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John’s Horror Corner: The Shallows (2016), Blake Lively’s bikini meets Jaws (1975) and Castaway (2000) in this fun shark attack thriller.

May 19, 2017

MY CALL:  Fans of shark attack films and fun yet nerve-wracking movies that make you yell at the screen and smile.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The ShallowsProbably Bait 3D (2012; B-movie), The Reef (2010), Open Water (2003), Jaws (1975), Shark Night 3D (2011) and Deep Blue Sea (1999; over the top). If you want something sillier there’s Piranha (1978), Piranha 3D (2010) and Piranha 3DD (2012).

This film’s tone makes for a nice change of pace amid the bad shark movie extravaganza that has filled the last decade (e.g., Sharktopus, Mega Shark, Sharknado 1-4, Sand Sharks, Megalodon, Megashark vs. Giant Crocosaurus, Snow Shark, Megashark vs. Giant Octopus, Jersey Shore Shark Attack, Dinoshark, Attack of the Jurassic Shark, Jaws in Japan, Ghost Shark, Malibu Shark Attack, Super Shark, Swamp Shark, 12 Days of Terror, Two-Headed shark Attack, Shark Swarm, Sharks in Venice, Spring Break Shark Attack, Shark Attack in the Mediterranean, Red Water, Hammerhead, Shark Lakeneed I go on?).

Let me just start by saying this film is GORGEOUSLY shot.  Taking a break from Liam Neeson’s never-ending “old man action film” comeback, Jaume Collet-Serra (Run All Night, Non-Stop, Unknown, Taken) does a phenomenal job capturing the hidden beauty of such sights cameras typically fail to do justice.  Yes, there are some camera angles favoring the curve of Blake Lively’s butt and, well, other curves.  But don’t let that distract you—not too much anyway LOL—from the elegance of all else the camera captures when not swooning her form.  The colors and lighting are crisp perfection.  This feels like watching Blue Planet (2001) or Planet Earth (2006) in HD.

After losing her mother to a long battle with cancer, Nancy (Blake Lively; Age of Adeline, Savages) visits the very Mexican hideaway her mother once surfed.  Exquisite use of screen-on-screen phone tech gives us a sense of Nancy’s unflagging independence and determination during her personal walkabout while identifying her desire to remain connected.  Almost instantly, Nancy is a most personable character and we understand the organic relationships she has with her hungover travel mate and her kid sister.  I was also impressed with the likability of her kind driver (Óscar Jaenada; Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger Tides, The Losers) who, despite an endearingly moderate language barrier, had a lot to say.

Once dropped off at the secret beach that perfectly matched her mother’s photos, she takes to the water—the fantastically serene, perfect, beautiful water—with some of the action-shots of her rides rivaling Blue Crush (2002) and admonishing marginal glimpses of the ocean’s rocky floor.    She makes some passing friendly acquaintance and submits to the call of the waves until she’s the last one in the crystal water.  Everything was just so…but then it happened!

Clouding the water with lacy wisps of blood, she claws at the gaping wounds of a nearby mauled whale (of all things), terrified of her unseen assailant.  Her independence is all she has now.  She’s in for the fight of her life. With a wounded leg, a desperate sprinting swim to a submerged rock finds the company of an injured seagull, unable to fly and nervously chirping with every little tidal splash.  Chittering all affright, I was so warmed when Nancy fed the gull a crab.

This movie has taught me a few things about myself…

  1. Never in all my life of being plagued by these birds while eating my lunch on the beach would I have thought this, but I’ve never wanted to adopt and love a seagull so much in my life! That bird deserved a Best Supporting Actor nod but got robbed like Wilson (Castaway).  I kept shifting from being nervous for Nancy and awing over the bird. We even discussed the gull in our podcast (Ep 83: The Best Non-Human Characters of 2016).

  2. Flare guns no longer offer me any sense of security.

  3. Apparently, I yell a lot during buoy scenes.

  4. I have a newfound fear and respect for jellyfish.

  5. This shark was sent back from the future fully equipped with a T-800 cybernetic endoskeleton produced by SkyNet®. That’s literally the ONLY explanation I have for this thing’s strength and unwavering focus.

Let’s be honest. We all know what’s gonna’ happen. She’s going to get in the water to make a run for it, the shark will appear, and she’ll scramble back to safety.  It’ll probably even happen more than once. Yes, we all know this. So, imagine my pleasure when it happens and I instantly clench up and get nervous for her as if I didn’t see it all coming.  Jaume Collet-Serra (also House of Wax, Orphan) is no stranger to horror and he seems now to have a better grasp of it than ever…and well-complemented by his skills acquired in recent action-suspense films.  So, every time Nancy dips her toe in the water, we are nervous!  And when the shark attack scenes come, they are intense!

Enjoy this film. It’s the kind of nerve-wracking suspense you know and see coming, but it’s still fun to experience every time.  Plus, it’s fun yelling at the TV if you’re like me and get really involved. Don’t trust me? Then check out Mark’s review—he loved it, too.

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