2016. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
The genius of this film is that it focuses on suspense far more than actual horror. I wanted to start with the strength, because this film was a mixed bag for me, as I'm a huge fan of the genre. Ultimately, while not everything worked, it is arguably the best entry into the shark monster genre since Jaws.
Blake Lively plays a med school drop out who is soul searching after her mother's death. She decides to find the secret beach her mother once traveled to and commune with the ocean. The ocean, however, decides to commune with her on its own terms.
The script is lean and it's one of the best things about this minimal thriller that was shot for a mere 17 million. When there is dialogue is the typical campy horror fair, but thankfully, you're given maybe 15 minutes of set up before the showdown begins, which is essentially one woman, stranded on a rock vs. nature's perfect killing machine.
Flavio Labiano's cinematography is amazing. From the underwater shots of the surfers to the quiet, horror-holding closet of the ocean, everything mounts to build a palpable sense of dread. You'll literally hold your breath anytime skin comes into contact with water.
One of the film's most awe inspiring shots involves jellyfish at night and it has to be seen to be believed.
The beast itself was shot in 2D, eschewing the blockbuster "show the monster" disease and replacing it with shadows and fins cresting the surface and it works well.
The film breaks this rule in the climax and it's here that things begin to fall off. The film decides that showing us the beast is more powerful than the mystery of it's true form and it's a slight disappointment, if only for the reliance on CGI.
Despite this, Collet-Serra delivers a fun monster movie experience that is carried by Blake Lively's matter of fact problem solver turn. She is clearly mortal, fallible, and at times inept and it makes you care for her even more.
The Shallows doesn't break the mold but it is a welcome return to suspense that respectfully nods to it's monolithic predecessor. Blake Lively's thinking, no surrender princess, who is not in need of a rescue, is a welcomed touch to the summer film experience that once again made me question going back into the water.