“Jaws” heralded the birth of the epic-horror genre and none have ever made it close to the success it had attained through the decades. It inspired 3 sequels and quite a few knock offs through the years. In the 90’s the campy “Deep Blue Sea” proved to be a minor success in the killer shark genre, and the awesomely realistic, true-to-life “Open Water” made viewers become afraid to go into the water again. Well, we’ve all learned about the fantastic predators such as sharks and it has become a known fact that there have been quite a few shark attacks that occur in Australia every year. Australia’s “The Reef” takes the fear of the unseen, to be helpless in the middle of the ocean and coming face to face with a man eater its main premise.
The film begins simply enough as we see Matt (Gyton Grantly), his girlfriend Suzie (Adrienne Pickering) and his sister Kate (sexy Zoe Naylor) arrive in the airport to accept Luke’s (Damian Walshe-Howling) invitation to go swimming in the coral reef. The four are accompanied by Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith) in an old yacht and they seemed set to have a great time. However, on the 2nd day of the vacation, the boat hits a reef and capsizes. Now Luke must lead his friends to safety as they decide to try to swim to known island up North. But, the ocean holds many predators, and one of those predators is an immense great white that exhibits the behavior of a rogue….
The film has a simple set up. We get to know a little bit about our characters but really the characterization isn’t multi-dimensional to keep the film’s pace moving. With small scenes that flesh out the meandering feelings between Luke and Kate, and nice footages of the underwater world to express its beauty. The film gets going quickly as soon as their boat capsizes. “The Reef” is a survival horror film, much of the narrative has the intention of expressing fear, desperation and the longing to find land as it represents salvation. I have to admit, the film feels a little similar to “Open Water” but one thing it missed was the way that film managed to bond its two characters in a situation so filled with danger. I am not sure, the emotional issues shared by the characters are a little too simple. Yeah, as something being labeled as ‘based on true events’, I understood. I gave it a shadow of a doubt that the direction/writing by Andrew Traucki (also responsible for "Black Water") may have intended it to be feel a tad unattached, as to give the impression of ‘non-fiction’.
After all, reality is always more interesting than fiction right? Well, it would’ve worked, but the dialogue itself felt obligatory at times. I am not sure, areas of the script didn’t exactly work for me. It tries to express emotions, but the delivery wasn’t as polished as I would’ve wished it to be. The intentions were good; I mean I could feel that the film was about decisions and to whom to turn, but there wasn’t something that lacked in the interactions; I guess it wasn't strong enough to express a scene's significance in its narrative. It was a tad flimsy and it almost appeared a little too made up. Fortunately, as soon as the group began to make their way in the ocean, the bickering and the arguments were set aside to further the script’s focus on the ocean’s terror.
I mean, as soon as the group started to swim for the shore, the film really picked up. The direction was able to generate a feeling of suspense albeit a little subtle to try to make the film as realistic as possible. The mere feeling of being in the middle of nowhere would just be upsetting, and the fact that the group becomes stalked by a Great White Shark generated a feeling of dread even more. The shark scenes were a product of clever editing tricks and camera manipulation. The film used a real shark. I am not sure how they pulled it off but they did (I would like to see the extra features). There were quite a few jump scares and credible suspense as the shark follows and circles the group. There were some great camera shots as the shark made its attack (this was probably done with prosthetics and some light animatronics with no CGI). The film had little gore but had quite a few bloody scenes, not so much as to wallow in violence, but just enough to express the aftermath of an attack.
“The Reef” is a credible horror film. The screenplay wasn’t as polished as I would’ve wished and there were some spots that felt a little too convenient; but the film really did have some legitimate scares and I liked the way it managed those elements under an umbrella of subtlety. The film was a dramatic exercise of frustration and failure masking a success. I liked the ending as it spoke well for its groundwork. I know, plenty of people may not become fond of its simplicity, but I liked it enough to give it a recommendation as a rental first.
**1/2 out of **** I'm not going to compare "The Reef" to "Jaws". There are too many killer shark movies; some bad, some good, and it would be inappropriate to compare any of them to that riveting masterpiece of tension. However, would it be fine to compare the film to the killer shark movies that followed? Sure. I think I'll compare "The Reef" to "Open Water". They are both very similar films about unlikely people who are in a sticky situation; stranded in the middle of a … more
Quite a decent shark movie and it is a believable true story too. Sure it isn't "Jaws" and resembles "Open Water" more than anything. Simple, with some rough areas but definitely had credible suspense. Update: Read the Full Review here.