They say sharks need to keep moving in order to survive but sometimes the best way to move forward is by going backwards, breaking things down, simplifying and focusing on the essentials. Shark movies seem to be getting more outrageous and ridiculous with each passing year (thanks Syfy Channel!) but THE REEF defiantly swims against the current campy stream. Directed by one of the fine folks (ANDREW TRAUCKI) responsible for 2007’s excellent shock-crock flick BLACK WATER, THE REEF is a streamlined, straightforward jaunt unhindered by the typical needless ornamentation. Much like BLACK WATER, one of the ways THE REEF separates itself from the pack is by refusing to rely on CGI and by utilizing actual real live sharks. The result is hyper authentic and hyper engaging. No computer-generated cartoon can compete with the freaky mug Mother Nature slapped on these deadly fish. Maybe sharks are misunderstood but I think it’s okay to be leery of a creature who might chomp all your limbs off and then use your face as a palate cleanser.
The plot is this: Some people are on a boat but then it tips over so they decide to swim for shore but it’s really difficult on account of the relentless shark(s?) trying eat them. Suddenly life’s usual quandaries seem quaint and very far off in the distance, sort of like the dry land that will prevent them from being din-din. TRAUCKI really has a talent for capturing the beauty along with the danger of the untamed world and he’s careful not to shirk on characterization either. We don’t know an extensive amount about the victims here but they seem like people amiable enough not to deserve being chewed apart while screaming for help that will never materialize.
It’s safe to say that JAWS is in no danger of being dethroned as the ultimate shark movie but THE REEF is more than another also-ran as it truly delivers the suspense. It was certainly not necessary for me to keep my legs on the couch while watching this, but I found myself doing so anyway and that should tell you something. Like much survival horror (OPEN WATER, FROZEN) this tale is bound to work more for those cursed with the unfashionable ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes.
TRAUCKI is quoted as saying, “Reality is far more intriguing than fiction” and THE REEF (which is based on a true story) backs his theory nicely. I’m not sure I enjoyed this film as much as I did BLACK WATER but it’s gratifying to see a filmmaker taking the subject of man vs. beast (or vs. nature, or vs. shitty luck) seriously.
THE REEF is now available on Netflix Streaming.