Horror Movie Review: The Shallows (2016)

There are more than 500 documented phobias in the world. One of the most common being Galeophobia or the extreme fear of sharks. Sufferers of this phobia are extremely afraid of going near oceans, lakes, rivers, on ships and boats. Even visiting aquariums or zoos despite the fact that sharks are safely restricted behind sturdy glass windows. Interestingly, the most likely cause for Galeophobia would be how sharks have been portrayed in media. 41 years ago, Jaws was released and things have never been the same for the species known as Selachimorpha (sharks).

Throughout the years they’ve been portrayed as devious, vicious creatures that love nothing more than the taste of human flesh. My point is that sharks get a bad rap. It’s something that isn’t even based on very many real life incidents. Even the name “Shark” is defined as an all-round bad guy. Attacks on humans are extremely rare and when they do happen it’s always because the shark mistakes the human for a seal or other marine mammal.

The Shallows is the latest Hollywood attempt at “the shark” movie and one that was highly successful & critically acclaimed. The razor toothed, black eyed fish is right up there as one of the most profitable movie villains of all time.

The film opens with a young boy kicking a soccer ball along the shore of a beach. He finds a GoPro camera attached to a helmet washed up on the surf which he picks up. The video on the GoPro is of a man struggling to get out of the water and onto a rock only to be dragged under and killed by an enormous shark.

Shortly after the death of her mother. Medical student Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) travels to a secluded beach in Mexico to surf, which is also the same beach her mother surfed at after finding out she was pregnant with Nancy many years before. Nancy gets a ride to the beach from Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), a friendly local resident. He refuses to tell her the beach’s name, saying only that it is paradise. After arriving at the beach, Nancy joins two other local residents and the three surf for several hours.

THE SHALLOWS

I understand the motivation as to why Nancy feels compelled to visit the beach. Still, getting into a car with a complete stranger and driving through a forest to a secluded area isn’t very smart, just saying. Also, it’s not very smart to continue to surf when the two people you’re with who know the area better than you recommend you stop.

While waiting for a wave, Nancy notices the carcass of a large humpback whale floating about twenty yards away. While riding her last wave back to the beach, a large great white shark bumps her surf board, causing her to fall and hit her head on a submerged rock. As she surfaces to her board, the shark bites her leg, pulling her under. Nancy crawls onto the whale carcass. She stays there until the shark rams it from underneath. Nancy swims to an isolated rock, where she places an improvised tourniquet. This consists of her surfboard strap, her earrings, and the sleeve of her wetsuit. The two locals depart, unaware of Nancy’s situation, leaving Nancy to spend the night on the rock. Her only companion is a wounded seagull, whom she names Steven, after Steven Seagal.

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Steven is the true star of the movie; he steals every single scene he is in.

The remainder of the film consists of Nancy stranded desperately close from shore. She has nothing more than her will to survive. Giving everything to escape the blood thirsty beast below. There are plenty of close calls, tense moments and glimmers of hope. Unfortunately, for Nancy there is more than just an emotionless killer to contend with.

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The Shallows is less of a horror movie and more a thriller. It’s a story about survival and the very human will to live. Going in, I thought I’d be getting a much more grounded and realistic take on a shark attack movie. It’s not really that at all which surprised me but in a good way. The Shark ignores the enormous carcass of a whale just to hunt down a 130 pound woman, madness. When I say hunt down I mean that this thing is determined & calculated to get her in a way that quickly loses any question of realism as it goes on. Still, it’s not trying to be realistic and that’s fine with me.

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You don’t see the shark much; it’s there for pretty much the entire movie but it’s of course the knowing that it is there that is enough to add fear rather than seeing it. The brief glimpses you are given are more than enough, no question it looks like a shark alright.

The best thing about the film would probably have to be the convincing performance of Blake Lively (Nancy). She is onscreen alone for practically the entire movie which couldn’t have been an easy task and she does do an excellent job. You feel her pain as she stiches her wounds and root for her through each struggle.

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The Shallows struggles with the parts in between shark related incidents, it drags somewhat. I never really cared much for the story arc involving Nancy, her family and her mother’s death. It gave some purpose to the whole thing but I wouldn’t say I felt very emotionally invested in that side of movie. There are a couple of scenes where you’re just watching Nancy lay there and nothing much happens, it’s a little bit boring to be honest.

Anyway, I won’t reveal whether or not Nancy actually escapes. I will say that I found the final showdown nothing short of hilarious. I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. The actual ending sucks though….

The Shallows is a solid shark movie with some really nice visuals. It doesn’t reinvent anything in particular but it adds a couple of modern touches that help make it feel unique enough.

The Shallows
  • 7/10
    The Final Score - 7/10
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