The Reef: Stalked: Disappointing Shark Slasher
Dir. Andrew Traucki (2022)
Two women on a kayaking retreat are hunted by a shark and must band together to survive.
The long-awaited sequel (for most, I just watched the first one tonight!) to 2010’s The Reef involves an entirely different set of people who find themselves alone on the open water. Following the murder of her sister in an episode of domestic violence, Nic (Teressa Liane), who is struggling with some understandably severe PTSD, her sister Annie (Saskia Archer), and two friends (Jodi and Lisa, played by Ann Truong and Kate Lister) go on a kayaking adventure in Australia. It’s sort of a get-away-from-the-murder-of-your-sister kinda trip, a tale as old as time. They want to pay tribute to their fallen sister and friend by taking a trip to the place that she had always wanted to go, which honestly seems mean as hell. Like, hey, you always wanted to go here? Well fuck you, we’re gonna go when you’re dead. Anyway, I digress.
That’s a mighty pretty ocean you’ve got there. Would be a shame if something in there wanted to eat you.
This one feels like a much slicker movie, updated in technology a bit from the 2010 film, and it’s cinematically on par with anything coming out of Hollywood as far as camerawork and cinematography goes. The camerawork is not the only thing that’s prettier in this film: the scenery is downright gorgeous, showing off some of the best sights that Australia has to offer. Despite knowing the dangers that lurk on land and in the sea in that prison island in the middle of the ocean, it’s so damn beautiful it makes you want to go to the land Down Undah even if you didn’t before. But beware, ye who enter here: there are sharks, and they really really like to eat people intruding in their territory. Unfortunately, despite the gorgeously updated visuals, Stalked fails to maintain the tension that the original had in excess. Which is unfortunate, because Traucki is practically the Hitchcock of ocean movies with how much anxiety he causes in the original Reef. Don’t get me wrong: there are some extremely anxious moments in this film. The shark is, of course, terrifying, and the moments where we see the girls from underwater builds all kinds of dread. Perhaps the film’s decision to put these characters in kayaks within view of the shore takes a bit of the sense of isolation away, knowing that if they paddle real hard they’ll be alright. The shark seems a bit more malicious in this film as well, which, contrary to what I would expect, takes a bit of the tension away. This is just a shark that’s out to get them, knocking over boats and whatnot, as opposed to something that just wants to eat and has found itself a snack. Ultimately, that’s where the film falls farthest in my opinion. The shark is tearing apart docks, capsizing kayaks, and causing general chaos instead of just swimming around in the ocean and eating what it finds. It’s a shark serial killer, and this is basically a slasher film with an animal, which actually somehow makes it much less scary.
Hello, I’m Sam the Murder Shark. Nice to eat you.
At one point, three of the four escape the ocean and make their way to an island, and they just immediately decide, “Hey, we gotta get the fuck off this island and back into the ocean” because reasons. They also decide to catch the shark in a net, which is as bad of an idea as it seems on the surface. It’s bad horror movie decision-making, which you’re generally immune to in shark movies. Unfortunately, this isn’t, ultimately a shark movie. This story is more about the struggles of the girls to emotionally recover from the death of their sister than it is about people getting chased by a shark, and, like… I didn’t sign up for that shit. I just wanna see people floating around a giant monster with teeth. Is that so hard? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad movie. It’s still super entertaining, and every scene with the shark is fun to watch. And, again, it’s absolutely gorgeous and makes it seem like Australia might be worth braving the elements to see. There are some scenes of tension, and it’s still scary to be out in the ocean where anything can happen and everything wants to eat you. But after watching the first film and having it quickly enter the category of “movies that scare the shit out of me,” The Reef: Stalked is a bit less stellar than I desperately wanted it to be.
Who this movie is for: Shark movie fans; Creature feature lovers; Card sharks (it’s actually card sharp, blah blah blah) Bottom line: So-so film with some good action sequences, Stalked abandons a lot of the tension that the first built its story around. This isn’t so much about survival as it is about avoiding the murder shark, and while that may work for other subgenres of horror, it doesn’t work well for the shark attack film. If you’re looking for a film that gives you shades of the first, look elsewhere. But, if you’re looking for a fun timewaster with some fun sharky moments, give it a shot. The film’s streaming now on Shudder, and you could do a lot worse.