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The Reef: Stalked (2022) – Review

July 27, 2022

Quick Thoughts – Grade – C+ – Directed by Andrew Traucki (The Reef, Black Water, Black Water: Abyss), The Reef: Stalked is a better-than-average survival thriller that eschews typical genre tropes and instead focuses on the relationship between four friends who are forced to deal with a hungry (and very jerky) great white shark. 

What’s refreshing about The Reef: Stalked is how it relies on putting likable characters (who like each other) in a somewhat believable life or death situation. Director Andrew Traucki has made a name for himself by making grounded survival thrillers that feature actual shark/crocodile footage and actors who try their best to elevate the B-level material. The biggest issue with The Reef: Stalked is the laughable VFX that drags the film down and makes you remember that you’re watching a low-budget shark flick. However, the movie is aided by an on-location shoot in Australia that provides good looking production design and wide open spaces (via strategic camerawork to avoid the beaches they filmed on) that make it much better than movies like Great White, which was partially filmed on a soundstage. 

The Reef: Stalked begins with a doozy of an opening that most audiences will never suspect (or have any reason to suspect). After a day of diving, Nic (Teressa Liane), Jodie (Ann Truong), Lisa (Kate Lister), and Cath (Bridget Burt) are interrupted by Greg (Tim Ross), Cath’s husband who is clearly a very angry man. Later on that day, Nic gets a call from Greg and when she comes over to his home, she finds Greg with scratches on his face, and Cath dead in a bathtub. It’s a horrible discovery that forces her to leave for India where she travels for nine months while her younger sister Annie (Saskia Archer) is forced to manage the funeral, take care of their depressed mother, and deal with her own demons. Annie and Nic are reunited when they join Jodie and Lisa for an island-hopping kayak trip to celebrate the memory of Cath. Since it’s a shark film, they are attacked almost immediately and they’re forced to keep traveling so they can save the life of a young girl who was also attacked by the jerky great white shark. What follows is a shark film that refreshingly doesn’t get as mean as movies like The Reef, Black Water, and Black Water: Abyss

The movie isn’t always exciting, but after watching Great White and Shark Bait, I appreciated that Traucki tried to do something different with The Reef: Stalked. Having Nic be riddled with post-traumatic stress is a bold move, and I think Teressa Liane does a fine job of pulling off a character who is coping with the murder of her sister while having to deal with a shark who wants to eat her other sister. The performances are all-around solid, but they are let down by cheaply-staged action that changes the abilities of the shark for story needs. For instance, the shark can explode through pontoons, but it can’t tip over a kayak moments later. Also, even though the shark is capable of ripping people apart, it can’t bite through a life vest which must be made from the strongest material ever created. The biggest turnoff for people expecting shark mayhem is that The Reef: Stalked really isn’t about mayhem. Traucki has stated that he wasn’t interested in making another shark movie, but since they can get made easily he decided to lower the body count and focus more on sisterhood. I think Traucki’s ambition elevates the low-budget material, but it will turn off casual viewers looking for blood geysers. If you can wrap your head around the more nuanced plot (for a shark movie), you’ll find things to like.

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