Monday, 7 March 2011


Pinnacle Films
Now Showing in limited release

Every summer I vow to go swimming and every summer, Channel 10 screens Steven Spielberg's seminal 1975 film, Jaws. I can't help but watch: summer swimming plans cancelled. New Australian film The Reef is no Jaws, but it successfully trades on our primal fear of the deep blue sea and its dorsal finned, meat-eating inhabitants.

The Reef sees a group of four friends – Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling), buddy Matt (Gyton Grantley) and his girlfriend Suzie (Adrienne Pickering), and Matt's sister, and Luke's ex-girlfriend, Kate (Zoe Naylor) – and a fifth, deckhand Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith), set sail north to deliver the sail boat they're piloting.

But once out at sea, the boat is up-ended and the five have to make the decision: stay on the upturned boat and hope it doesn't sink or swim some 12 miles to where Luke believes there is land. Warren knows what lies beneath and steadfastly decides to stay on the boat; the others reluctantly agree to try their luck in the water. So begins a horror films of sorts, where one by one the swimmers are picked off by a white pointer shark.

Andrew Traucki's blue water thriller is effectively suspenseful and all the more impressive given the undoubted financial and logistical restraints imposed. I can't be sure but I believe that it is an actual shark which appears in the film, perhaps shot separately from the actors but almost seamlessly edited into the shot; Traucki wouldn't have had the luxury of a mechanical shark as Spielberg did.

Traucki also doesn't devote as much time to developing character as in the 1975 film. But despite the clunky opening, which could have scuttled the film before it even set sail, The Reef manages to draw you in once it becomes a question of sink or swim.

And you may just find yourself screaming (in your head) “Swim. Swim faster. It's right behind you!” Lucky for me summer's over, so I now have another six months to work up the courage to go swimming again.

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