Movies about the terror of shark attacks are frightening and gut wrenching. The feeling of helplessness and being dragged down into the dark abyss by the gaping maw of a razor teeth beast as the light of day fades and your last breath leaves your body is a nightmarish vision. The movie “Jaws”, to this day, has no equal when we think of the terror that lies beneath the depths of the ocean. “Jaws” taps into our most primal fears about the unknown. Sharks are such fascinating creatures that the massively popular “Shark Week” on the Discovery channel devotes an entire week every year to this sea monster’s existence. The Syfy channel took a different tacked and gave us the extremely entertaining “Sharknado”, a tongue in cheek horror comedy about a tornado full of sharks. It’s spawned two sequels and shows no signs of slowing. This Summer in the cinema, director Jaume Collet-Serra is putting back the terror into the shark attack with “The Shallows.”
“The Shallows” starts off with our protagonist Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) mourning the loss of her mother. Nancy, to find solace, leaves home and heads to an unknown secluded beach in unfamiliar territory that she believes her mother once traveled to when she found out she was pregnant with her. She happenstances upon a local who knows and is willing to take her to “Mom’s” beach. Upon arrival, with her surfboard in tow, she finds an absolute piece of paradise. Nancy rides the waves as a sort of therapy. She then runs into a couple of surfing locals with whom she shares time. While Nancy is finding a calm and temporary peace for her heartache, she swims up on a dead and decaying ocean behemoth. What she doesn’t realize is that beneath this creature is a sea demon that’s been stalking her while she’s only two hundred yards from the shore.
“The Shallows” is not your ordinary horror film with a shark antagonist. This is survival horror with teeth. Blake Lively does her best to add content to her character. She’s not just lunch for a shark here. The first half of this movie deals with the human psyche and how it would and could react to the situation at hand. This movie starts off as Blake Lively’s “127 Hours.” If you are unfamiliar with that comparison, that’s the movie that *spoiler* James Franco cuts off his own arm. The comparison is apropos because this movie hinges on Blake Lively’s performance. She does a wonderful job relaying to the audience her fear, loneliness, determination, and grit. The audience really is invested in her and the ordeal she finds herself in.
As measured and thought provoking as the first half is, the second half turns into an all out, over the top, action packed, adrenaline pumping thrill ride. The director has found inventive and terrifying ways to put us on the edge of our seats. The jellyfish scene, in particular, is just one of the standout effects scenes to admire here. Moreover the shark is massive and utterly terrifying. I don’t think a shark has been this scary since “Jaws.” As we race to the end of our adventure, the film keeps upping the ante. By the time we get to the climax all bets are off and reality is thrown out the window. Although this may not have been where we thought we’d end up by how this film began, we’re more than willing to accept it’s schlocky B movie outcome. The only disappointment with the film was with it’s epilogue. It felt unnecessary and ham-fisted at best. It should’ve been left on the cutting room floor.
“The Shallows” is a lean and mean 87 minute tension filled fright fest. Blake Lively, and to some extent, the shark do an admirable job carrying the audience and this film to it’s conclusion. It’s beautifully shot and the location was something right out of a travelogue magazine. “The Shallows” releases the same week as the “Independence Day” sequel. If you have to choose one to see, the leviathan of the deep is more terrifying than the aliens from deep space. Don’t miss the best and only “Sharktacular” experience this Summer. Skip the beach and head into “The Shallows.”