Four young holidaymakers are forced to confront fear of the unknown in The Reef, the latest home-grown horror offering that suggests that perhaps it would be better to not get back into the water.

Luke (Underbelly’s Damian Walshe-Howling) is joined by his former flame Kate (Zoe Naylor), her brother Matt (Gyton Grantley, also of Underbelly fame) and his girlfriend Sophie (Adrienne Pickering) for a sailing holiday on the Great Barrier Reef. Along with sailor Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith), who becomes something of a fifth wheel, the group set off in search of some romantic, sun-tinged R&R – but disaster strikes early, when their ship is overturned in the middle of the ocean. The group find themselves with an impossible choice: stay with the ruins of the boat and risk never being found, or make the 12-mile swim to the nearest island. To make matters worse, there’s a deadly Great White Shark in the ocean – and he’s hungry.

Based on true incidents, it’s a terrifying concept, making for a bone-chilling film. Having covered similar ground in his killer crocodile film Black Water, Director Andrew Trauki is obviously very much at home with the idea of Man-vs-Wild, and with the help of Daniel Ardilley’s competent cinematography constantly reminds us that these are but five tiny bodies in a vast ocean. Even more terrifyingly – despite the open spaces – there’s a discernible sense of claustrophobia. The characters are stuck in their predicament and are, quite literally, out of their depth whichever way they turn. The entire film carries a sense of gritty realism, only enhanced further by the use of real shark footage instead of an animatronic fake. The performances are good and for the most part, very convincing.

Admittedly, there are some strained dialogue moments early on, and the relationships between the travellers are never really explored. Perhaps owing to an effort not to stray from the facts, the characters seem quite two-dimensional, but the film is so suspenseful at times that this is easily forgotten. All in all, it’s a solid Aussie horror flick guaranteed to get your heart racing. Just be warned: you may not want to go to the beach again in a hurry! Lucky summer’s over.

First posted on Movie Nation: March 25th, 2011

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