets up a last act that’s mostly focused on Adkin’s distinct lack of acting ability and an incredibly silly final confrontation between man and maneater.
The shark and its attacks are something of a mixed bag. The attacks in Maneater are a bit more graphic and intense than in many recent similar films, there’s even a bit of practical gore. But too much of it is obviously a CGI shark and victim obscured by bloody water. The CGI for the shark itself is of average quality but the template at times makes it look like a cross between a great white and a whale, particularly in scenes where we see it from above, swimming just under the surface.
That, along with the creature’s size, in one laughable scene its fin breaking the surface looks more like a submarine’s conning tower, and Professor Hoffman’s mention of orcas in an early scene I almost expected it to be some kind of hybrid. But that would be too imaginative for a film this generic.
If you just want to see some generic characters get munched on then Maneater will probably keep you amused, especially if you’re drinking while you watch it. If you want more than that though, you’ll probably be disappointed.
Saban Films will release Maneater to select theatres as well as on Digital and VOD platforms on August 26th. And if that’s not quite what you were looking for, FilmTagger has some suggestions that might appeal to you.