Synopsis: To heal after witnessing her sister’s horrific murder, Nic travels to a tropical resort with her friends for a kayaking and diving adventure. Only hours into their expedition, the women are stalked and attacked by a great white shark. To survive, they will need to band together, and Nic will have to overcome her post-traumatic stress, face her fears and slay the monster.
Stars: Teressa Liane, Ann Truong, Saskia Archer, Kate Lister, Tim Ross
Director: Andrew Traucki
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (4/10)
Review: In 2007, director Andrew Traucki delivered the low-budget Black Water, about a gigantic crocodile attacking members of a tiny tour boat. That early film became such an underground success story it provided the funding for Traucki’s next creature feature, 2010’s The Reef. Following a similar storyline of a mammoth shark terrorizing members of a capsized boat, it elicited the same genuine scares by doling out shots of the razor-toothed monster hungry for its next meal. Neither film was great art, but they were a considerate step above the usual fare, sidelining cruddy special effects and practical animatronics to show the bare minimum and let the viewer’s imagination create much of the horror.
A largely uneventful career followed for Traucki until 2020, when he gambled on a sequel to his first film. I didn’t think Black Water: Abyss was half bad, either. It was perhaps a bit too stuck on what worked initially and didn’t do much to move things along. Yet it had a somewhat claustrophobic set-up, decent performances, and a moderately convincing crocodile when it was seen. When that movie was released, it was announced that Traucki would also be getting back into shark-infested waters with another trip to The Reef, and I’ve been keeping my eyes open ever since.
We all know that I can’t quit these shark movies, no matter how hard I try or how much they continue to disappoint me. I’m trying to be better, though. So far in 2022, I’ve already steered clear of Alicia Silverstone in The Requin and avoided Shark Bait, but The Reef: Stalked was too intriguing to pass up. I was a fan of the first film, and considering the not embarrassing showing of Black Water: Abyss (which, like this, is unrelated to their original entries), I thought that Traucki would show those other fin flicks a thing or two. Sadly, Traucki has adopted an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach for his sequel because while it has one or two good jolts, most of The Reef: Stalked is a stinky as day old chum.
Four women set out on a kayaking trip, making good on their promise to continue a shared passion for exploring the underwater areas around their homes by the Australian coast. For sisters Nic (Teressa Liane) and Annie (Saskia Archer), it’s a way to potentially mend a relationship strained by a tragedy within their family that neither has adequately dealt with. With Annie being less experienced, it’s good that Jodie (Ann Truong) and Lisa (Kate Lister) are along to help because Nic has developed a paralyzing fear of the water, explained in the opening prologue.
They’ll all likely think twice before dipping a toe in a baby pool after encountering an ornery Great White Shark. Latching onto their scent when they are far offshore in kayaks perfect for chomping, the shark is relentless in its pursuit, clearly having nothing better to do than follow the women along the shoreline. Even more incredible, this is after they’ve made it to a nearby island and, get this, gotten back in the water.
Until this point, I was lazily making my way through the movie and batting away the numerous times Traucki had one or more women slowly looking across the horizon line for a shark fin. This was all Shark Movie 101, and they all do it. I’d even gotten the requisite near miss of a leg in the water pulled up as the shark was about to bite. Having the women (the ones that survive an initial tense encounter) make it to the safety of a small island (where there are other people, mind you) and then willingly get back into their flimsy floatie and paddle for sunnier shores was just too much. It worked much better in the previous film when the potential shark snacks had nowhere else to go.
The performances are serviceable at best, with lines drawn in the sand to who the professional actors were and who was hired from the local population. I question Traucki’s taste level with putting a child in harm’s way so violently but then, much of The Reef: Stalked has question marks floating around it. Why make a sequel if you don’t feel compelled to do something interesting with it? Why do we need to give heroines extra baggage to make them fear the water, lining them up to simultaneously hurdle a roadblock and vanquish a beast? Why did no one think to pack a waterproof cell phone? Why was Jaws made nearly fifty years ago with a shark that looks more believable than one made in an era with elaborate films shot on cell phones?
I wish I could find “The One” gem in these sloppy shark films. I go into each one with my fingers crossed that this will be the one that rights all the past wrongs. I’ve got another one in my queue and while I’d like to say the outcome looks promising, too many failed dives to the depths have led me not to get my hopes up. Keep swimming with me, though…we’ll find something fun soon!