Dir. Andrew Traucki (2010)
A boat capsizes off the coast of Australia, stranding its passengers in the ocean with a bunch of big hungry fish.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Man, sharks are terrifying. There are so damn many horror movies about sharks, most of them absolute garbage, so when you come across one that’s well-made and doesn’t involve ghost-or-zombie sharks, it’s worth checking out. I decided to check out The Reef because it’s got a new sequel that just released on Shudder, and I figured I should check it out and see what all the fuss is about. Let me tell you, I am absolutely glad that I did, because this one was fantastic and I can’t wait to check out the new sequel.
The scene where the ship capsizes is terrifying for anyone that is even slightly afraid of open water. You watch a film like Titanic, and it feels like the damn thing took hours to sink. The Reef shows exactly how fast these catastrophic accidents can happen: one moment you’re chilling below deck in your boat, the next there’s water rushing in from all sides and you’re underwater, having to swim your way free or drown in the ocean. If there’s a worse fate than drowning, I’m sure that I don’t want to know what it is. As one of the characters must go underneath the ship to rescue supplies before the group tries to swim to shore, we somehow are treated to a claustrophobic scene in a movie that should be all about open spaces. It’s a spectacularly well-done scene, truly fear-inducing and a true subversion of what you expect to see in a film about being lost at sea.
But the actual sea is still 100% scarier.
There’s an interesting “fish-out-of-water” dynamic to shark movies that take place in the open ocean, as those who are stranded are completely outside of their element while the sharks are firmly inside theirs. The humans are the invaders; they are where they don’t belong, swimming in a tank they don’t own. While humans have mastered nearly every corner of the known world, the open seas are almost entirely unknown and uncharted, especially the things beneath the surface. The fear of being eaten by things you can’t see is so existential and nihilistic that you could find yourself almost lost in the fear, and films like The Reef do a great job of putting that feeling on screen, where we can watch it safely. Jaws was terrifying because he was so enormous, and he was invading the place that the islanders had called their own, a place that they felt like they had already tamed. In The Reef, these sharks are claiming their own territory, simply deterring invaders by eating the shit out of them.
So I discovered a little bit about myself today: I am apparently terrified of sharks. This movie was tense as all fuck, and I absolutely loved it. It’s slow, and there are going to be a ton of people (namely, people who aren’t apparently afraid of sharks) that are going to think this one wasn’t all that. But apparently, after all these years of watching the good, the bad, and the ugly of horror, there are still some movies that can scare me. The Reef was absolutely outstandingly done isolationist horror, and I can’t imagine anything worse than being stuck in the ocean and knowing that, after picking off a few of my closest friends, the shark is still out there, and it’s still hungry. Fuuuuuuck absolutely all of sharks.
Fuck you, you asshole.
Who this movie is for: Ocean creature feature fans, People who are actually afraid of the ocean, Billy Ocean
Bottom line: Intense, edge-of-your-seat anxiety-inducing horror. The film utilizes real footage of sharks interspersed with our stars in the ocean, and I was absolutely riveted throughout. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was 100% mine. And, it turns out, I don’t need Blake Lively in a bikini to enjoy a shark movie! Check this one out if there’s anything inside of you that is scared of nature’s greatest killing machine.