“The Shallows” Review

So I’m reviewing two horror movies in a row, what of it?  I have so many movies to see/review this week.  I would have had more reviews out (Now You See Me 2 for example) earlier, but I have been on vacation; out-of-state vacation.  While writing is a major source of enjoyment for me (it is also my career choice), it feels nice to wind down for a week.  Why am I still talking about this?  You came to see a review of a movie that sounds promising, but actually has nothing new to offer.

The Shallows is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by Anthony Jaswinski.  Stars-Blake Lively and Óscar Jaenada.  Premise-A young woman visits a secluded beach in search of relaxation, surfing, and warm memories.  Unbeknownst to her, a hungry shark is lurking nearby.

Yes, that is the same director of Non-Stop and Run All Night.  Let me be the first person to tell you that The Shallows is not nearly as thrilling or entertaining as those films.  It’s not the worst, but it has next to nothing to warrant a viewing (unless you count bikini-clad Blake Lively, which I don’t).  I will say that on a technical level, it’s pretty competent.  Marco Beltrami’s score (which sounds oddly Tangerine Dreamish) is cool, the cinematography is creative, the F/X look convincing enough, and the sound design is high-quality.  As for the leading lady’s performance; let me put it this way, she’s not Tom Hanks but she’s also not Kristen Stewart.

The story is a mess.  The main character is not that strong of a protagonist, she gets some character, but not nearly enough to constitute a great “survivor” character.   I have heard people say that the ending is surprising, but it is not in any sense of the word.  I won’t’ spoil what happens (the climax itself is actually pretty tense and creative), but since it’s a “stranded” movie, you know what is inevitably going to happen.  Because of that, the rest of the movie must be exceptional so as to save it from mediocrity.  Cast Away (which is arguably the film that brought the “stranded” genre to new heights) has a stellar Tom Hanks performance and a true sense of progression and anxiety through the use of detailed storytelling.  The Martian has a more lighthearted approach to the drama, and by setting it in space, the possibilities were endless.  The Shallows has a half-decent actress stuck on a rock for a day while a shark stalks her.  See the difference?

I don’t know whether the universe hates Lively, or loves her-I’m calling her by the actress’ name because the character isn’t memorable-because she will sometimes catch a lucky break, and sometimes the worst of luck will happen.  I’m just going to call it lazy screenwriting.  Speaking of lazy, there is a multitude of falseness in this movie.  There are false scares, obvious jumpscares, and they do the “fake-out savior” thing multiple times!  You know what those are, a boat in the distance, some people who don’t notice the stranded person, etc.  There are at least four instances of these fake-outs, and they get quite annoying.

I’m still not done.  There is little actual terror in this horror movie.  Most of the time it’s just boring.  The first act is mostly filler (with the exception of the first 3 minutes which are entirely unnecessary), and unless you have a phobia of the sea and it’s inhabiting predators, not much will scare you.

As I said, there is not much that this movie has that hasn’t been done perfectly before in movies with similar premises.  Cast Away has better acting, Jaws is better at tension, The Martian has better characters, and Point Break (1991) is a better surfer movie.  If you want a fine Collet-Serra film, watch Non-Stop or Run All Night because this film is one of his weakest.  The Shallows gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C-.


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