A Hooked On Horror Review: The Reef: Stalked
Shark films have been an ongoing staple within the horror genre since Spielberg and Universal hit a home run with Jaws in 1975, and film makers and studios have tried to capitalise on that success ever since. Over the years we have had some truly fantastic shark films, a few mediocre ones, some sub-standard and painfully obvious Jaws rip-offs, sequels (I still can't cope with the roaring shark in Jaws: The Revenge), some horrendously so-bad-they're-good shark flicks and some that have honestly made me fear for film in general...some have been that bad.
So where exactly does the 2022 film The Reef: Stalked fall into? Well it's no Jaws or The Shallows but it's up there with some of the better films; all in all a rather enjoyable and well-made flick.
REAL SHARKS, REAL TERROR!
In an effort to heal after witnessing her sister’s horrific murder, Nic travels to a tropical resort with her friends for a kayaking and diving adventure. Only hours into their expedition, the women are stalked and then attacked by a great white shark. To survive they will need to band together and Nic will have to overcome her post-traumatic stress, face her fears and slay the monster.
The film, written and directed by Andrew Traucki, is a direct sequel to his 2010 critically acclaimed film The Reef. The film follows the story of Nic (Teressa Liane) as she seeks peace and solace with her friends and sister on a kayaking trip following the murder of her other sister. The film stars Teressa Liane (The Vampire Dairies), Ann Truong (Cowboy Bebop), Saskia Archer and Kate Lister (Clickbait). Produced by Neal Kingston, Michael Robertson and Jack Christian (The Reef, Black Water Abyss).
The film moves forward pretty quickly and you get some back story on the characters within the opening scenes. There's some character development in the film through Teressa Lane's character dealing with the murder of her sister but it's never really fully fleshed out, as is the tension between Nic (Liane) and her younger sister Annie (Saskia Archer) for what happened following the murder of their other sister. It could've played out and opened the characters up a bit more but if I'm honest I feel it would've just slowed the pace of the film down. It was enough to keep you invested in the story and rooting for them to survive. I would've liked more of a back story on the other sister's murder as it was insanely brutal, but ye it's not really that type of film.
It's very well shot and edited. Of course it was always a slight risk when the film makers relay on real-life shark footage from a film like this, but it worked incredibly well. There was really only twice in the film I thought the editing and the way it was shot/put together looked sub-standard. But I'd call them a slight hiccup in a rather flawless little shark film. The soundtrack is well composed and fitted the theme and mood of the film perfectly. Even had hints of Williams' iconic score for Jaws creeping in there now and again which I loved. When you're making a shark film, you've always got to have some sort of nod to the classic that started it all.
The cast were great and had good chemistry on screen. I would've liked Kate Lister's character to have more screen time but she was solid throughout. Ann Truong and newcomer Saskia Archer were great and made a fantastic supporting cast. Teressa Liane as the lead character Nic stole the show for me. Seeing her trying to overcome the pain, fear and anguish of her sisters death during a few intense moments of the film was just great acting. And much like Jaws, considering a lot of the film is carried by a shark that's rarely seen and a main cast of three, the quality or enjoyment of it never dipped.
Using footage of real sharks was a great touch from the film makers as well. I was a bit skeptical at first as I was confused as to how they would go about shooting it in the first place, but hey it worked. I am incredibly curious to know how they managed to achieve some of the shots for this film mind. Whether it be bait or trick photography, it was very well done. I'm aware that animatronic sharks were also used during filming, but from what I saw the film made use of more actual footage as opposed to an animatronic shark.
The tension throughout was something that really stood out for me. Built it up to boiling point several times throughout and delivered a decent finish. Much like Traucki did with The Reef (and Spielberg was forced to do with Jaws), he takes the whole "less is more" approach to the scares and horror within the film. Having that camera chaotically pan across water as a character searches a still, tranquil and peaceful ocean for a killer monster scares the audience a whole lot more. Playing on that fear of the unknown and what is lurking below that surface out of sight was expertly done throughout The Reef: Stalked.
All in all this is rather enjoyable and well made shark film. In regards to linking it to the first The Reef film, I'll be honest there isn't really much of a link. I think drawing audiences in with that name is just a good way at marketing this film, much like Unfriended did. Either way if you were a fan of The Reef, you'll throughly enjoy this. It's definitely one of the better shark films from the thousands that have been made over the years. I'd put this amongst the likes of Jaws 2, The Reef, 47 Metres Down, The Shallows, Open Water and Deep Blue Sea as opposed to the entire Sharknado series, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, Jaws: The Revenge and Ghost Shark. Much like Jaws 2 put me off water-skiing, The Reef: Stalked has put me off kayaking.
The Reef: Stalked is now available to rent/buy and watch via digital or on DVD from August 8th 2022.