THE REEF *** Australia 2010 Dir: Andrew Traucki. 94 mins
By 2010, the Asylum / Nu Image craze for MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS-style cheapjack CGI giant monster movies had saturated the market, so anything relatively restrained and geared toward straight suspense stood out from the crowd. Writer-director Andrew Traucki followed his excellent, small-scale killer croc movie BLACK WATER (2007) with this stripped-down entry in the sharksploitation cycle, erring closer to Chris Kentis’ superb indie OPEN WATER (2003) in its effort to craft a reasonably realistic survivalist yarn.
Matt (Gyton Grantley) and girlfriend Suzie (Adrienne Pickering) reunite with old buddy Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling), along with the latter’s torch-carrying ex Kate (Zoe Naylor) for a guided tour of Queensland’s picturesque Turtle Island. Walshe-Howling looks like a Playgirl centrefold, so you hate him straight away – but the others are a tad more relatable. Once their boat has been hit and severely damaged, the quartet are forced to make a perilous swim to land, all too aware of a Great White Shark lurking in the depths.
Beautifully photographed above and below the surface, this replays a familiar scenario while missing the intimacy and conviction of Kentis’ protagonists in OPEN WATER (2003) – probably because a couple of the cast members slightly miss the mark. Heroine Naylor seems to be aping the histrionics of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT’s Heather Donahue with her persistent rants of “We’re lost in the middle of the ocean!” / “We never should have listened to you” – so you may end up rooting for the shark.
Nonetheless, playing smartly on our fears of what lies beneath, this is still refreshingly minimalist and cannily splices real shark footage with on-location actors to achieve a sense of authenticity. The avoidance of obvious CG footage results in effective jolts and intense shark scenes, so the movie delivers the goods where it counts.
Review by Steven West