The Shallows

 

 

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Lets face it, there’s really only one shark movie, and we all know it. All the ‘Deep Blue Sea’s in the world will never erase our knowledge of the fact that Jaws remains undefeated in its title of THE shark movie – and I cant imagine any film ever toppling that masterpiece from its place at the top of that ladder. It’s just too perfect.

God forbid they ever attempt a remake – I’ll be the first one at the protest march I can tell you that.

But when I heard they’d released a shark movie that was good and held its own in the comparison stakes (mostly due to its almost diametrically opposing storyline) I was intrigued. Intrigued enough to shrug off my inbuilt cynicism and plan a viewing.

And so it was, one balmy Los Angeles evening, accompanied by my ex-‘not sure what we were’, the most brilliant Mr. Chavez and his equally marvelous wife Connie, I rocked up prepared to watch with an open mind what had already garnered sufficiently good word of mouth to warrant at least a small amount of hope for a scare-filled evening.

Having purchased my large popcorn and drink (I swear that large in America is at least 50% larger than large in Australia) and gotten a free refill of both (tip my hat to you Mr. C!), we settled in for the ride.

Essentially a one-hander, this movie concerns the recently bereaved Nancy, coping with the death of her mother by visiting a place that was once dear to her; the ‘secret beach’ a secluded oasis just perfect for a horror survival movie.

After surfing with two likable locals she decides to “just catch one more wave before going in” and thus seals her fate as all good horror heroes do, by managing to isolate herself in a harsh place that will, of course, test her smarts and tenacity.

The shark that had been cruising those waters manages to trap her on a small reef with only an injured seagull for company. How and if she survives from there is the bulk of the movie.

I like survival stories, its fun and interesting to imagine what you would do in those circumstances, so the film had me onside from the beginning though I must confess that I am not the biggest fan of Blake Lively and have always found her pretty bland. While she manages to hold her own here, and is sympathetic and believable, I have to admit that I still didn’t warm to her.

Steven the Seagull on the other hand had bags of screen presence and was easily the heart of this film; his propinquity was surprisingly effective in providing someone for Nancy to talk to and thus allowing the audience to get to know her, and his apparent fragility lent an extra element of danger to her precarious situation that only amped up the tension.

The film itself was a nice mix of jump scares (excusable in ‘monster’ movies), anxiety and “behind you!” yelling at the screen.

The danger was palpable, there were some deaths that did not happen in the expected way and the cinematography was stunning, particularly the underwater work. Nancy’s character was well drawn and though she was in a bikini for a lot of the film it never felt exploitive.

The shark was occasionally treated as a monster rather than an animal and for me that always lets these films down, but it did not happen nearly as much as previous attempts at shark movies and was forgivable

I did like this film; it didn’t overstay its welcome, told its story succinctly and chose not to tie up every loose end in a bow which I appreciated.

Was it as good as Jaws? I think we all know the answer to that.

But was it good? The answer is a resounding yes.

 

7.5/10

 

 

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