If horror movies teach you anything it’s this: Don’t go on a boating trip with a group of friends out in the middle of the ocean. If you do, your boat will most likely capsize and you will most likely be eaten alive by sharks. In the Australian horror, The Reef, a group of people ignore this well established horror rule and suffer the consequences. Although the movie does have it’s tension-filled moments, it falls flat toward the end, leaving me slightly disappointed in the outcome.
I am a sucker for shark films and when a reader suggested this movie, I had to check it out. When I discovered that the film is based on a true story, my eagerness only intensified. The film’s storyline is very similar to another stranded-at-sea horror, Open Water, which is also based on a true story. However, in this film, the main characters [somewhat] willingly put themselves into the water.
The Reef, written and directed by Andrew Traucki, opens with a group of friends coming together for a boating trip to Indonesia. When their boat unexpectedly hits a reef, it capsizes and forces them off track. Although the boat capsizes, it does not fully sink and the friends are able to sit on top of what is left of the vessel.
Luke, the most experienced sailor of the friends, insists that they should try to swim to an island rather than let the boat drift them further from land. Although Luke isn’t exactly sure the island exists, he explains that they would have a better chance of swimming while they still had their strength rather than waiting to be rescued. Three of the friends reluctantly agree while the other sailor, Warren, insists on staying with the boat for fear of sharks.
Luke and his three friends, Kate, Matt, and Suzie, swim North with only partial boogie-board pieces to keep them a float. At first things seem fine until sure enough, they begin seeing things in the water and realize that they are being followed by a Great White Shark. The rest of the film follows the group as they fight to survive the ocean and its inhabitants.
The Reef did a great job at building the tension slowly before the shark actually appears. When the boat first capsizes, fear already sets in as you hope that the people make it out alive. When they do survive that incident, you quickly worry when a shark will come to attack them, falsely believing certain scenes will produce the ocean’s predator, only to realize that an attack wasn’t going to happen.
When the shark finally appears, it doesn’t happen quickly. The audience gets to feel the anxiety and dread along with the characters as they realize they are around the giant fish. Like the characters, we cannot see the shark until it comes closer and makes its move. The initial reveal of the shark scared the crap out of me because it happened at a point where I least expected and it showed itself without making an attack.
After the first attack, the film gets repetitive and boring because other than the attacks and swimming, nothing really happens. Some of the characters make stupid decisions that result in their death and it seemed as though the characters only made the situation harder on themselves when they thrashed like crazy whenever the shark came. I found myself yelling at the screen numerous times, “KEEP STILL!” Clearly, they couldn’t hear me.
Two of the characters reveal that they love each other, which right away is a red flag that something bad is going to happen to one of them. The ending of the film made me a little angry because the characters were so close to making it but then something fatal happens. That’s life I guess.
I really wish that the director switched back and forth between the group of four swimmers and Warren, whom we never really see again in the film. It would have been interesting to see what he decides to do or what actually happens to him in between the shark attacks, in order to split up the story a little bit.
The Reef is based on a real-life shark attack that happened in 1983, resulting in lone survivor, Ray Boundy. Boundy was working on a boat with a deckhand and a cook when their boat capsized after hitting Broadhurst Reef in Australia. According to Boundy, a tiger shark attacked and killed the deckhand before coming back two hours later for the female cook. Boundy kept swimming for safety and was almost attacked by the same shark before being rescued.
The film is terrifying in the sense that it is based on a tragic life story, however the movie would have been better suited for an hour-long episode of I Survived. The movie did make me question shark attacks in general and made me wonder if a shark, particularly the Great White, would follow and keep attacking as it did in the film. I’ve watched a lot of Shark Week and thought that once a shark realizes you are not food, it will leave you alone. It was just a little crazy to me that the same shark followed them–maybe it could have been different sharks; how would they have known?!
The movie is worth watching because it does have it’s moments, however, it didn’t have an overwhelming effect on me as Open Water did. I think that Open Water is a more terrifying movie in comparison and a little more exciting. But compared to Shark Night–this movie is a cinematic masterpiece.
Overall, I think that you should definitely give this movie a watch because it is fun and scary at times, however, prepare to become a little bored toward the end.You will find yourself becoming angry at the characters and the questionable decisions that they make, however, in real life, things never run as smoothly as you would hope.