THE SHALLOWS Review
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cinemagoers eager to dive into the ocean this weekend have two choices. They can enjoy the heartwarming, whimsical tale of a forgetful, animated fish with FINDING DORY. Or, they can watch a bikini-clad Blake Lively fight a shark. Sorry, Pixar. I’m going with THE SHALLOWS.
The setup is simple. Nancy (Lively), a surfer mourning the death of her mother, hits the waves off a secluded beach in Mexico. After coming across a half-eaten, floating whale carcass, Nancy quickly discovers the culprit: Mr. Great White Shark. Severely injured and alone, Nancy finds herself stranded 200 yards from shore on a slab of rock with the tide slowly rising.
“You’re gonna need a bigger rock”
When I think sharksploitation, I think low-budget and direct-to-video. Since JAWS, I can only think of a handful of decent shark movies. (Actually, make that two: DEEP BLUE SEA and OPEN WATER.) The success of THE SHALLOWS can be almost entirely credited to Lively. She carries the movie with her bold, physically demanding performance. The desperation of the situation is sold on her face as she grows continually pale from blood loss and hypothermia. A medical school student, Nancy even attempts to haphazardly stitch a leg wound, leaving the entire theater wincing.
Who needs Pixar?
Director Jaume Collet-Serra expertly builds tension through ominous sound design and creative camerawork. The camera bobs in and out of the water. There’s a major sense of dread with every dip, as the audience awaits the inevitable appearance of the ticked off, underwater beast. I urge everyone to avoid trailers for the movie because at least one of them spoils, arguably, the best scare.
THE SHALLOWS is lean and mean, with special emphasis on lean. Light on plot even at only 87 minutes long, certain elements of the movie seem awkwardly included to pad the runtime, or to add any sort of depth to the story. Nancy’s internal struggle with the loss of her mom is underexplored. Over the course of the movie, Nancy befriends an injured seagull, which I assume is supposed to symbolically represent her dead mother? It’s strange.
The real MVP
The music video-esque surfing montages toward the beginning also cheapen the movie a bit. The effects are hit and miss, with the shark sometimes looking disturbingly lifelike and other times like it came straight out of the Syfy channel. Still, THE SHALLOWS is a fun summer horror film. It’s thrilling. It’s sexy. No, it’s not breaking any new ground, even in the shark subgenre, but it’s a solid little B-movie.