Joining the surprisingly well populated ranks of the ‘film about scared people floating around in water’ genre is The Reef, a new shark-horror from Australian director Andrew Traucki. Ostensibly based on true events, the film sees five mates setting sail to Indonesia, only to have their boat capsize. They decide to swim for land, but soon find out they’re not alone in the water.
The Reef starts off promisingly enough, introducing us to our conspicuously Australian-looking cast and treating us to some lush scenery and pristine blue seas. Kate (Zoe Naylor), her brother Matt (Gyton Grantley) and his girlfriend Suzie (Adrienne Pickering) meet with Luke (Kieren Darcy-Smith) off the Great Barrier Reef. It’s immediately clear that Luke and Kate have ‘a past’, although its details may well have been sketched out on the back of a napkin. The group seem likeable enough however, which is important, as things are about to get bitey. Empathy for the victims is critical in horror, after all.
One of the supposed selling points of the movie is that it’s shot with real, terrifying, Great Whites. The beasts certainly do look menacing (they are after all big f*ck-off sharks), but their inclusion makes it feel like the fiction is spliced with a David Attenborough documentary. And once we’ve seen them, the threat is revealed and the tension dissolves. The rapidly diminishing group of survivors become more and more irritating as the flap about in the water, and things start to fall apart. Any remaining empathy is washed away, and you can’t help but start rooting for the sharks, but unfortunately the film isn’t even able to muster up a few gory kills to tick the basic horror boxes.
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