Australian Director Andrew Traucki certainly has a taste for aquaphobia with his breakout feature hits Black Water, and The Reef. Back in 2020, he decided to revisit his croc shock feature with the sequel, Black Water: Abyss. Now is the turn of the shark, with a delve back into the reef with a twist in the tale for The Reef: Stalked.
His hook is in telling the story of Nic (Teressa Liane), who is still in the breaches of surviving the trauma of her sister’s murder. Nic tries to reconnect with the world by submerging herself into an old pastime on a kayaking adventure with her younger sister, Annie (Saskia Archer), and her two friends, Jodie (Ann Truong) and Lisa (Kate Lister). Before long the predator of the ocean makes its presence known and begins to hunt them down without backing down once it latches onto their scent.
The topic of trauma is a gripping one and presents and interesting premise for Traucki to grapple with and I applaud him in dabbling in this terrain to weave together an incredible story about survival against the odds and placing it in a shark horror feature.
The premise, and the topic may have been a stretch too far to blend them together with a sense of ease, as too often the focus shifts on the unrest between the two siblings rather than the fear itself. It’s a tough balancing act, because you want to establish a connection with your audience by building on the characters’ exchange with one another. Unfortunately I felt that the dialogue and performances were waning; a crying shame as Traucki has proven up to the task before, especially in his feature debut, Black Water, thrusting his female protagonists played by Diana Glenn and Maeve Dermody through the ringer, with grit and determination.
The lack of grit is all too evident here, and the leads spar off each other from one scenario to the next without too much substance to wade through.
So what of the shark?
When it appears there are flashes of images to spark fear in the audience but it never comes across as sinister enough and murky as a result. The one moment where your heart spins for a moment, is when some children are caught in the mix with their life in the hands of fate. In this instance, you are willing for them to survive and here Traucki shows his hand at playing with the audience’s heartstrings. A sign that he still knows how to play that card and its not completely lost at sea.
Shark movies are always a tough gig to sell, and Andrew Traucki does his best to repeat his formula from his 2010 feature, The Reef with a notable and worthy attempt at looking at the impact of trauma.
I really wanted to like this film and champion homegrown Australian cinema but despite some notable moments, the result is a stretch too far with performances and dialogue not weighing up to the potential that a strong subject like trauma deserves.
- Saul Muerte
The Reef: Stalked is released in Australian cinemas from Thursday 28th July.