Thursday, September 1, 2011

Do Doot. Doo Dooot. Doo Doot Doo Doot Doo Doot (hummed with an Australian accent)

When Hurricane Irene began her slow waltz up the east coast, I found myself in a very specific movie mood. I wanted disaster, and I wanted it of the natural sort. Hence my queuing up of the Instant Watch thriller The Reef, a ripped-from-the-headlines tale of ill-fated sailors teasing the sharks in Australia.
Quick Plot: Meet Luke, a decent-looking (see Low Point) young man who invites his pal Matt, pal’s galpal Suzie, and Luke’s ex Kate (who Matt generously introduces to the audience as ‘his sister’ so we’re all fully clear on the dynamic) on a weekend sailing trip. As is standard with most overturned yacht disaster films, we get a good 30 minutes or so of character development in bikinis, pretty underwater shots of coral, and the token break-up/make-up conversations screenwriters seem to adore.

What’s up with that? I understand relationships are complicated (trademarked by Facebook) but why do filmmakers believe that makes them interesting? Kate and Luke, you see, broke up some time ago but still have strong feelings for one another. That’s nice. But I really don’t care.
See, I’m watching a film called The Reef because I want to see people eaten by sharks. It’s shallow, perhaps, but c’mon. Sharks. 

Thankfully the director heard my yawning and crashes the yacht in time for a few ominous fins to cruise on by.  As the upside down boat begins to sink, shipmaster Warren holds firm while the other four decide to swim towards land. A passing slain turtle and what I imagine are 12 rounds of 99 Bottles of Beer On the Wall later, we get our first shark feast and it’s rather glorious.

So that’s good. Shark attacks (apparently an alternate title in the Philippines) are important if your movie is an entrance in the shark attack subgenre. You might even say it’s the reason people watch such films. You know, for the shark attacks.
The Reef is a quite competent film, one filled with gorgeous camerawork and strong performances. The first sharking is scary and sudden, one that rewards your patience for watching relationship drama unfold. The problem with the film is that, well, there’s really only so much one can do when your actors are in the ocean surrounded by sharks. Unlike say, Chain Letter, which found about nine dozen different ways to have a chain kill someone, The Reef can only really show sharks swimming by and quickly grabbing a chunk off of someone’s skin. You know, because that’s what sharks do. 
High Points
It’s nice to see a film finally acknowledge the fact that climbing up a cliff is REALLY hard

Low Points
As I explained on this week’s episode of Girls On Film, the caliber of male hotness in this film is direly lacking. Forgive me if that sounds shallow, but how many horror films can you think of that feature unattractive females? Few. Very few. So when you set your movie in the oceans of Australia, wouldn’t you think to match the pretty blonds with something a little more sexy than this?

Lessons Learned
Sharks love seals (and really, who doesn't?)

Dead turtles are an incredibly unpleasant sight
Sleeping in water won’t do you any favors in the morning
As an Instant Watch stream, The Reef is more than adequate. It’s essentially a more brutal version of Open Water with better lighting, less overhead shots of clouds, and more blood. My qualms with it lie more in the genre’s limitations than director Andrew Traucki’s execution, particularly since he’s working from a ‘based on true events’ story that kind of naturally breeds a tad of the familiar. If you like sharks and want a nice remember of why they’re terrifying, one could do a lot worse than throwing this on a cool summer night. 


  1. I remember this movie, I very nearly bought it, but better sense won out and I got No Retreat, No Surrender!

    Climbing a cliff is hard? Not so, as CHUCK NORRIS(!) will attest. Delta Force 2, to get to Billy Drago's drug country, CHUCK NORRIS has to climb the sheerest cliff in the world with barely any gear and snake danger, and of course, he makes it easily, because if you've roundhoused-kicked satan, eliminated all terrorist activity in the middle east and won 'Nam all over again, what would destroying the whole world's drug trade be? Nothing! Haha!

  2. '70s horror movies were the best for having good looking leading ladies and ATROCIOUSLY UNATTRACTIVE leading men. Think of The Crazies. Exactly.

    Anyways, great post... I had been wondering if I should check it out or not. Seems to be less and less worthwhile on streaming these days.

  3. Chris: In fairness, NOTHING is difficult for The Norris. We mere mortals can't even compare. Just because Chuck Norris can climb a steep cliff and slay dragons with his mustache doesn't mean I can tie my shoes or slice a loaf of bread evenly!

    And good point Kev. Times have certainly improved, though it remains an uphill/cliff battle. And your enjoyment of The Reef will depend entirely on your thing for shark attacks. I like 'em, but there's just only so much that can be done, thusly explaining my ultimate feelings of meh.

  4. As I stated in the palavr forum, total agreement with your stance on the male cast here...i will add however, the chick who is paired up with mole-man is not exactly drop dead gorgeous either.
    In summation the casting director here did a woeful job.
    The actual film isn't that bad..i had some fun with it

  5. I almost spit out water when you called him Mole-Man. Thank you.

  6. Couldn't agree more, less yawn-inducing relationship junk, more shark chomping. However, strong characters are a must - I could listen to Quint and Hooper talk about their fish-related injuries all night. Also, after shark-seige movies like Deep Blue Sea and ridiculous stuff like Sharktopus, it's hard to go back to the standard Open Water-type shark flick. I now need some kind of mutant, armor-plated, turbo-charged, flying shark to be entertained.

    As for Chuck Norris, back in the early 90's, I saw him walking through the Fresno Air Terminal, with not one, but two bodyguards! Was he afraid some of those rowdy Visalian's were going to kick his ass? What a wuss. Talk about a disappointment, it rivals the time I saw Bette Midler without make-up on.

  7. The fact that you SAW Bette Midler itself is mindblowing (I also don't know if 'it' refers to Ms. M or the act of seeing Ms. M). I demand details.

    I agree that strong characters are a must, and I think it's perfectly possible to have them WITHOUT their defining characteristic being "I still kind of love you." Like you mention, Quint, Hooper and Brody are awesome characters without me worrying about their relationship status (although now that I said that, I'd LOVE to know Quint's sexual history).

    Maybe CHuck Norris keeps bodyguards around so that he can get help reaching high places? He is rather short...

  8. Your review was far more entertaining than this film :) I felt like I watched an extended episode of Shark Week.

  9. Maybe THAT explains the unhotness of the actors! They're really just re-enactors!

  10. I thought the flick was pretty entertaining, and quite tense at moments. I think I only really chuckled at the "Let's swim at the GIANT tortoise in the water" part...'cause I think the best-case scenario is if it's dead. If it's will bite your freakin' head off...

    So I thought that was a little unbelievable. But otherwise I enjoyed it. Definitely seemed like a better Open Water.

  11. Michael berryman would have easily been romantic lead if cast here..

  12. But Kangas, maybe the tortoise would be tasty ? Or maybe you can drink tortoise urine? Or maybe he'd be adorable. I say these things because if I were stranded in the ocean and a giant tortoise floated my way, I'd HAVE to check him out. He could be cute.

    Tangerine, you've suddenly made me want to beg someone for a rom com starring Michael Berryman. Make it happen.

  13. Haha yes, Michael Berryman & Jennifer Anniston star in "The Hills only have eyes for you"

  14. Directed by Nora Ephron, with a script by David Cronenberg.

  15. Make it happen Hollywood! We demand it!

  16. Screw Hollywood, we got a director right here. Get ON it Kangas!

  17. wow that is cool, well there you go Kangas! Just don't forget about us when you are accepting your oscar!!

  18. I've heard some good things about this one in the past, but haven't given it a watch just yet. My utter distaste and fear of sharks prevents me from easily enjoying a genre I love, so I have to build up the courage to sit down and watch any shark film. Alcohol helps quite a bit.

  19. See, sharks make me uneasy and all but I don't have the kind of phobia that sadly haunts you. That being said, I think this would actually be a really effective film for sharkophobes because the shark attacks ARE good, they're just kind of expected once they start. That's why for me, evil clown and doll films always work: I'll always be afraid. So man up Matt!

  20. Thanks for the vote, but I really think you need air quotes when you say kangas and director in the same sentence. :)

    And I'm contractually obligated to have a clown in every movie I make, so is there any way to work one into that?

  21. Wait, did I miss the clown in bounty?

    And duh Kangas, Michael Berryman plays a children's clown who performs at birthday parties. There he meets Aniston, a seemingly happy housewife living the perfect married life to a celebrity shark wrangler. But of course, her husband is actually quite abusive and when not beating Aniston, he's abusing sharks (because you can't have Oscar bait without an Issue, and shark abuse is rarely discussed). Of course, Berryman finds a way to magic trick his way into Aniston's life and romance/tragedy ensues.

    I expect a co-writer credit and the head off your Oscar.

  22. Not very original, but entertaining nevertheless. Enjoyed this one.

  23. There's certainly worse out there, and The Reef is generally good at doing what it sets out to do. Perfectly average I think.