REVIEW: The Reef – Stalked (2022)

dir. Andrew Traucki

Director Andrew Traucki has made a career of sub-aquatic creature features. With the one-two hit of 2007’s Black Water, about a saltwater croc stalking Australian mangrove swamps, and his Great White follow-up The Reef in 2010 – both based on true stories – he helped define the now ubiquitous wave of water-based monster movies. It makes sense then that after returning to one of his original properties with Black Water: Abyss (2020) Traucki now gives his second major title the same treatment.

Despite expectations however, the first act deals with a different kind of predator when Nic (Teressa Liane, The Vampire Diaries) and Annie (Saskia Archer) lose their sister to a more human tragedy. Distraught and disconnected, the sisters embark on a kayaking trip with some friends in the Pacific as a way of commemorating their lost sibling, only for a great white shark to soon cut through the waves and threaten to devour them all.

The shark sub-genre continues to be wildly popular, with the last twelve months alone giving us Great White (2021), The Requin (2022) and Jetski (2022), to say nothing of the 47 Meters Down movies (2017, 2019) and a seemingly infinite number of Sharknado and Mega Sharks from the past decade. What amazes is that – sillier titles aside – the plots of these films , much like slashers before them, all broadly follow the same trajectory: a bunch of characters will, for various reasons, find themselves in the water with dorsal fins closing in.

Here the addition of a domestic violence subplot adds some texture, and much like The Shallows (2016) the shark acts as an anthropomorphic personification of trauma. However this is sketched so broadly, with indelicate flashbacks hammering the point home, that emotional resonance soon disappears beneath the surface.

As with The Reef, Traucki cuts in genuine wildlife footage to add authenticity, and some moments – such as the initial attack – evoke a genuine sense of panic. But before long it’s more of the same, the film lacking inventiveness as it glides through familiar waters to unengaging effect.

Tim Coleman


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