Now available on DVD
Directed by Andrew Traucki
Deep Blue Sea is a lot of fun, and the ending of Open Water is pretty terrifying, but The Reef is the best shark movie since the original Jaws (at least until Shark Night 3D hits theaters).
Based on a true story, the setting is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling) has organized an excursion for himself, his friend Matt (Gyton Grantley), and Matt’s girlfriend Suzie (Adrienne Pickering). Also along for the ride are Luke’s ex-girlfriend Kate (Zoe Naylor) and Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith), whose boat they will be using.
The plan is to head to a remote island and do some snorkeling. The scenery is breathtaking and it’s a beautiful day.
Then, on the return trip home, disaster strikes. In the middle of nowhere, with no land in sight, the boat violently strikes a reef in unexpectedly shallow water. It flips upside down almost immediately. The five passengers manage to swim out and climb on top of what is actually the boat’s bottom.
Their troubles have only begun. Luke explains the dilemma. Eventually the boat is going to sink, if they don’t die of dehydration first. No planes have flown nearby and no other vessels have been seen. They can take their chances and stay with the boat, or they can swim to Turtle Island. The current is moving in the direction of the island and Luke believes swimming offers the best chance for survival.
From that point on, The Reef ranges from suspenseful to downright horrifying. Those afraid of sharks and the ocean will find it difficult to avoid squirming.
Director Andrew Traucki does a remarkable job of ratcheting up the tension from the moment the foursome hits the water. Fear sets in quickly and before long someone believes they saw something in the water. But did they, and if so, what was it?
Of course, we know sharks will show up sooner or later, but we don’t know exactly when. It is jarring when the first fin slices its way above the surface. The quartet instantly panics, knowing full well they are sitting ducks.
At first the sharks come and go, and the viewer watches with baited breath as Luke repeatedly ducks underwater and checks to see if one is nearby. The attacks are inevitable, and they do not disappoint. There’s really no gore or anything graphic (it’s R for language), but the attacks are so sudden and brutal, it doesn’t matter.
The majesty of the ocean, the gravity of the predicament, the isolation, the hopelessness, it’s all conveyed expertly. When the end credits roll, it is hard not to feel relieved.
With strong performances, genuine terror, and a brisk pace, there isn’t much to complain about. The characters are fairly one-dimensional and bland, but the cast compensates by believably conveying the horror of the situation.
The Reef forcefully announces Andrew Traucki as a director worth paying attention to. He has crafted an exceptional thriller. Grab the popcorn, turn out the lights, and enjoy.