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The Reef

Year: 2011
Production Co: Lightning Entertainment
Director: Andrew Traucki
Producer: Andrew Traucki
Writer: Andrew Traucki
Cast: Damian Walshe-Howling, Gyton Grantley, Adrienne Pickering, Zoe Naylor

Andrew Traucki's criminally underseen Black Water was a masterwork of realistic modern horror. The Reef could have be just as much so except that the performances are just the wrong side of natural, something that hoisted Black Water miles above far better funded competition.

Something about the premise attracted Traucki though, because it's virtually the same story – a small group of frightened people trapped in the domain of a very scary and very hungry wild animal. After their yacht hits rocks and capsizes way off in the ocean of the Great Barrier Reef, a small cluster of friends decide to swim for it, taking their chances on their navigational skills and their proximity to nearby islands.

No sooner do Luke (Walshe-Howling), Matt (Grantley), Suzie (Pickering) and Kate (Naylor) start paddling off on bits of a sawn-in-half boogie board than they see splashes and a dark shape in the near distance. Luke has a pair of goggles so he gives us some of the film's scariest POV scenes. As he dips his head underwater for the first glimpse of the monster, we barely see it through the haze, moving out of sight – a huge great white shark.

It would have been supremely difficult to sustain an interesting script with only four people swimming through the ocean being stalked by a shark, and it's more the fault of the set-up than any skill on Traucki's part that some cracks show through. But he manages to avoid it being just an endless repetition of tension-attack-wait-tension-attack-wait.

He's also smart enough to know the scares were never going to make the movie – it's the tension in anticipation of the scares that make it. At times it's excruciating, and if you saw it at the cinema you would have noticed a lot of uncomfortable shuffling in seats and nervous laughter.

The visuals of the shark/human interaction are a standout – despite one obvious CGI shot Traucki has been very clever about getting the monster and its victims in the same frame.

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