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The Shallows horror movie review


Title: The Shallows
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer: Anthony Jaswinski
Release Date: June 24, 2016
Cast: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, a fucking seagull

The Shallows Cliff’s Notes

Mourning her mother’s death, med-school dropout Nancy decides to hit the surf at a secluded beach. Unfortunately, she comes across the carcass of a whale and the thing that killed it, a vicious, oversized shark.

Luckily, she ends up on a rock about two hundred yards from shore. If, you know, luck only means that she’s not fish food at the start of the flick. She also has to fight the damn shark, which just makes her shitty week even worse.

Lecture

I can’t say that I was super-enthused to check out The Shallows. I’m hit or miss with Collet-Serra’s other work – House of Wax is serviceable, his work with Liam Neeson is hit or miss, and I’m not the hugest fan of Orphan – and I couldn’t really call myself a Blake Lively fan, just haven’t seen that much of her. All that being said, I’m a huge fan of Jaws and the woman vs. nature set up can be a fun way to go; so, I walked into this theater with an awesome date and a pair of 13-year-old girls that are lucky I didn’t feed them to the damn shark. The result?

Not half bad, and way better than it could have been. The set-up is simple and the execution, especially early on, is done well. There are a slew of fun directorial choices, a great intro scene that plays fast and loose with time, and enough tension to keep me engaged. Add to that a few great jumps scares, some really solid gore effects, and one hell of a performance from Blake Lively, and you’ve got yourself a solid little summer flick.

Doesn’t mean it’s all peaches and cream, I’m afraid. The CGI in this flick is literally terrible and really pulls the movie down. That, plus a shark that is both way too smart and way too powerful, really strains what credibility there is in a movie that focuses on a 36-hour shark attack.

I also really hated the family subplot. There was no reason to have the father and sister around; they only added exposition and dragged the start of a movie down. And don’t get me started on the finale of this puppy. After the first eighty minutes of this flick crafted a real world style set up for our hero to play in, the final seven turns her full Ripley, creating a special effects heavy finale that hits weakly and looks even weaker.

This is the kind of flick where it’s really feast or famine. On one side, the acting is solid, the tension well built, and there’s more than one scene that caused the entire audience to cringe. On the other, laughable CGI, a terrible subplot, and a third act that goes full action when it needed to be going full Jaws. Oh hum.

Acting

There’s no way around it, this is the Blake Lively show and she’s holding court. Girl dominates almost every frame of the flick and gives an honest, grounded, occasionally funny performance that is the major saving grace for this flick. With a lessor actor at the helm of this thing, the flick would be unwatchable. Talk about stepping it up in a big way.

Also, I really dug Oscar Jaenada’s good guy shtick. He was affable and really brought some life to his early scenes. Nice job! Everyone else does what they can with what the script give them, which isn’t much. The seagull rocks and plays against type as a not-jerk.

Directing

Early on, Collet-Serra uses a number of stylistic touches which really aid the flick. Sad to say, once the meat of the story kicks into gear, they’re pretty much cast aside. His shot composition is always solid – he really embraces the setting of the flick; it looks amazing – and his action scenes well-paced. Dude also builds all kinds of tension early on and manages a pair of fantastic jump scares that had me, and the thirteen year olds, jumping in my seat. His final act is easily the weakest, but the frenzied pace of the shark attack that makes up the middle of it helps bunches.

Script

So, I don’t know how much of this was changed during production, but this was all kinds of uneven. Nancy and Carlos are well drawn, and the dialogue between them is solid, but the other characters are non-existent. While that works just fine for the fellow surfers – they’re supposed to be distant from Nancy – it doesn’t work at all for her father and sister. And while the entire thing is held together with a ton of unity, the family sub-plot could have been exercised completely and the flick would be stronger for it.

Also, there are a ton of plot holes/conveniences in this puppy. Lastly, these folks all needed to do a little research about sharks. This vicious set of teeth is doing all kinds of things that sharks can’t/won’t do. I’m all about suspending my disbelief for a flick, but it got to a point of ridiculousness.

Effects

It’s been forever since I’ve been this torn in a category. The practical effects, especially the make-up and gore, are amazing. Don’t let the PG-13 fool you on this one, there’s plenty of red to go around and it looks really nice. And the gangrene makeup effect on Lively’s leg is just fantastic. On the other, much sadder, side of the seashell, the CGI in this flick is literally terrible.

Each and every one of the CGI animals looks like crap. There’s a certain scene later on featuring a swarm of a certain sea creature that literally looks like it could be from a cartoon. Even the thirteen year old idiot behind me – still there, still obnoxious – commented on how terrible it looked. For the only time ever, I couldn’t agree more.

Highlights

Blake Lively is the bomb in this movie. She’s got plenty to do and rocks it all.

Lowlights

Beyond the CGI and terrible script, I really hated/didn’t need the father character in this puppy. He added a bunch of exposition and not much else. Plus, the dialogue to do so was so weak compared to the rest of this puppy. BLERG.

Final Thoughts

This flick is like an early summer romance. Sure, it’s not that deep, but it’s enjoyable while it lasts and will be out of your mind as soon as it’s off the screen.
Grade: C+

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