More Animals Attack in Australian Shark Horror The Reef: Stalked (2022)
Title: The Reef: Stalked
First Non-Festival Release: June 30, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Andrew Traucki
Writer: Andrew Traucki
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Teressa Liane, Ann Truong, Saskia Archer
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Reeling from her sister’s murder, Nic (Teressa Liane) meets up with her old diving crew, Jodie (Ann Truong) and Lisa (Kate Lister), as well as her younger sister Annie (Saskia Archer) to complete a kayaking trip in her late sister’s honor. It starts well enough, but Nic struggles to enjoy the adventuring despite her abilities far outpacing her younger sister. Ever since she found Cathy’s (Bridget Burt) submerged in the bathtub, Nic has a paralyzing fear of being in the water. This would be a problem in of itself if it weren’t for the shark following the crew as they make their way from island to island.
Yet another mediocre shark film, The Reef: Stalked doggy paddles to the finish line with only a few choice moments of terror.
The story doesn’t fare well from its thin setup. The suddenness of the shark attack paired without any other obstacle, aside from the distance, makes the film dead in the water for the majority of its second and third act. More could have been done to escalate the tension without losing focus on the terror of a shark stalking the women. This uneven pacing is largely attributed to the shark’s early introduction. It subsequently has too little to do to antagonize the crew without leaning on the sillier side of shark mayhem.
Most of the characters are ill-defined outside of Nic and are left with paper thin personalities. The most apparent is Annie. Annie goes on about how her sister doesn’t know her, but when pressed she can only muster platitudes about being strong and capable, of which she shows little of either. At best she is impulsive and caring, but that is all she has going for her. Jodie is given even less, as her defining personality trait is being the alpha female of the group, which comes up when deciding which kayaks to use and is never shown again for the rest of the runtime. The performances are mostly serviceable with Teressa Liane’s being the best but it's hard to blame the cast when the dialogue is as cheesy as it is in this film.
The deeper message of overcoming trauma bleeds into the film without adding much to the narrative. There is not much in Nic’s arc of overcoming her aquaphobia to be considered compelling. While the connection between her sister’s death and being submerged makes some sense, the way it manifests isn’t well-explained. It does drive her overprotective nature in relation to Annie, but the way it develops does not feel earned. The unexpected and weirdly inserted campiness also drags attention away from its more serious sentiments.
The Reef: Stalked delivers several tense and unnerving sequences that are balanced out with some off-the-wall ideas that have the exact opposite effect. Sometimes the shark is given super speed and super strength but then dawdles when its prey is drifting helplessly in the ocean. It doesn’t add up. Aside from one egregious scene, the sharks are given enough respect to look real, likely due to the stock footage integrated throughout the film. It is clear that writer/director Andrew Traucki has a knack for integrating real animals into his films to give them a more realistic edge.
Retreading the typical beats of a shark horror film, The Reef: Stalked fails to tread new water in an ever-stagnant subgenre. Boasting several scenes of noted suspense and some impressive stock footage integration of real live sharks helps elevate the film beyond its contemporaries, especially in the recent boon of related horror this year. Shaky performances, cringeworthy dialogue, and a few laugh-inducing moments cut through the tension to reveal a hollow movie without much to offer the average cinephile. For those seeking the next great shark attack film, The Reef: Stalked will likely leave you wanting, but for those with more tempered expectations they may find themselves enjoying their evening well enough.
Overall Score? 5.5/10