Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days. That said, there were more on this list that DID have a theatrical run than in previous years which means the horror genre does seem to be on the upswing. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2015 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
THE SHALLOWS (2016)aka IN THE DEEP
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by Anthony Jaswinski
Starring Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Sharks scare the shit out of me. I can watch werewolves, zombies, serial killers, the most gut-churning gore, and any other beastie the horror genre tosses at me, but sharks are the one thing that will have my heart pumping and my feet pulled up to my chin more than anything. I spent most of the time tapping my leg in nervous tension while watching THE SHALLOWS, which is a surefire indication that this shark movie is one of the best killer shark films in ages.
The premise is about as simple as it comes. After losing her mother to cancer, Nancy (Blake Lively) tracks down a secret beach her mother went to before she was born to surf and reminisce about what to do next with her life. With her friend left hung over in the hotel room, Nancy goes to this hidden cove alone. After running into a pair of surfers and catching a few waves, Nancy comes across the carcass of a whale floating near her and finds herself in the feeding ground of a very large and very mean great white shark. Wounded and trapped only a few hundred yards from the beach, Nancy fights the elements, the tides, and a big fucking shark in hopes to survive.
This is a (wo)man vs. nature story at its simplest. Apart from Lively talking herself through this problematic scenario, much of this film is simply hard core action with stakes that are most dire. There is an intensity in the way Jaume Collet-Serra makes this film as he gets the camera up close to Lively trapped on a rock yards from the beach and even into the mouth of that horrifying shark. There is not much by way of quiet and calm moments here. Even though a day passes in the timeframe of the film, there is never a moment that felt dull or pointless. The lead in to this perilous situation is short and quick, but even then, Collet-Serra manages to show us things you haven’t seen before by going into the surf and watching these surfer do their thing under and above the waves. One of the more terrifying techniques the director used to make me need a new change of underwear was the way he places the camera right on the crest of the water, so we as the viewer get to peek quickly under the waves. Knowing this is a shark movie, I knew a shark was coming, so every time Collet-Serra gives us a glimpse, I found myself scanning everything I could see in order to make sure the coast was clear. This technique is used throughout the film and it got me on edge every damn time.
While JAWS may be a fantastic film, there are scenes where the shark just doesn’t do it for me. It was a sign of the times and while it still manages to terrify my, I was hoping and waiting for a film to come along and make a scarier shark. While JAWS remains king, I dub THE SHALLOWS queen of the shark movies given the gender of its hero and the shark in this one is pants-shittingly horrifying. Again, by using the continuous undulation of the waves and putting the camera right on the edge of the water, Collet-Serra embraces the element of surprise and allows for some moments where the shark leaps right out of the water and into your face. See this film with an audience if you can. I don’t think I have ever heard screams as loud as the ones I heard from the audience while watching this movie. The attack scenes are nightmare fuel and as I write this review the night of seeing it, I don’t look forward to going to bed tonight. I’m sure the shark was CG, but it looked amazing and terrifyingly real all the way through.
Collet-Serra even references JAWS, but not in an annoying way. Imagine if the whole of JAWS took place in the first segment with the girl swimming at night and that buoy. That’s pretty much what THE SHALLOWS is. The buoy itself plays a major role in this one and makes for the setting of one of the most brilliant climaxes I’ve seen in ages as Nancy clings to it for dear life as the shark batters away at it from all sides.
One of the things I often see folks criticizing mainly the JAWS sequels and less of the original is the fact that the shark develops a human-like hunger for revenge, which makes things feel less believable. While the shark is relentless in THE SHALLOWS, it feels less angry as it is simply always hungry and prefers moving prey rather than the carcass of the whale which is floating just a few yards away from Nancy. Sure the shark is determined to get Nancy, but it never feels like it is anything more than an animal looking for its prey. For Nancy, this story is personal. But in this film, the shark’s motivation seems to purely be hunger, which makes it feel less contrived and more believable.
Marvel movies blundered big time by choosing Brie Larson for their CAPTAIN MARVEL as Blake Lively proved herself as a tough as nails action star that can carry a movie charismatically and capably. She’s absolutely gorgeous and scrumptious in a bikini, but despite her beauty there’s a thoughtfulness and likability to her sincere smile, her furrowed brow, and her gritted teeth here. While there are bigger movies out there this summer, nothing has yet topped the experience I had watching THE SHALLOWS. Lively proves she has star power to the max here and director Collet-Serra shows us that there can be more than one shark in the shark movie subgenre. I absolutely loved this film and hope people go see it this weekend. It will definitely make you rethink that beach vacation and have you thanking that you are walking out of the theater on dry land.
#7 – THE SHALLOWS
#8 – THE BOY
#9 – TRAIN TO BUSAN
#10 - KRAMPUS
#11 – AVA’S POSSESSIONS
#12 – BODY
#13 – THE WAILING
#14 – THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE
#15 – DEATHGASM
#16 – 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
#17 – DER BUNKER
#18 – HUSH
#19 – HOLIDAYS
#20– CARNAGE PARK
#21 – THE CONJURING 2
#22 – THE MIND’S EYE
#23 – DARLING
#24 – SUN CHOKE
#25 – THE HALLOWS
#26 – OVER YOUR DEAD BODY
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – EMELIE
#29 – BASKIN
#30 – I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
2015 #1 – THE CANAL
2014 #1 – PROXY
2013 #1 - MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.
A quick plug for my own work. I have a new comic book coming out this December called THE JUNGLE BOOK HOLIDAY SPECIAL: BAGHEERA’S SECRET. It’s a one shot reteaming my original JUNGLE BOOK artist Carlos Granda and myself (the same team who created PIROUETTE) and it is available to order now via Previews order# OCT162113. I’m getting pages of this book by the day and this book looks absolutely amazing so far. Fans of jungle adventure are going to love it! Please support me by telling your local comic book store to order tons of issues of this comic! Much appreciated, folks.
Look for Johnny Destructo, Stephen Andrade, Christian DiBari, and my own ramblings about random horror films on CultPop/PoptardsGo and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday (or so…)!
Finally, if you’re having problems with the texts going over the image in this article, refresh the screen and that should do the trick!