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Quint checks out Aussie sharksploitation flick THE REEF at Fantasia 2011!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. By now you know that if I see a shark movie playing a film festival that I’m there, right?

For obvious reasons I have a big soft spot in my heart for sharksploitation films. It’s an odd subgenre fetish to have since there’s not very many good entries into that genre. There are for more good to great croc and gator movies than shark flicks, but if there’s a fin in the water I’ll be there.

I was incredibly disappointed with Open Water when I saw it. It took a great idea and did it so on the cheap with a cast of scumbags (not the actors, let me be clear on that… but the characters as written) that I never cared one bit for those people stuck in the water.

The Reef is a similar concept, but it’s done like a real movie with real production value and at least a stab at making some of the shark food sympathetic.

I knew the movie was on the right track early on when our group of would be sailors were stocking up and observe a wall of shark jaws, all caught in the same Australian waters these poor bastards were about to travel. It’s a nice ominous moment that might be a tad on the nose, but effective nonetheless.

This group is small. You have a brother, his girlfriend, the sister, the sister’s semi-ex boyfriend and a hired hand out sailing to a new spot, a beautiful tiny island out in the middle of nowhere. You get the feeling that the brother (Gyton Grantley) is trying to hook his sister (Zoe Naylor) back up with our main character (Damian Walshe-Howling) after we’re told they’re relationship has cooled.

Walshe-Howling is the able-bodied seaman, a man at home in the ocean, that knows the tides backwards and forwards and becomes the point man when their boat scrapes bottom on a reef, stranding them all.

We get enough time to get to know these people, to like them all, before they’re dunked, so I gave a shit when they were stranded (take note Open Water). The really interesting thing is that the boat is inoperable and belly up, but still floating, so there’s a crossroads. The boat is in a current taking it further out to sea, but has an older SOS device (that unfortunately only catches the attention of passing planes and they’re outside of all flight routes), so they could stay on the boat, which will surely sink eventually, or make a 12-ish mile swim through shark-infested waters in the direction Walshe-Howling’s Luke thinks there’s land.

It’s the best dilemma in the movie because it’s the only one the characters seem to have any say in how it turns out. And it’s also the scariest to me. I sometimes wonder how I’d react in a situation like this. Would I be petrified with fear or take action? Nobody really knows until they’re in a situation like the one presented here.


It’s a gamble either way… stay on the boat and float out to sea with almost no food or water, hoping to be spotted, or jump into shark-infested water and swim toward the horizon because one guy claims there’s land that way.

It’s a fucked if you do, fucked if you don’t scenario and I find those fascinating because whichever side the characters fall on tells us more about them than any amount of dialogue. It’s a great storytelling device and it’s used very well here not only to tell us about the characters, but also to set up the tension for the swim to come. The strongest character, Warren the hired hand (Kieran Darcy-Smith), a man’s man if there ever was one, won’t get back into the water. “I fish these waters. I know what’s out there.”

So he sends off our group with that ringing in their ears.

The rest of the movie is our go-getters making their way to land. Unfortunately for them they attract a Great White Shark who spends the second half of the movie toying with them and picking them off one by one.

There’s a lot of tension here, but unfortunately the attacks get very repetitive… Someone sees something in the distance, Luke puts on his mask, ducks underwater for a look… sees nothing… then maybe something. Then a fin, the shark circles, everybody panics and the shark either goes away or fucks up someone’s day.

They do this multiple times and if they had been able to vary up the scares and tension this could be a great film. Instead it’s a good movie, a successful shark flick that is an easy recommend for me, but not one I’d say you’ll necessarily fall in love with.

The shark photography is fantastic, though. I’m sure there was some compositing done to get the actors in the same frame with the real life great white, but however they did it it works.

Acting, photography, tension all get high marks. Negative points for the repetition, but that still gives The Reef a passing grade, especially for my fellow sharksploitation fans out there.



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  • July 17, 2011, 1:34 p.m. CST


    by Fritzlorrerains

  • July 17, 2011, 1:39 p.m. CST

    I'll have to check this one out, thanks Quint.

    by Lucky13

  • July 17, 2011, 1:40 p.m. CST

    Want to see it

    by stewarco

    Always up for a good croc, gator, or shark film. A friend just suggested Black Water and Rogue. Enjoyed them both. I thought Open Water was ok, the second one was horrible.

  • July 17, 2011, 1:45 p.m. CST

    INDIANAPOLIS does not exist in this dojo

    by Cobra--Kai

    We get this and Open Water but... we can't get an INDIANAPOLIS movie?! Quint please have a whisper in your new best buddy Steven's ear and plant the seed... he must be finishing up with WAR HORSE and TINTIN by now. And surely that Robopocalypse nonsense can be put on the back burner... Make INDIANAPOLIS happen!

  • July 17, 2011, 1:57 p.m. CST

    Cobra-Kai, that's a a pretty strange suggestion

    by Proman1984

    Why would he do an Indianopolis movie? 99% of the people on AICN would immediately accuse him of [insert negative comment here]. That and Robopocalypse sounds preety sweet and is could be the most truly horror-like film his done in a while. Don't piss on something you don'quite understand.

  • July 17, 2011, 2:14 p.m. CST

    Open Water 2..

    by Bodacious_Crumb

    ...was actually miles better than the first one. I think they should've distanced that film from the first one and entitled it different.

  • July 17, 2011, 2:14 p.m. CST

    Where does the 'sploitation come in, exactly?

    by Jarek

    That's kind of a stupid term for a shark-based thriller. Adding 'sploitation seems to be a buzz word - where are the exploitation elements in THE REEF exactly? Is there nudity and sex for the sake of it? Over the top violence that doesn't serve the story and exists only to titillate? No? Then the addition of 'sploitation makes zero sense. This is a tense thriller involving a shark.

  • July 17, 2011, 2:31 p.m. CST

    Does Grantley's character

    by King Sweyn Forkbeard

    Pay DWH to kill anyone in this? <P> I'm not watching if he doesn't.

  • July 17, 2011, 2:39 p.m. CST

    Best shark film since JAWS.

    by DanboJohnJ

    Watched it yesterday,scared the crap out of me.Had me screaming at the TV.

  • July 17, 2011, 2:44 p.m. CST

    The choice ...


    Without ANY food or water you have to swim for it ... But not everyone can swim for 12 miles or more ... Tricky. I can't swim ... so I'm fucked either way.

  • July 17, 2011, 2:54 p.m. CST

    Very repetitive.

    by Dru

    I was at the screening yesterday as well, and I also found the film to be really repetitive in the "swimming for land" portion. Quint said it exactly right: over and over, it's just, "Hey, I think I saw something", then the protagonist looks underwater, either sees something or doesn't, and then everybody reacts accordingly. I did think the film was really good at prolonging moments of tension, but they rarely paid off in an interesting way. (There's one time where the lead is looking around, and it's really tense, and then he opens a cabinet, there's a huge surge on the soundtrack, and then je just just calmly takes something out of the cabinet. Completely banal.) Another gripe would be that the photography makes it really unclear what is happening in certain key moments - particularly when the thing happens to the boat that makes it turn over. It comes out of nowhere, which is fine, but visually the scene doesn't make it clear what's happening, who is where, etc. I understand that that may have been intentional, but it still felt sloppy.

  • July 17, 2011, 3:36 p.m. CST

    The Poster is better than the movie

    by hallmitchell

    The movie was released in Australia. It disappeared after one week. It is very repetitive. I'm glad Quint liked it. Yet his review is more glowing than a double rainbow.

  • July 17, 2011, 3:46 p.m. CST

    Simple Choice

    by The Bear

    I'll stay in the boat. Those that want to swim for it, make sure to tell the police and every Coast Guard around I'm out here when (if) you make it. If you don't...well, I still made the right choice.

  • July 17, 2011, 3:53 p.m. CST

    The Reef is a great film

    by lookylookymoontard

    Pure entertainment! scared the crap out of me,also the Shark scenes are brilliantly done,see it!

  • July 17, 2011, 4:15 p.m. CST

    Just put this on my netflix yesterday!

    by sonnyfern

    Glad to see that Quint dug it!

  • July 17, 2011, 4:17 p.m. CST

    Cobra Kai...I think there WAS an INDIANAPOLIS movie

    by sonnyfern

    I could've SWORN I saw something based on that event years ago...but I do believe it was a made for TV movie! Can't remember if it sucked or not.

  • July 17, 2011, 4:21 p.m. CST

    So, these people are IDIOTS from the start...?

    by Big Dumb Ape

    I love, love, love monster movies -- and like most people who saw JAWS on the big screen back when it first premiered, I consider big fish like Great White Sharks to be real life monsters. But what made JAWS so brilliant is that everyone is true to life and acts naturally. The people act like people and the shark...well, it acts like a predator and force of nature. As a side parallel, it's like DIE HARD, which is another movie/screenplay that I love because it never insults your intelligence. As a villain, Alan Rickman is cool and smart and has his master plan worked out to the last detail -- even the Feds cutting the power or trying to bring in a helicopter. On the flip side, you have Bruce Willis doing everything that you...sitting in your seat as an audience member...would also naturally think about doing ("Run and hide! Pull the fire alarm! Throw something out a window! Fuck! Head for the roof!") That said, what makes me roll my eyes about this movie...and sight unseen makes me wonder "What the Hell? Is this a bad SyFy Channel movie?" the core premise that these people are adventurous enough to go boating...or have the money to afford that kind of trip, which likewise implies they're successful in life and have got SOME bit of functioning brain wattage... ...Yet they're still STUPID ENOUGH to get on a boat without a functioning radio, that can reach land in case of trouble. I mean, give me a break! You can't say in one sentence: "Walshe-Howling is the able-bodied seaman, a man at home in the ocean, that knows the tides backwards and forwards"... ...And say in another sentence: Warren the hired hand (Kieran Darcy-Smith), a man’s man if there ever was one, won’t get back into the water. “I fish these waters. I know what’s out there"... ...And THEN expect me to believe that in a fish bait cast of only 5 people that 2 of the 5 -- BOTH of whom are supposedly knowledgeable or able bodied seamen -- DIDN'T make sure that a working radio was on board. Or some sort of floating beacon device that would likewise attract attention. But I like doofy, stupid movies as well. So, I'll probably catch this on video at some point. Or on the SyFy Channel when they run it as part of some "Shark Day"...

  • July 17, 2011, 5:03 p.m. CST

    It was a better movie than OPEN WATER..

    by BeanGrud

    Saw it this weekend, not bad! I wish they'd do a scene with the old 10 foot high shark jump blasting outta the water, though.

  • July 17, 2011, 5:13 p.m. CST

    Indianapolis movie

    by lochkray

    It was called Mission of the Shark: Saga of the USS Indianapolis. I remember watching it. It wasn't bad for a TV movie. Had David Caruso in it.

  • July 17, 2011, 5:18 p.m. CST

    it loses it about 2/3rds through

    by IWasInJuniorHighDickhead

    and like Quint says, things get very repetitive and it just...ends.

  • July 17, 2011, 5:19 p.m. CST

    semi spoiler

    by IWasInJuniorHighDickhead

    I'd have spent a lot more time raiding whatever was left on the boat. Then again, the tide was against them so it would have made more sense to just get going.

  • July 17, 2011, 5:20 p.m. CST

    big dumb ape

    by mossad77

    It's based on a true story. You want the writers to change how the individuals involved acted, just so that it makes more sense? People make big mistakes all the time. Live long enough and you'll find that out. Hopefully not the way those poor guys did...

  • July 17, 2011, 6:54 p.m. CST


    by The Reef

    This film is SO not for me.

  • July 17, 2011, 8 p.m. CST


    by loganprometheus

    It's based on a true story from 1983, when a trawler sunk, and 3 people were left to try to swim to a reef. Only one of them made it. So the movie is different in that it takes place in modern day, and the people are all different. I guess a modern boat should have better safety equipment, but then again people do fuck up and just think nothing will happen. I guess this film should serve as a good reminder to folks to stock up their boat with life rafts, rations and emergency beacons.

  • July 17, 2011, 10:24 p.m. CST

    Don't get Open Water hate frankly

    by Andrew Coleman

    The movie was about two immature people stuck out in the middle of the ocean. The two acted like two immature dumb fuck Americans stuck in the ocean. The shark scenes were filled with tension. I think most of the negativity is because the movie was liked when it came out... So as most self loathing dip shits do they hate on it. The second Open Water should have been a stand alone film. Again it's about arrogant morons who make a really bad decision and pay for it. Two interesting movies. I'll check this one out. But I think the "we're stuck in the ocean" type of films need to stop for a while.

  • July 18, 2011, 2:49 a.m. CST

    DTV does not exist in this dojo

    by Cobra--Kai

    Thanks for the info, I didn't know there was an INDIANAPOLIS film already but made for tv are three little words of warning for any movie fan! Mission of the Shark: Saga of the USS Indianapolis... eh? Hmm catchy title! I'll wait (and probably wait and wait and wait) for the Spielberg version!

  • July 18, 2011, 2:59 a.m. CST

    Agree with Cobra GIVE US INDIANAPOLIS

    by mygirleatsbannanas

  • July 18, 2011, 4:07 a.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    mygirleatsbannanas... you win the best new tb name of the week prize!

  • July 18, 2011, 5:07 a.m. CST

    The Sperm

    by KilliK

    Pray that you swallow it last. The Sperm From the director of Biggus Blackus Dickus

  • July 18, 2011, 6:07 a.m. CST

    Anyone interested in the INDIANAPOLIS


    should read IN HARM'S WAY by Doug Stanton. The sharks took a lot of men but so did hallucinations, dehydration and sun-stroke induced madness. Stick a bunch of armed men in the sea for days with no food, water, shelter or hope and crazy stuff happens. Then when they got home the USN blamed the Captain, (who saved hundreds of men by his actions during the sinking and then in the water) for their own systemic problems and hung him out to dry. It took the surviving crew years of campaigning to exonerate him and by then he'd committed suicide. Tragedy piled on tragedy.

  • July 18, 2011, 7:24 a.m. CST

    Sounds good

    by fpuk99

  • July 18, 2011, 10:51 a.m. CST

    There was a TV movie made about the Indianapolis

    by seasider

    in 1991. I never saw Open Water but Open Water 2 was on one of the dumbest movies ever made. I mean the whole plot is a group of people jump off a boat forgetting to put the ladder out and they die trying to climb back on. There's no sharks, just stupidity.

  • July 18, 2011, 11:43 a.m. CST

    jimbocop -- Sounds like a fun read!!

    by Lucky13

    ... Maybe I could slam my balls in a door for a few hours to approximate the enjoyment.

  • July 18, 2011, 1:31 p.m. CST


    by ttomato

    Stereotypes of whatever word precedes the "sploitation" is what's being exploited... sharks-, blacks-, etc.

  • July 18, 2011, 5:06 p.m. CST

    I can sum the film up for you (SPOILERS)

    by loafroaster

    *Sink* Swim swim swim What was that? CHOMP Swim swim swim What was that? Oh, it was a dolphin AHAHAHAHA CHOMP Swim swim swim Help me up! CHOMP

  • July 18, 2011, 5:11 p.m. CST

    The characters in Open Water were scumbags?

    by Knuckleduster

    Please explain.

  • July 18, 2011, 10:06 p.m. CST

    they were scumbags in Open WAter 2, not the first

    by chien_sale