New To Blu ~ The Reef


The Facts

Synopsis:  A great white shark hunts the crew of a capsized sailboat along the Great Barrier Reef.
Stars: Damian Walshe-Howling, Gyton Grantley, Zoe Naylor, Adrienne Pickering
Director: Andrew Traucki
Rated: R
Running Length: 94 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: As far as films go, those that know me well are aware there are three types of movies that I’m nearly instantly sold on: airplane movies, movies set in outer space, and movies with sharks.  I’m ever so glad that I waited until after I returned from my Hawaiian vacation to take in this shark tale – seeing it before wouldn’t have stopped me from venturing out into the open waters but I would surely have been on the lookout for a fin or two while dog paddling to in the Pacific Ocean.

If the plot to this one sounds eerily similar to 2003’s Open Water well…it’s because it is essentially the same.  I was and am still a fan of what Open Water did with the genre and how it used its miniscule budget to create great atmosphere out of what we didn’t see.  What separates The Reef from Open Water is a bit more style, a bit more substance, and a lot more scares courtesy of strong production values.  After dozens of lame SyFy Channel movies about sharks (two-headed ones, ones that battle octopi, ones that are half octopi, ones that had lunch with Phyllis Diller {ok…that wasn’t real but it’s probably in development}) we finally receive a decent movie with (PUN INCOMING!) bite.  Leave it to our friends down under to present us with a plot that is ‘based on true events’ but keep us guessing as to how it will all turn out.

After their boat capsizes after a day of fun and sun, five people need to decide whether to stick it out on the sinking boat or try to swim the ten or twelve miles in the direction they think land is.  It’s a gamble either way but as one actor states “I’m not going in the water.  I’ve fished these waters…I know what’s in there.”  Without breaking into a chorus of ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ the decision to make the swim is decided upon and they head out to shore.  This is a movie that takes its time and lets your mind unleash the scare on you.  More than one time I found myself involuntarily drawing my legs up beneath me when I sensed a set of jaws was about to emerge from the surf.  In many cases, the scare was only in my brain and to its credit, the movie relies on cheap ‘gotcha’ moments very fleetingly. 

The entirely Australian cast aren’t familiar faces to me but work together well to establish their roles as hero, damsel in distress, shrieker, and sacrificial lamb.  I’ll leave it to you to determine who is who because it does change throughout the movie which adds to the overall feeling that you don’t know who (if any) will make it out of the water.  Ably directed by Traucki (who also helmed the nice crocodile movie Black Water), the movie is 90 minutes of solid filmmaking.  The score is unobtrusive in a Tangerine Dream-y sort of way and the underwater photography is incredible.  Like Open Water, the budget for this wasn’t huge but it’s clear it was all spent in the right places.   There is precious little CGI shark work and what there is is impressive.  The rest of the stock shark photography looks natural and works well to create some high tension.  I got the shivers when the camera lingered on the depths and slowly, slowly, slowly you start to see a marauding shark appear from the blackness.  That, to me, is scarier than a fast attack – when the swimmers see the danger coming toward them and have no escape.

Out on Blu-Ray for a while now, this is one to look up if you have a taste for this kind of film.  It’s not overly gory or cheesy and the actors are nice to look at especially when their Oz accents come out.