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I’m always hoping there will be an aquatic monster-movie phase coming, and the movie machine will start pumping out cheesy fishman flicks for a year or so--something like Humanoids from the Deep (1980) meets the shark-movie craze. I shouldn't hold my breath, though, as that trend likely won't happen. Luckily, I will probably survive the disappointment as long as solid pieces like Sweetheart come through occasionally.
The bones behind the story are a well-tread and straightforward territory. It avoids cliches by leaving the basic monster movie concepts paper-thin, as far as complexity goes, and plants the focus on human aspects seasoned throughout the runtime. It builds up enough drama to keep you sustained through a few monsterless days on the island, as the quick-study protagonist shows how badass she is. While delivered by a grounded rumble, the film's survival aspects are robust, even if our main character makes short work of basic life-sustaining tasks. By the time you get an actual look at the creature, you have seen Jenn (Kiersey Clemons) conquer several trials that would have folded most people. She isn't an action-movie superhuman exaggerated to the point that she loses her realistic aspects--just smart and strong. The final encounter comes together as earned both in the hero’s character-arch and in the moments the audience spends playing Jaws-style peek-a-boo with gil-man. It's a different kind of creature ride than we usually get lately--parts Predator (1987), Cast Away (2000), and the 90s Outer Limits show. The scare and creep factors are low as the film deals out butt-clenching tension instead. However, it is not goofy, so this won’t be one for the same night as the newest Super Shark movie. It's a quiet blow from left field that comes to life through stressful situations and small details.
I saw some complaints online (after viewing the film) about shark-thing's special effects, which surprised me. Personally, I was somewhat impressed that Blumhouse production had avoided the modern mainstream pitfalls. The creature is pulled off by a surprisingly restrained mix of practical and CGI effects. I thought the design was cool, but I also grew up with Ninja Turtles and Street Sharks. Plus, I was just glad it wasn't another CGI-only mess. A few times, the transitioning between the computer-rendered monster and the rubber one is a bit rough. Still, overall, I was happy with the technical qualities and its cinematic use. Often, the film feels relatively constrained by budget. I say "relatively" because It was a Blumhouse thing, so I doubt the cashflow was that low compared to some stuff I watch regularly. Maybe it was Blumhouse's AAA ball team. Either way, I would rank it quite high against a majority of their mainstream output, monster execution and all.
What can I say? I'm a sucker for aquatic monstrosities, and a well-crafted main character is a precious bonus. The bulk of the film is more survival-thriller than horror-flick, but the genres mesh together harmoniously. I would recommend it; however, I'm afraid that Blumhouse will greenlight a three-movie arch and two spin-offs if it gets too popular.
1h 22min | 2019
Director: J.D. Dillard
Writers: J.D. Dillard, Alex Hyner, and Alex Theurer


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