(dir. Jaume Collet-Serra)
*First time viewing
A woman is stranded a short distance offshore by a shark.
Animal horror isn’t really my thing, but sometimes they surprise me (Backcountry, for example). Since I’d heard great things about The Shallows I figured I’d give it a shot, if for no reason other than to continue to use these yearly 31 Days of Horror posts to celebrate the diversity of the genre. So let’s dive in.
The Shallows is a beautiful looking film. Flavio Labiano’s cinematography is lush, colorful, and exotic. There’s a wonderful sense of surrounding, and the film never becomes disorienting, or visually murky even during the underwater scenes. The clarity of images is truly noteworthy, and the film looks great on Blu-Ray. On the performance side of things, this truly is a one woman show and Blake Lively turns in a solid performance as Nancy, a former med student looking for purpose and coping with the death of her mother. The film claws for the viewer’s sympathy but I never found myself caring about Nancy, her past, or her future. This is no fault of Lively’s, but a fault of the film as a whole. Despite looking beautiful, The Shallows is mostly tedious to sit through, and the cinematography and Lively’s performance can only carry the film so far. But the shark saves it, right? Well…
The Shallows is exactly the film the trailers promised: a simple story of surfer girl vs shark that doesn’t add anything to the aquatic horror subgenre. I’d expected something more after the rave reviews, and that’s my fault, but at the same time The Shallows doesn’t even fulfill the basics of survival and shark horror stories in my book. We’ve seen so many survival movies that I expect new cinematic experiences to be harrowing in their realism. The Shallows isn’t; the danger Nancy faces rarely feels real and her battle against the shark loses authenticity with every minute. It doesn’t help that the CGI shark doesn’t look great. There’s a lack of weight to it, that makes it impossible to feel any sense of threat. But a fake looking shark isn’t the big issue. The big issue is that when the shark is off-screen, it’s presence isn’t felt. What Jaws managed to do so well is make audiences afraid of something they rarely saw, something with a presence that could be felt in every ocean set scene. For a film that takes place almost entirely in the ocean, there’s rarely any sense of tension and at times I found myself forgetting the shark was even in the waters around Nancy. Instead of existing for horror, the shark exists as a finned plot device so that Nancy can recover from her loss and rediscover she’s really good at med school. By the end, The Shallows becomes far too sappy a film, backed by too little moments of hardship and introspection to really feel genuine.
Scare Factor: 0/5 I’m on minority on this one and some of you, either into animal horror or simply curious about the film, may really enjoy it. For me, The Shallows is just nice scenery I’ll never visit again.
**Available to rent at Redbox