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Monday, September 12, 2011

Movie Review: THE REEF

THE REEF
2011
R


"I've fished these waters, mate. I know what's out there. I'm not getting in the water."
-- Warren


The Reef is a 2011 Australian horror film directed by Andrew Traucki that centers around a group of people's attempt to survive in the Great Barrier Reef. When Kate (Zoe Naylor) goes on holiday with her brother Matt (Gyton Grantley) and his girlfriend Suzie (Adrienne Pickering), they meet with Kate's old flame Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling) who, with the help of friend Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith) takes the party on a sailboat out to the Reef. After a day out on the ocean, their boat runs aground on the reef and capsizes, leaving the five stranded in the middle of the ocean. Luke convinces the group that they stand a better chance of surviving if they try to swim towards a remote island about ten miles from their boat, and all but Warren decides to go with him. As they make their way out to sea, they have to battle exhaustion, dehydration and the constant threat of a shark encounter.

I'm not quite sure what it is about shark movies, but I seem to be drawn to them no matter the subject matter. Obviously, it's difficult for any shark movie to stand comparison to Jaws (arguably one of the greatest films ever made), but from the reviews I'd seen for The Reef, I had some heightened expectations that we might be in for a treat. It had played at a number of film festivals before hitting the shelves in the U.S. as a straight-to-DVD flick, so I did have some reservations but held hope for something better than average. Sadly, I have to say I was a tad bit disappointed with the overall outcome of the film.

The problem here isn't really the acting, although there isn't much good to be said about the performances either. Our main cast of five is serviceable at best, bringing a legitimate sense of fear and terror to their roles. However, in the times between the horror, there's little left to be desired. The chemistry between our two leads (Walshe-Howling and Naylor) seems a tad bit forced, and some of their dialogue borders a little on the ridiculous.

The actors aren't at fault for their dialogue, however. The screenplay offers major issues throughout the film, but the dialogue isn't the only real problem. One of the biggest obstacles in making a horror movie successfully thrilling is keeping it from falling into predictability. This is where The Reef truly falters. It started out well enough, setting the stage respectably and offering a rather chilling tale of people lost at sea. Once the boat capsizes, we enter into a drawn-out period of suspense that works exceptionally well. However, I felt it lingered a little too long, as we don't have our first real encounter with a shark until over halfway through the film. Once that happens, it's all downhill. You can easily determine who's going next, and when it's going to happen. When you can guess the next moments in any type of thriller, there's something wrong. There's nothing left to leave you on the edge of your seat, and the final forty minutes are a humdrum stretch to the closing credits.

While it's not the worst shark movie I've ever seen, it's so difficult not to compare it to other shark films of history past. While Jaws is the crowning achievement in said category, I think The Reef hearkens a little more closely to the 2004 thriller Open Water, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The films have a similar concept, but something about Open Water just worked a little bit better than this one. Still, The Reef isn't a terrible film, and although it's scares are predictable, they are there for those who want to see them. Some of the actual attacks are very well-shot and stylized, so I have to give credit where credit is due. I just can't completely recommend the film as a whole.



Movie Review Summary
Grade: D+
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