A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.
The Shallows really didn’t have anything going for it; a shallow plot, an actress who has left a bit to be desired performance-wise in her past work, and a sub-genre that has quite literally been taken to its absurd end with movies like Sharknado proving that shark-horror movies are dead in the water.
Yet, with all of that working against it, I’m shell-shocked to report that The Shallows is actually a whole lot of fun. All of the problems that I mentioned above are still absolutely present in the movie, but it manages to take the challenges ahead of it and turn them into one of the more self-aware pieces of schlocky horror that I’ve seen in quite some time, while simultaneously offering up some pretty well built tension and even made me jump more than once.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra has already proven himself pretty good at producing entertaining schlock, including the Liam Neeson Taken spin-off (probably) Non-Stop, and that movie you’ve never heard of starring Liam Neeson called Run All Night. The Shallows isn’t even his first dip into horror, he also directed the 2009 film Orphan, which I remember being pretty good (but genuinely haven’t seen since it was released). It’s clear that Collet-Serra has a good idea of how to give audiences movies that are entertaining, but ultimately pretty forgettable, which is exactly what The Shallows is.
What The Shallows gets so so right is the tone, we are introduced to Blake Lively’s character, Nancy, on her way to a secret beach that was supposedly frequented by her deceased mother. We learn quite a bit about her character here, and the exposition manages to hide itself in her playful banter with the local driving her to the beach. She manages to be pretty charming, and you are able to sufficiently get on her team by the time she gets to the beach. It’s right on the beach that the movie fully cements its tone and self awareness.
We spend at least a minute watching Lively undress, and put on her wetsuit-shirt before she takes her surfboard and heads into the water, with plenty of exploitative shots of her butt and, well you know exactly what this movie is doing.
From here the movie does become the struggle between Nancy and the pretty terrible looking great white shark that has chosen her as his only food source. Though, she does antagonize the shark by accidentally encroaching on the massive dead whale he had been eating, that apparently no one noticed from the beach. Anyways, the movie proceeds as you’d expect, with a lot of cat-and-mouse games between her and the shark, and of course an adorable(?) animal sidekick: the brave and noble…seagull.
Honestly, The Shallows is one of those “you get what you expect” type movies. It’s fun, it’s stupid, it rips of Jaws a bit, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Weirdly, that makes it one of the better horror films I’ve seen this year, and in the end… I kinda liked it.
MY RATING: ***