Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Blake Lively, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge
Review by Jordan
There is a feature inbuilt in video cameras featured in horror films, where, although perfectly intact and always able and thought to be rewound to the exact pivotal moment, without any real reason they shut off and either cut immediately to black or some unsettling static when confronted by a vicious jump scare. This handy feature ensures that the battery life is sustained long enough for passers-by to initiate a rescue, but, especially in the case of The Shallows where the Go-Pro is protected by a waterproof case and shows no signs of wear, it’s hard to understand exactly how this works. Sure, a great white shark can cause some damage, but just once I’d like to see a camera found and rewound, only to show hours of seaweed swaying with the current or the decidedly uninteresting features of a sun-bleached rock before the battery drains.
The Shallows, a new survival/horror movie about a giant shark determined to ignore the banquet of food floating around him in order to teach a 25 year old surfer about the perils of disrespecting the dangers of the ocean, takes the interesting approach of including an assortment of such curiosities sure to occupy the attention of the viewer, while an extremely brisk and entertaining-in-theory story happens in the background. These curiosities include: a top secret, secluded beach that it appears quite a few people know the location of, an advancement in mobile phone reception making it possible to seamlessly video call from such a location, Blake Lively’s surfer Nancy wearing a wetsuit top half unzipped at the front (I always assumed the purpose of these was the keep water out… boy was I wrong it seems), leering camera angles that set the genre back 30 years and a wounded seagull used as an emotional centre, perhaps because the tacked on family drama is so awkward to watch.
All of this could culminate in breezy popcorn entertainment, if only it didn’t take itself so seriously.
Shark movies can be, and quite frequently are, very effective. Playing off a common fear of the deep and the dangers lurking therein, titles such as Open Water (2003) and The Reef (2010) present the man-eaters as menacing without seeming monstrous; playing with realism (as much as possible) over spectacle. The Shallows wants to be both realistic and exciting, and winds up as neither, with tension being about as present as a reason for caring about any of the shark bait side-characters in a star vehicle that ought to have cared more about the direction in which it was heading, instead of careening towards an obvious ending.
Flourishes of creativity are bitten in half like a stumbling, thieving drunk in fear that they will take up precious bikini time, and like a seagull with an injured wing, all there is to do is wait it out with Nancy until the nightmare is over.