Friday, March 23, 2012

Netflix Instant : Hit Play Or Stay Away? The Reef

^^ Love that tagline ^^

When their yacht capsizes in the shark-infested waters of the Great Barrier Reef, five friends grow increasingly wary of the fact that their ship is sinking. But swimming to safety with a great white among them could be even more treacherous...

Well hot damn. Just when I thought it was safe to give up on shark attack flicks!

As a huge fan of shark attack horror, I've been quite unhappy about what has become of my beloved little finned sub-genre in the last several years. Jaws really kicked things off with an animatronic bang way back in the 70's, but since then sharks have become nothing more than fodder for cheesy B grade creature features, full of CGI and lacking in any real bite. As much as I love to get drunk and laugh at/with shit like Sharktopus, I'm kinda at the same time crying on the inside while I do, seriously bummed that nobody seems to have any interest in making scary shark movies anymore. Sharks are one of the scariest goddamn things I can think of (hell, I even have a totally irrational fear of sharks attacking me in swimming pools), and yet their ferocious asses have been made a joke of for far too long in the genre. Me no like.

Enter The Reef, Australia's answer to 2003's Open Water, which was made in 2010 and released here in the states on home video last summer. I had heard a lot of good things about this one in the past year or so but admittedly kinda wrote it off based on the lack in quality of other recent shark attack flicks. Totally unfair and prejudicial, I know. Turns out I was also totally wrong about my hunch.

Two words : REAL. SHARKS.

One of The Reef's biggest strengths is that there's not an ounce of CGI in sight, nor is there even a fake looking animatronic or rubber monster. Much like the aforementioned Open Water, the sharks in this one are completely real the whole way through, and man oh man does that go a long way in helping to convey a palpable sense of fear and danger. There aint nothing scary about a computer generated creature that you know wasn't actually there when the actors were in the water. Writer/director Andrew Trauck understands that, as so few do, and as a result has created the first genuinely scary shark movie to come along in quite some time. I bow to you, Mr. Trauck. Always nice to see a killer animal movie that's made with some respect and care. So thank you for that.

The other thing that makes this one float high above other shark attack films is that it's very character based, focusing much of its run time on the three dimensional characters and their own personal fears as they're stranded in the water, knowing that they can be devoured whole at any moment. The film does a great job at conveying that fear, as we as an audience, right there alongside the characters, have no idea when a shark is around or when it's going to strike. That's really the main idea of the film, that sense that an attack is always present but you never quite know when it's gonna come.

When that shark does strike, it's pretty damn effectively conveyed, with a great deal of restraint shown so as to avoid having to bring in a rubber monster or lay in a CG effect in order to show something that couldn't actually be pulled off with real sharks and real actors. That said, there are a couple great moments where the sharks and the actors are dangerously close to each other in the same shot, which I'm honestly not sure how they even pulled off. There are times when I kinda wished more was shown, and that the attacks were more vicious, but at the same time I'm aware that doing so would've likely resulted in the film being cheesier and less effective. It's all about realism with this one. And again, the focus on character and fear over 'sharksploitation' attack sequences make this thing feel damn real, and never corny even for a second.

The Reef truly makes sharks scary again, shedding their goofy B movie image of late and once again making you afraid to step foot in the water (not that I ever wasn't). For me, it ranks right alongside the recent crop of exceptional Aussie horror flicks like Wolf Creek, Rogue & Nature's Grave, and there's really not much negative I can say about it. In fact, really the only thing I didn't dig was a little text addendum tacked onto the end of the film, which explains some things that would've been better left unexplained. But that's a pretty damn minor complaint to have.

Gotta go with a big HIT PLAY on this one, especially if you were a fan of Open Water. The Reef is essentially that film with double the victims and a beautiful Australian setting ... what's not to love?!


billy polard said...

Watched this last night. I thought it was pretty good. Way better than open water. That movie was a big let down.

Hey! Look Behind You! said...

Great movie. It gave me the jebbies.