by Jef Burnham
Available to own on Blu-ray and DVD on July 19, 2011 from Image Entertainment.
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Australian writer/director Andrew Trauki, who took us into the croc-filled swamps of Northern Australia in Black Water (2007), returns with The Reef, a tense survival thriller set in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s the classic horror movie set-up: five people on holiday venture into unfamiliar territory to be systematically picked off by a vicious predator. Only here, the unfamiliar territory is the shark-infested waters of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the predator is, you guessed it, a shark.
The story is little more complicated than is discussed above, save that two of the vacationers are estranged lovers feeling out what’s left of their broken relationship. But just as the lovers begin to patch things up, things go horribly awry when the group’s charter boat hits a chunk of reef and capsizes. They are left with two options: stay aboard the capsized boat, waiting for it to sink as it drifts further out to sea, or swim for land. Although neither option offers them much chance of survival, those who choose to swim find themselves stalked by a shark.
It’s easy to draw comparisons between this and Trauki’s Black Water, since the plot is virtually identical— if you simply replace all mentions of sharks with crocodiles— just on a much grander scale. But you can hardly hold it against him for ostensibly making the same film twice, because it’s a formula that works— and one that’s worked well for other filmmakers in recent years such as Adam Green. Green’s Frozen (2010) too finds a group of friends struggling to survive, only, in Frozen, the friends find themselves trapped on a ski lift for the greater part of a week. Frozen is an admittedly superior film to The Reef, however, as the action in The Reef feels as though it is stationary despite the fact that the characters are constantly moving, while Frozen maintains incredible momentum despite its stationary setting. This is due to the fact that The Reef is set on the ocean so that, no matter how far the characters travel, the scenery is always the same.
The Reef is presented in a phenomenally clear 1080p HD transfer on the Blu-ray release with suitably dynamic DTS HD Master Audio 5.1. Special features include a rather illuminating making-of featurette and a trailer.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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