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By Jeremy Knox | July 28, 2011

I feel that there’s a distinct difference between a movie that I like and a movie that is good. The Reef could serve as a perfect example of a movie I think is very well made, while not liking it one damn bit. In fact, I’ll go one further and be a big enough man to admit that there’s nothing wrong with this film, not exactly. It’s well acted, tightly edited, its scares are excellent and what it aims for it achieves. So why don’t I like it?

Well, the problem with films that take place almost entirely in the open ocean is that there really isn’t much you can do with it, and everything possible was done in Open Water a few years ago. Cinematography is going to consist of various shots of people in the water or establishing shots of the vastness of the ocean. So right there and then it tires the eye very quickly. Dialogue? I mean, what are the characters going to talk about? “Jesus my legs are tired” and “I can’t feel my c**k anymore” pretty much cover all subjects that a bunch of people in the water struggling not to drown would discuss. It’s not like they’re going to chat about politics or the human condition.

There is also another problem. Namely, that I don’t find sharks all that scary. Oh, sure they’re big toothy killing machines the size of a minivan, but if I’m stuck in the ocean I’d rather get killed by a shark than drown. Drowning is a painful lingering death. Imagine it, you’re in the water, you sink, your body convulses painfully as your lungs run out of air, your body starts to shut down, but your brain is still active as you sink in the abyss. Your lungs are on fire by now. Everything is dark, pure blackness. Your heart pounds like a jackhammer in your chest and you’re in agony. You’re not passing out. The weight of the water and lack of light creates a sense of claustrophobia so intense that when you do mercifully die it’s feeling the mindless terror of a trapped and wounded animal. A shark, in comparison, rips you to shreds in moments. The cold water and shock act as a numbing agent and you barely feel anything as the minivan with teeth tears you apart. You bleed out and die maybe a minute later. I don’t know about you, but that’s how I want to go.

Well, I wouldn’t want to, but you know what I mean,

So, essentially the film is over an hour of people swimming and occasionally getting killed by a shark. Open Water did that exact same scenario first, what more is there to say? The sad part is that this is well made. I can’t really find anything to fault here apart that the filmmakers seemed to have leapt face first into the barbed wire fence of mediocrity. I don’t know, maybe it’s me but if I had to spend years of my life making something and then torture my actors by tossing them out of a boat into the ocean, I’d have put all my chips behind a more original story. I realize that this is ironic coming from the guy that says “Story doesn’t matter.” to everyone who’ll listen, but sometimes it does matter. As in, it matters that you probably shouldn’t go f**k the horse after it’s been beaten to death by someone else. For example, superheroes, romantic vampires and zombies of all kinds should be low on a list of subjects to tackle right now if you want to make a film that might conceivably have chance of surprising your audience.

I didn’t hate this, but then again I wouldn’t hate eating road kill either. At some point, a film buff has to come to the realization that life is short and that they will never watch all the movies they wish they could, so why waste 2 hours watching this when they could watch something else?

That said… I can’t recommend that people stay away from this film because there’s a lot of genuine talent present here, and it would break my heart if someone thought I felt that the filmmakers were hacks or something. All the actors and actresses are really good and the whole production is made with a sense of style. So I’ll just say that if you’ve never seen Open Water before, and the story sounds like something you’d like, and it’s a rainy afternoon, well then you could probably do much worse than The Reef.

Other than that though? Eh, Caveat Emptor.

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  1. Klingsor says:

    I have to admit I loved this one, watched it twice. Shark attack movies are a sub-genre and it’s really a matter of whether you enjoy this sort of thing in general. Some of us enjoy the vicarious horror and thrill of such a situation. I like this better than Open Water, mostly because the characters are a bit better drawn and it has a little more of the terror element (essential, in my book). It’s beautifully shot (a good thing), all the actors are good looking (never hurts). So I would highly recommend this to fans of shark attack movies.

  2. Thies says:

    I saw this one last year at the Fantasy Filmfest in Hamburg and didn’t like it very much. It’s not that I was angered by it – more that I found it pretty boring. After the scenery was established it simply had nowhere to go but the obvious route. There were no moments of suspense because the shark attacked them like he was working on a schedule he had to fulfill. And the way these attacks were shown was always the same: the swimmers would see the shark, stop swimming and start screaming and shouting until one of them was dragged under water. Then some blood would appear and the survivors would cry until they started swimming again.

    The opening text anounced that this was based on a true story. “The reef” is a good example that some storys are better told in a newspaper than as a full length feature film.

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