There’s nothing wrong with a B movie. A good B movie can be both terrifying and hilarious, often within seconds of each other, and can be so entertaining that the audience can’t help but suspend disbelief and forgive the poor dialogue/bad acting/cheap effects. The Shallows doesn’t so much ask the viewer to suspend disbelief as weigh it down with rocks and cast it to the bottom of the ocean floor. The film aims for somewhere in-between adrift-at-sea ancestors Open Water (taut psychological horror) and Life of Pi (existential creature feature) but gets sucked into a whirlpool of clunky action, contrived plotting and Bear Grylls-esque survival nonsense.
Blake Lively is Nancy, a clueless American backpacker on a pilgrimage to Mexico to find a “secret beach”, find the surf and find herself. Exposition tells us her mother has died and she’s taking a break from medical school because she just doesn’t know if it’s worth fighting for anymore. After a perfect day of perfect breaks she decides to ride one last wave and before you know it she gets blindsided by a grizzled old shark looking to torment a hapless gringo, and spends the next hour bleeding, thrashing about and giving herself one ludicrous pep talk after another. Does she have it in her to survive? Does Jaws have teeth?
The Shallows begins like a L’Oreal advert with added gore, then insults the audience with one patronising signpost after another, all compounded by some nasty racial stereotyping and sexist cinematography. Director Jaume Collet-Serra adds a neat twist to the genre by stranding Nancy on a tiny island only 200 yards from shore, which becomes more accessible to the shark as the tide flows in and out, but the original ideas end there. The pop commercial visuals and soundtrack grate, and there is a critical lack of tension or humour. The final showdown between woman and shark raises the pulse and attempts self-awareness, but it is too little too late.
One feels for Blake Lively, who was no doubt promised a feminist action vehicle à la Aliens. Instead of Ripley she gets an irritating brat who says things like “good bird” to her seagull companion (yes, really) and delivers one-woman doctor role play skits as she performs surgery on herself. Lively attacks the physicality of the role with gusto, but the ogling camera reduces her to nothing more than shrieking eye candy. Shallow in every sense.
The Shallows is released nationwide on 12th August 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Shallows here: