Great White follows a couple who runs an island flight tourism company that is dying. When they receive a job from a very rich couple, they can't refuse. While on their trip, they discover a crashed boat. Their investigation of the craft leads them stranded in the ocean on a raft with great white sharks stalking them below the surface.
[This movie was viewed via Shudder at the time of this review.]
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Great White Review
For some reason I find it mildly impressive that an animal has its own subgenre in horror. With the exception of maybe crocodilians (and still no where near to this degree), sharks boast an impressive filmography dating back to the time-tested and constantly idolized classic Jaws, all the way to scifi "thrillers" like Deep Blue Sea. Despite what feels like a major limitation (sharks have to be in water after all), we've seen a broad array of concepts. Like Bait taking place in a flooded mall, the science facility of the aforementioned Deep Blue Sea, the "stuck in the open ocean" setting of Open Water, and the cave shark idea of the 47 Meters Down spiritual sequel Uncaged. Yet, there's no killer tiger or killer bear subgenre. Sure, each of those beasts has a handful of films to its credit, but nothing like the shark.
The last decent shark movie I can think of is The Shallows. The concept wasn't going to blow anyone's mind, but it is really well executed and acted, so it was good enough for me to give a stamp of approval and the occasional rewatch. Great White falls somewhere between The Shallows and those unwatchable SyFy originals that are purposefully and laughably bad. It isn't good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as the 2nd tier of shark movies, but wasn't so embarrassingly horrible that I outright dismiss it.
Unfortunately the film struggles in the one area where it needs it the most...the effects. The large number of shark movies have helped lay a groundwork for the basics and to define what leads to success and what doesn't. Jaws kicked things off right with animatronics and very limited real-life footage. The irony of real-life footage is it somehow removes you from the realism of the film. As soon as you know it's a real shark in its natural habitat, it no longer poses a threat to the humans on screen because we're with the editor in the cutting room. Of course, CG began to make an appearance, and many shark movies struggle with making that work. Even with Deep Blue Sea's well-executed sets and amazing animatronics, it absolutely butchered the CG. Great White seemed to only have the budget for some very basic puppetry and low budget CG that proved distractingly uneven throughout the film. When even the shadows of your sharks aren't anatomically correct, you know you're in for a rough time.
So rather than focus on the shoddy effects work, the film centers around its cast of five stuck on the raft. Unfortunately, the "well-meaning people stranded in the ocean start to turn on each other" concept has been beat to death as much as the killer shark, so it's not only boring but predictable. I'd bet most casual movie patrons could accurately determine the kill order within 15 minutes of the movie. It becomes quite clear that this film simply doesn't have the budget for regular shark interaction, so you need to commit some patience to your viewing experience until we get to the climax.
The climax is ridiculous in many ways, but surprisingly adequate in others. The still-noticeably low budget but much stronger effort of effects work in the final act is commendable. I actually found myself enjoying the ride for brief moments. Unfortunately, it was still noticeably flawed and not worth the plodding paddling and bickering we just watched for the better part of an hour. I'm a big fan of shark movies and will sit through most of them. Great White was no exception. I wouldn't consider it the bottom of the barrel, but it's certainly swimming down their towards the bottom.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 2/10
Film Quality: 3/10