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The Reef (2010)

DVD Cover (Image Entertainment)
Genres / Traits:
Horror, Natural Horror, Thriller, Sharks
Director:
Andrew Traucki Andrew Traucki
Starring:
Damian Walshe-Howling Damian Walshe-Howling
Gyton Grantley Gyton Grantley
Adrienne Pickering Adrienne Pickering
Zoe Naylor Zoe Naylor
Kieran Darcy-Smith Kieran Darcy-Smith

5.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: January 24, 2012
I love nature gone amok movies, even though the vast majority of them are lacking in quality (to put it politely). I wouldn't say that it's my favorite genre or anything like that, but my ears do perk up a bit whenever a new film is announced or released. So, here we are with The Reef, a movie that shares quite a few similarities with Open Water. The general idea is the same (hell, even the DVD cover looks similar), but there are enough differences to make it more than worth a viewing.

The story finds five people - Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling), his buddy Matt (Gyton Grantley), Matt's girlfriend Suzie (Adrienne Pickering), Matt's sister Kate (Zoe Naylor), and hired crewhand Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith) - heading out onto the open sea in the sailboat that Luke has been hired to transport. They hit a reef along the way, which capsizes their boat and puts a huge hole in it. They are able to climb back on top of it to get out of the water, but here, they face a dilemma: swim the ten miles back to land now while they still have all their energy, or stay on the boat, which will be pulled further out to sea and eventually sink forcing them to swim anyway. Four of them decide to make the swim, which gets the attention of a rather hungry great white shark. Uh oh...

Before getting started, I should point out that this is another "based on a true story" movie. I've read the accounts of what really happened to a guy named Ray Boundy, and this is another case of a film that changes most of the facts around in order to make a better movie. Basically, the only things that are shared between the film and the real events are "ship went down" and "people got eaten by sharks." This isn't much of a knock on the film itself, I just thought I should throw that out there.

As for the base storyline, there's four people instead of two, their ship got tore up instead of them being left behind, and they have an active goal instead of being lost in the middle of the ocean. Otherwise, it's Open Water all over again, right? Well, there are obvious similarities, but it's all done in a different style that makes for a different experience altogether. Open Water was almost a drama in the way that the characters were handled, but this is a legitimate horror / thriller that focuses on what the audiences came to see: the shark attacks. While I'm not saying that the shark is eating somebody every five minutes (it's not), this fear is hammered home from the opening scenes, and it is built upon from there. We are expecting it to come at any minute, the characters are selling this fear perfectly, and when it does come... well, it's handled very well, I'll say that much.

With that said, I should also point out that this is a film that relies more on the fear of the unknown that dozens of fast-paced shark attacks. If you were bored out of your mind while watching Open Water as some people were, this is not the movie for you. It does move faster and it certainly features more action, but the general style of storytelling is the same: build up the tension as long as possible, and then unleash the beast. Figure out your rating for Open Water and tack two or three points onto that, that should give you an idea as to how this one plays out.

One thing that really helped the film is the complete lack of CGI sharks - yes, everything you see here is legit. Sort of. You see, the filmmakers took real footage of great white sharks and edited that into their film, so while the actors weren't really swimming with the sharks, you are seeing real footage of real sharks. The effect is very convincing, and never once are you taken out of the moment by a cartoon shark or a bad edit. Even when the sharks are attacking the humans or swimming alongside them, it all looks perfectly natural. Huge thumbs up for this.

Overall, I'm giving The Reef a recommendation for fans of slow-burning horror flicks. You'll probably disagree with me if you loathed Open Water (shame on you), but if you thought that movie was as great as I did or even if you thought it was "just alright", you'll more than likely enjoy this one as well. It features a talented group of actors, amazing special effects, a picture perfect backdrop for the story courtesy of Australia's beautiful scenery, and a story that - while certainly not original - was definitely worth telling once again. 9/10.
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