When the average critic hears mention of a film taking place on or near a large body of water, they think boats, good times with hoards of people, and serenity. When the average horror critic hears the same, their first thought is usually, “Dear god, not another crappy crocodile movie.” And while The Reef is far from a swampy mess, it still has it’s fair share of sinking.
Andrew Traucky doesn’t have a lot under his belt. When his not-so-hit movie Black Water hit DVD in 2007, there was little commotion amongst horror fans. And some (including myself) just plain avoided the film because of it’s potential to be another $200 budget rip-off. Well for his second major film, Traucky decided to make a movie of the same plot with a few differences. The idea being to polish it up enough to make it feel a bit more real/scary. In Black Water the major threat is a crocodile. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve pretty much had it with these movies. Trainwreck after trainwreck and then Gregg McClean’s masterpiece, Rogue, was all I needed to satisfyingly move on from the sub-genre. In The Reef our new monster is a shark. While strangely appealing, a few short kills never seem to be enough.
Everything in The Reef would be top notch if it wasn’t for the long, long scenes of waiting for something to happen. Don’t get me wrong, movie-suspense rocks my world…if done correctly. However, what Traucky does is build is up for something big and then fails to deliver. And the first time it was okay. Then he does it again. And again. Same suspense, same lack of payoff. And here’s the worst part, friends. When we finally do get that payoff, it’s not worth all the waiting around we did for it. We get a quick splash, a cut-off scream, and then nothing. I hesitate on making the following statement for fear of coming off a bit simple, but the payoff we deserve is some violence. A director has never made me so thirsty for some slashing and thrashing. By the last twenty minutes of the film, all I wanted was for that shark to grab ahold of someone’s torso and rip him to pieces! But alas, no such luck.
Now, before I end this review, I feel it only fair to give due credit to some of the film’s finer aspects. Let me say this; the acting was superb. Every tear and scream felt genuine. The situation itself will have the viewer thinking twice about jumping head-first into the deep blue. Before those last moments, when I wasn’t waiting for everyone to die, I was cheering on the characters. And the reason is simple. The character development was very strong. In the first bits of the film we are introduced to everybody and are made aware of some tension between two of them. Slowly, we are let in on their situation and it’s sure to have the sexes separated for a good portion of the movie. And behind every exciting, dull, and terrifying moment, there is great cinematography. The beautiful seascape hits you like a punch to the face almost every time it’s presented. I actually caught myself talking out loud about it’s magnificence. The scenery is far from disappointing and proves to be one of the better pieces to the movie.
When all is said and done, The Reef is an above-average film. Well worth watching. It has a strong tendency to engulf you in the experience, whether that means laughing with the characters or screaming at them for not getting ripped to shreds. Either way, you’ll be feeling something pretty powerful. What drags it down are it’s re-runs of “scary swimming” moments. After a while it can take away from that very experience it works so hard to achieve. It’s all very much a matter of preference, but I have a feeling this film is going to be appreciated more by the general public than genre-fans.