The Reef: Stalked

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Reef: Stalked
"This film uses strikingly clear water to show shadowy movements down below, emphasising the three dimensional landscape of the sea in a way that few shark movies achieve."

In a world full of schlocky shark films, if you want yours to be taken more seriously, it pays to set the right tone from the start. This sequel to 2010’s The Reef (with the same director if not – for obvious reasons – the same cast) opens with four young women messing about in water. Two things stand out about them: firstly, two of them are competent spear fishers, and secondly, their swimwear, whilst skimpy, is built to flatten rather than flatter – it’s actually designed for swimming in. They may be playful but they also know how to be serious.

This matters because they’re about to have to deal with a serious situation, way before we see any sharks, when one of them falls victim to a more mundane type of predator. It’s an incident which leaves heroine Nic (Teressa Liane) reeling. Although she puts up a good façade, she’s struggling to cope with any kind of risk taking or responsibility, and she’s also developed a phobia. All of this is coming to a head as she tries to relax on a weekend away with friends and her teenage sister Annie (Saskia Archer). The last thing she needs is to have to deal with sharks as well.

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As in the original film, the main plot develops slowly and begins with fear. When their kayaks are out of sight of land, the women get into the water to explore the reef below. Awkwardly, this includes Annie, who has never had to climb into a kayak from the open water before and really should have been trained closer to shore, but she’s calm about it – it’s Nic who is suddenly afraid, not wanting to put her head underwater, intimidated by the possibility of threats which she can’t see. The first hint of a shark send her into panic mode, but the group’s natural leader, Jodie (Ann Truong), is sanguine about it, explaining that most sharks are just curious and have no interest in eating humans. Unfortunately for our heroines, they have been spotted by one of those rare sharks which sees things differently – and it may not be alone.

Where The Reef used reflection and the deceptive shapes of waves to keep its predators mostly out of sight, this film uses strikingly clear water to show shadowy movements down below, emphasising the three dimensional landscape of the sea in a way that few shark movies achieve. There’s an echo of the film’s initial tragedy in the presence of a known danger which one just can’t get away from. The women pull themselves together. They form a plan. They are competent and they can deal with this. Then writer/director Andrew Traucki raises the stakes. As out heroines make their way towards a small island, two children become visible, playing on a flimsy raft in the water. Now there is more than just their own lives at stake.

Most shark films, in concert with the slasher film tradition, rely on people doing stupid things in order to die. This one is surprisingly well constructed so as to avoid relying on that. As a consequence, it’s easier to sympathise with the characters in peril. Traucki also shows early on that he’s willing to break some of the subgenre’s unspoken rules, so you can’t feel confident that he wouldn’t show a shark attack on a child. Like its predecessor, this film ignores comforting Hollywood logic and sets out to deal with the world as it is. It’s not the best of its kind in terms of action or inventiveness, but its simple, unforgiving approach mirrors its subject well, and will be just what some viewers are looking for. The character dynamics add an interesting dimension. The sharks – who are not gigantic or mutated or super-intelligent, just ruthless – do the rest.

Reviewed on: 28 Jul 2022
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After her sister's murder, Nic, her younger sister and two friends seek solace through a Pacific island kayaking adventure. Hours into the trip the women discover that they are being stalked by a shark.

Director: Andrew Traucki

Writer: Andrew Traucki

Starring: Teressa Liane, Tim Ross, Ann Truong, Kate Lister, Saskia Archer

Year: 2022

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Australia

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