Released in theaters and on Demand and Digital August 26, 2022, Maneater feels like yet another unnecessary addition to the already too-long list of shark films. However, like those that came before, watching and waiting to see how the characters become shark bait is always an experience to say the least.
Written and directed by Justin Lee (Badland 2019, Final Kill 2020), Maneater follows a group of friends on an idyllic island vacation that turns into every beach-goer’s worst nightmare when they are hunted by a relentless Great White shark. It all starts when Harlan (Trace Adkins: The Lincoln Lawyer 2011, Moms’ Night Out 2014), sees his daughter off as she heads to the beach for a day of surfing. It is no surprise that she meets an unfortunate end, sending Harlan into a spiral over the loss of his daughter to a violent shark attack. Frustrated with the lack of urgency from local police, Harlan sets off on a quest to take down the shark. Determined to find answers, he consults with a local college professor (Jeff Fahley: The Lawnmower Man 1993, Lost series) to figure out why this cold-water shark has made its way to warm waters, ultimately coming to the conclusion that it travelled to the island solely to kill for sport. During all of this, Jessie (Nicky Whelan: Halloween II 2009, Hall Pass 2011), who is devastated by her failed engagement, is whisked by her friends for a Maui getaway to bring her out of her slump.
Despite the lengthy amount of time we are forced to spend with this group of friends, the film does little to establish any reason as to why the audience should care about their fates. The addition of fan-favorite Shane West (A Walk To Remember 2002, A League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen 2003) as Will cannot even save this group with his cheeky one-liners and charming smirk. Unfortunately at this point you will find yourself actively rooting for the shark to bring some life (and death) into this film.
Speaking of the shark, you see very little of the creature despite the film being titled Maneater. In truth, the film drags as it tries to build tension until the action kicks off which unfortunately happens a little too late. That in mind, while Maneater’s gory special effects makeup is incredible, it falls victim to the aforementioned long list of shark film’s curse of bad CGI sharks. The stark difference between the shark and its victims is glaring, which pulls you out of the scene. That, coupled with the lack of tension and poor visibility in the scenes is ultimately the film’s downfall – you are actually fighting to see what is happening in the scene all while yelling at the characters to ‘make smarter choices.’
Which leads us to our final girl, Jessie, who is finally joined by Harlan in their final battle against the shark. Despite keeping herself alive this entire time, Jessie mostly just screams and provides little help to make a difference in any of the scenes. That said, the pseudo father-daughter narrative presented between Harlan and Jessie also feels forced as it is not warranted in the slightest, making their exchange at the end of the film a bit cringe.
In the end, no amount of “blueberry pancakes” is going to make the audience feel better after this film, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives Maneater 1 out of 5 stars.