There are more killer shark movies out there than there are bones in a bit of back-alley Kuta-caught fish (speaking from experience there; excuse me while I reach for a toothpick). Not every one of these fishy flicks can be Spielberg’s “Jaws”, some not even Renny Harlin’s “Deep Blue Sea”, but if you’ve conceived characters an audience can root for, have access to some terrific footage of white pointers, and have a black book of composer details that you can snag some hair-raising music from, there’s a fair chance you’ll still wet an audience’s togs.
In “The Reef”, a group of friends (well, a couple are related) head out to Sea in a sail boat. Said vessel hits a rock, begins to sink, and orders it’s crew off. Now, swimming for land, the group find themselves hunted by a killer white shark.
Cinematic Aquaman Andrew Traucki, following up the equally wicked and wet “Black Water” (2008), has now coloured my jocks twice.
With “The Reef”, Traucki hasn’t just followed the rule book, he’s added foot notes and an extra chapter; the low-budget Aussie flick makes much more of a splash than its low-budget and superstar-less cast would usually allow and largely because Traucki on the face of it knows the topography.
Having worked knee-deep in watery slosh filming killer crocodile (yep, like the chap that ultimately impregnated Ariel, the man’s got a thing for creatures of the sea) flick “Black Water”, and reportedly spent months researching and paddling in the shooting locale, “The Reef” plays quite real (in fact, a lot of that shark footage actually is real), giving the film somewhat more of an unnerving documentary feel than say, a glossy, pop-goes-the-elbow Hollywood peer.
At the same time, those that have seen and remember the beats of the criminally underseen “Black Water” might argue that Traucki’s simply remade that, switching creatures and cast, and hoping nobody much notices – which, by the way, he hasn’t done. Truth is – and I’m sure the filmmaker will agree – this is very much like “Black Water” but it’s not because it follows the exact same storyline or replays scares, far from it, but more so because it’s again about a group of scared Aussies, some who we grow to know quite well as the film progresses, who find themselves trapped and stalked by a monster. It shares a template, if you will. So while it may not be the same movie, “The Reef” definitely er, if you’ll excuse the pun, swims in the same water as “Black Water”.
I just compared the two flicks and, I guess it goes without saying that you guys will too. As unfair as it may be, having a ruler and stopwatch out during the screening may be why I didn’t enjoy “The Reef” quite as much as I did “Black Water”; in fact, I’m sure that’s exactly the reason why this latest one didn’t play as well for me as the earlier did. Sure, it’s a different tale, and it’s totally unrelated to the previous pic , but the set-up, drive and watery location remains the same. Like a dream from a week ago, one you ‘just’ remember, “The Reef” seems familiar – - – to a point. Rather than chalk and cheese, they’re both chalk – just different colours.
Another very good film Traucki has indeed made though, and as I said you will likely pee your pants on more than one occasion, and what’s great about it is that he’s again shooting the middle finger up at all those Hollywood blockbusters that believe you can’t make an audience jump or squirm in their seats for less than $200 million. Fuck that, this bit of frightening flake proves otherwise.