It's only natural that since summertime brings people to the beach, there are movies designed to elicit scares from what happens at the beach.  The latest entry in this genre is The Shallows, an almost one-person struggle for survival against a killer shark.

At the opening of The Shallows a little kid is running along a beach, littered with part of a surfboard and a helmet with an attached camera.  He watches the video, which shows someone surfing, then flailing around underwater, then attacked by a shark.

Cut to Nancy (Blake Lively), being driven to a "secret beach" in Mexico by Carlos (Oscar Jaenada).  From conversations with Carlos and phone conversations with family, we learn that Nancy's late mother loved this beach, Nancy's friend is stuck at the hotel with a hangover, and Nancy is considering leaving medical school.  But that's all forgotten at the beach!  It's as beautiful as one could imagine, and the only other folks are two fellow surfers (one of whom is wearing the helmet seen at the start of the movie).

As the day goes on, the two surfers pack it in while Nancy decides to make a long trip to a nearby island.  On the way, she sees a dead whale floating in the water -- and she's suddenly attacked by a shark!  The massive creature chomps her leg and separates Nancy from her board, but Nancy manages to make it to a mostly-submerged rock.  And while Nancy's about 200 yards from the shore, she's essentially trapped: Her leg is still bleeding despite her improvised bandaging and suturing, so every time she puts it in the water the shark returns.  There's a large steel buoy anchored nearby.  Occasional items float by, which it's a struggle just to get to.  Hunger, the burning sun, and the chilly nights sap her strength.  Her only companion is a bloody seagull.  And the isolated beach means anyone else helping her is unlikely -- plus those few who do stop by tend to meet a grisly fate.
The Shallows is a pretty straightforward and effective horror/suspense movie.  While the setup is almost a mathematical problem -- how to get to a nearby shore with a giant hungry shark nearby and only small islands and a buoy nearby? -- Blake Lively carries the movie, effectively portraying the struggle of someone whose fun surfing vacation is suddenly a primal struggle for survival.  The movie mostly and wisely holds back showing the shark, having is mainly as a shadowy figure moving beneath the waves; when it does emerge, it's truly fearsome.  The Shallows won't replace Jaws as the iconic shark movie, but it is good scary summer fun.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: