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‘The Reef: Stalked’ Review: an attractive, albeit conventional shark shocker

SYNOPSIS: After her sister’s murder, Nic, her younger sister, and two friends seek solace through a Pacific island kayaking adventure. Hours into the trip the women are stalked by a shark and must band together, face their fears, and save each other.

It’s been 12 years since the release of The Reef, which this reviewer found to be genuinely pant-dampening at times. On the flip side, unfortunately, this belated sequel – again helmed by Andrew Traucki – offers very little in the way of groundbreaking panic-inducing horror.

Nic (Teressa Laine – “The Vampire Diaries”), her sister Cath and their two friends Jodie (Ann Truong) and Lisa (Kate Lister) enjoy kayaking and diving together, but after Cath dies at the hands of her abusive husband Greg (Tim Ross), she takes off leaving her little sister Annie alone in the aftermath. Several months later, Nic meets up with her friends and Annie for the first time since the incident and they all head out for a day on the ocean, Nic still struggling to deal with the traumatic loss of her sibling.

Traucki, directing his own screenplay here, makes his characters relatable and provides a meditation on both PTSD and domestic abuse in the process, but fails to fully capitalize on the early groundwork he lays.

The setup for this aquatic horror is particularly reminiscent of Neil Marshall’s cave-set scare-fest The Descent, and whilst parallels can certainly be drawn between the two in this regard, the comparisons stop there as what follows is a series of set-pieces that barely whiten the knuckles or deliver any significant scares.

The performances are solid and, with a runtime under 90 minutes, the pace remains brisk throughout; however, the action ultimately lacks variety as there are only so many times you can fall into the water and swim back to safety.

Visually, the movie offers vibrant colors that really pop, but cinematographer Justin Brickle’s seascapes feel boxed in when they should provide scope, driving home the intense isolation and vulnerability that comes with being in peril on the ocean.

Refreshingly, though, there is a distinct lack of CGI on display, with the director opting to use footage of real sharks whenever possible, making the sense of danger much more tangible.

Overall, The Reef: Stalked is an attractive, albeit conventional (ergo, forgettable) movie, that will certainly still have you thinking twice before wading back into the sea again. Also, look out for the Jaws homage too. Der-dum, der-dum…

VERDICT:

The Reef: Stalked releases in theaters and on Digital and on Demand this coming July 29, 2022.

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