We may be on the other side of the world but we’re not entirely in new territory with this shark-survival horror in the spirit of Open Water and Deep Blue Sea.
Black Water director andrew Traucki is back in the splash zone and he’s found another true story guaranteed to amp up our anxiety.
The Reef follows a group of five friends who head off to the Great barrier reef for a bit of swimming, sandy frolics and lungfuls of sea air.
But that’s not why we’re here. so, soon enough, their boat overturns, leaving them stranded with a big decision to make: do they sit around on the upturned hull hoping to be rescued or should they swim 10 miles towards land through shark-infested waters?
“Staying is a bad idea and going is a bad idea,” says Traucki of their choice – and, as intended, we’re right there with them asking ourselves that all-important question: what would we do?
The audience heads off with the adventure-seekers – Kate, ex-lover Luke, Kate’s brother, Matt, and Matt’s girlfriend, Suzie – leaving aussie stereotype Warren to fend for himself.
From here, there’s only one way the movie can go... the group gets picked off one-by-one (you can predict the order) leaving only one
survivor to tell their tale.
Where The Reef differs from previous worse-things-happen-at-sea outings is in reworking the set-up so well.
Traucki is a master at tension, keeping us drifting between scare, security, false scare and back to scare again while barely giving us
chance to unclench a buttock. as with his previous film, the budget is low and the movie’s all the better for it.
Then there’s the all-important score from Black Water composer rafael may and the talented (but relatively unknown) cast, all of which adds to the realism needed to make a story like this work.
“Release the shark!” is the cry that opens the making of where – shock horror! – the sharks are actually real.
No bizarre Deep Blue Sea-style swooping, just real footage of real sharks, filmed in advance to inform the actors’ movements.
The rest of the documentary may look like a travel guide (the shooting moves from south Australia’s Port Lincoln to the Great Barrier Reef) but the poor actors wrapped up in space blankets, hugging hot-water bottles and recounting their own shark stories.
It reminds us that – just like watching a low-budget horror like this – filming is no holiday.
Prepare to be traumatised...
Looking for originality? Keep swimming. Want a tense depiction of a real-life sea tragedy? This is a truly terrifying ordeal.