It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent shark thriller and The Shallows more or less delivers. It’s a slow burner with some clever jump scares and a very cute seagull.
Blake Lively stars as Nancy, a twenty-something Texan girl who’s taken a break from med school to get some surf and sun in Mexico. We enter Nancy’s story when she arrives at a secret beach which locals refer to as ‘paradise’ and it certainly looks that way until, surprise, surprise, there’s a shark. From that point on, there’s a lot of time spent freaking out on a rock, and a bit of banter with the aforementioned seagull.
It seems that Lively was made for this role, especially when it comes to mimicking pain, and there’s a lot of that. She makes you feel desperate, and she seriously makes you want some morphine at one point. Her character Nancy transforms in a Ripley-like way as the film progresses and Lively does a bang-up job of bringing this transformation to life. Despite Nancy’s heroics, my favourite was still the seagull keeping her company on the rock. I wouldn’t mind a second set of ears to listen to my worries in a dire situation like that, not to mention it lets the audience get a bit more dialogue out of Nancy. A nice touch, as was the choice to film in Australia. Picture perfect beaches with the occasional man-eater.
The monster movie formula has been overdone and we all know that. The Shallows brings something slightly original to the table by original cinematography that brings the stunning beach to life and also employs the use of GoPros and smart phones to give this film a modern edge and let you see that shark in every way possible. Speaking of the beast, it doesn’t look too bad. We’ve certainly come a long way since the mechanical Jaws.
In saying that, The Shallows is more of a slow-burn survival thriller than another typical shark/monster movie. We don’t even see the shark properly until about halfway through the film. “I wanted to reveal it slowly then have it be a force of nature, my reasoning was that if Nancy doesn’t get a good look at the shark then the audience shouldn’t get a good look at it either,” director Jaume Collet-Serra said according to IMDB. This somewhat reminded me of one of Open Water. If you haven’t seen that, then watch it now. However, Shallows does get a bit over-the-top, especially towards the end. As the final credits rolled I thought ‘no, how did we go from Open Water to Deep Blue Sea in the space of half an hour’.
Director Collet-Serra (Orphan, House of Wax) is no stranger to the horror and thriller genres and he continues to pull off elements of both here. I just wish he could have held that mood until the end, without the temptation to get a bit too crazy. Maybe he just wanted to remain faithful to the genre? If it wasn’t for that finale, I would’ve given this film 8/10.