Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Shallows (2016) - Horror Film Review

Going in to watch The Shallows I found it very hard to not want to draw comparisons between this and Jaws. For me by the time I saw that in my teenage years I found it to be quite dull with not much happening. In actuality I found this movie to have far more in common with Open Water. At times in this review my tongue may be firmly in my cheek, so bonus points if you recognise those moments...

Blake Lively stars as Nancy; a med student on a holiday of sorts after the death of her mother. She has decided to go to a remote Mexican beach to do some surfing but unwittingly catches the attention of a giant shark. After a series of misadventures she ends up stranded 200 yards from the shore on a rapidly shrinking rock with a seagull she names Steven (Sully Seagull). Now the two most unlikeliest of friends must work together to outwit the killer shark and reach land.

The problem with being stranded at sea is that there is just not too much to keep the attention of the viewer, this was certainly true for Open Water and it is at times true here. Both films resorted to a check list of implausible events happening to keep things spiced up, The Shallows doesn't go as far in its efforts to keep things interesting just having a drunk Mexican (so drunk you could say he was...legless), a swarm of jellyfish and Steven, it helps that the shark here is near constant. After a dull opening that plays out like the worst of surfing videos things get going. The best thing about The Shallows is that soppy ending aside the film just keeps getting better and better, the tedium I felt at the start turned into legitimate enjoyment by the conclusion.

Much of the run time is Nancy and Steven on their own, Nancy does her best to keep the viewers attention by constantly talking to herself but it does seem a little forced. Of the two the bird is by far the better actor, he put real emotion into his scenes and I really came to care for him and his plight. The shark was also very entertaining, it was pretty rabid in it's actions making the parts when it shows up to attack very fun to watch, all resolving in a pretty darn good finale. The make up effects for Nancy were solid, a few parts such as when she has to sew up her bitten leg using her earrings made me look away wincing, while her bizarre decision to randomly try eating a crab just hours into her misadventure also disgusted. There are a few fatalities but aside from one none of these looked very special, one in particular happens completely off screen with the camera just on Nancy for her reaction shot, for such a short amount of shark attacks you would have thought more would have been made of them.

The plot itself is unavoidably...shallow, woman trapped on rock by shark pretty much sums it up. I could not find it in myself to care about her, her back story as a student nurse seemed there just for an excuse as to how she knew how to treat her and Steven's wounds. I did enjoy the device of a handheld camera being found at the films start and then the story going back a few days to show how it came to end up there. The camera work is fine enough and there are quite a few wide shots and some nifty over head ones but the editing at times I didn't enjoy, using as it does the method of suddenly speeding or slowing down the action which never fails to make me feel queasy. The soundtrack might have been good but honestly I cannot remember it at all.

While The Shallows is an average film I did still quite enjoy it, helped by the fact it just does keep on getting better. The shark is always fun to watch and Steven was Oscar worthy bringing a lot of kudos to the under appreciated guild of bird actors. This at the very least is a lot, lot better than Open Water and that can only be a good thing.


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