2016 has been an odd year for horror films. This first half of the year provided, like, six horror movies and only two of them were any good. But now that the summer line-up is under way, the good ones are rolling up and this looked like it’d be awesome. Blake Lively is usually a hit or miss for me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a genuinely great movie with her in it, but I know she can be a fine actress if given the right material and direction. This looked like it’d be it. I looked at this movie and got really excited for it. I think my hype was to the point of something like the next gen JAWS. I mean, look at this set up. She’s half naked, stranded on a tiny ass rock bed just barely above the surface of the water, bleeding from her leg, a great white shark circling her… man, it just looked like a damn good survival/horror flick. I don’t think I’ve been this excited for a horror movie since… er, well, the last one (THE CONJURING 2). This was one I was really excited for. Did this movie need a bigger boat, or does it have a great set of powerful teeth? This is my honest opinion of THE SHALLOWS.
Nancy (Blake Lively) is a medical student currently on vacation, searching for her late mother’s favorite surfing spot in Mexico. Upon arrival, it’s a beautiful and serene beach, pretty isolated from the nearest town. She’s also a surfer and joins a couple local boys in catching some waves. As it gets later in the day, Nancy comes in contact with a great white shark, first knocking her off her board, then getting a chunk of her leg bitten. Taking refuge on a tiny rock island that will inevitably be swallowed by the ocean during high tide, Nancy must find a way to survive the predator before starving, dehydrating, and bleeding to death.
My expectations were happily met.
Up top, I mentioned that Lively is a hit or miss for me. Well, this was a hit. There are a couple of moments where she didn’t put enough effort in a yell, like getting someone’s attention on the beach, but I attribute that to bad directing more than anything as she will clearly scream for help realistically a second later. Regardless, Lively was solid. I like how she talks to herself like she’s her own patient in a hospital, using beside manner, walking herself through the treatment of her wounds, it’s a nice little touch. Plus, I love her little relationship with Steven Seagull. This isn’t shown in the trailer, but she’s stranded on her island with a seagull with a dislocated wing. At first, she sees the thing as a pest, but of course, that does change.
This movie does a really good job of creating a sense of dread and hopelessness. It seems like for every attempt she makes to make life easier for her, it’s thwarted somehow. Whether because of the stinging coral reef under her, stinging her feet, or that damn shark not cutting her any slack, it all builds up big time to Nancy almost looking like she’s ready to give up. You really feel her pain along the way too. Her leg bite doesn’t look like it’s giving her a tickle and to see her “sew” it up with her earrings and no anesthetics to numb the pain, it was a serious challenge not to cringe and fidget in my seat (apologies to the woman I was sitting next to).
I also have to be honest, and this will most certainly get a few people upset with me, but… I would rather watch this movie than JAWS. Let me be clear though, I do not hate the movie. Steven Spielberg is a huge part of my childhood and he’s made some truly remarkable and timeless movies over the course of his career. JAWS is no exception… as far as “remarkable” is concerned. The movie was impressive for its time and delivered some great characters and memorable performances. But I’m sorry, that shark is fake as all hell by the today’s standards, and there’s far too many frustrating cliches that make this movie unbearable to watch. And to think that this is probably the movie that started the cliches of today. Monster attacks and kills, douchebag person in power refuses to do anything sensible in fear of losing money and/or popularity, dismisses all logic and the safety of those who would give him money and popularity when the monster is “caught,” and only does something good and smart when the monster kills more innocent people. It’s unbelievably stupid and painful. Honestly, half of the movie’s events wouldn’t have happened if the story had smart and concerned people. THE SHALLOWS has none of these cliches. It’s far from perfect, it has its predictable and even unnecessary shit, but it cuts to what this movie is about pretty quickly, is never boring, is relentlessly brutal (climbing on the carcass of a not-quite-dead whale), and keeps you on the edge of your seat to one of the most harrowing climaxes I’ve seen in a long while from a shark movie. Is it better than JAWS? I doubt it. JAWS actually had a cultural impact, making people genuinely afraid to go to the beach in real life for a little bit. But this is a much more bracing movie and if there was ever going to be a solid update to a real survival horror flick with a shark, you aren’t going to do better than this.
And here’s a plus: all of the movie’s scenes do not take place at night. Nearly every bit of the action happens during the day time; bright and shining sun up above (minus the climax). How often does that shit happen? Kudos for this movie to have the temerity to try and pull that off and succeed with flying colors.
And I never get tired of good underwater and surfing cinematography. Clear blue oceans never stop being gorgeous.
Steering away from all the positive I have to say, why was this movie PG-13? I mean with all the creature violence and detailed injuries in the movie, I feel like this should have been rated R. Not really a complaint, just… weird.
And I did mention there were some imperfect moments. There’s this scene were a drunk local appears in the movie and the predictability meter in my head went haywire. You know exactly what this guy is going to do the moment he appears on screen (though this scene does go from painfully predictable to happily predictable pretty quickly). You could have cut this bit out and the movie would have progressed just fine. Although, clocking in at under an hour and thirty minutes, I guess if they hadn’t had this scene, it would have been categorized as a short film.
Also, and this is the stupidest moment in the movie, when you hear someone shout “SHARK!!!” at you when you’re in the ocean, no human being would ever shout back, “there’s no sharks out here!” These particular characters could have easily heeded her warning and still got themselves eaten without being written as total fuck-tards.
Honestly, this movie was pretty damn good in my opinion. With some tweeks to a couple of scenes, this would have been a great film. But as it is, it’s incredibly well-done, very intense, and ridiculously engaging and satisfying. If you like a good story about survival against the odds, this is highly recommended.
My honest rating: a strong 4/5
- INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE