Firstly, let’s get this elephant out of the living room in the fact that this film will never break the bank in terms of artistic valour. However, depending on your constitution this may well shred the nerves more than a dozen films like Open Water or Adrift could ever manage.
These group of Australians taking a trip out a little too far in the barrier reef are a fairly likable bunch for this sort of thing, with the brisk script allowing for decent character development we can actually relate too. Nothing throughout feels forced or out stays its welcome, the main problems that riddled the aforementioned films.
What does impress is the directors handling of the scare scenes. What can easily go wrong in terms of pacing and timing of each scene, especially when the group first encounter a shark, is handled with skill and a degree of respect for the audience. Most of the scares come in broad daylight, adding stark realism to the naturalistic performances and situations. Much use of close ups and water level views contrast well with the vast, open, murky underwater scenes. It also helps that the use of a real shark builds up the growing fear. Only minimal use of CGI can be found, and by all accounts used subtly and with restraint.
A few red herrings here, a few brutal shocks there, and with a final degree of ambiguity as the credits roll as to the fate of one of the collective, all add up to a film that will leave you cold at its end.
Unlikely as it may seem, The Reef is one of the most effective horrors of the year.