Since one week out of the year for the past 30 or so, Discovery announces a shark week, though it’s definitely become more of a commercialism adventure, and even Syfy joined with the Sharknado movies, so here is The Shallows. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax [2005]) brings to life, with screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski (Backwoods [2008]), a story originally known as ‘In the Deep’ however the title doesn’t fit a story that centers on a surfer fighting for survival against a predator (shark). Anthony’s script found itself the most popular on the 2014 blacklist of best-unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. One should also note that another movie dealing with sharks that have recently and often switched titles from 47 Meters Down to In the Deep and back again, which had a US release in 2017, and already had a foreign release. The reasoning of informing one of this, the filming dates The Shallows went from October to November 2015 and prior to them 47 Meters down occurred from June to August of that same year. The significance might seem unimportant; however horror fans might recall the underwater creature features Leviathan and Deepstar Six (1989) both heated the waters quickly as they released in 1989. Nevertheless, The Shallows presents an equally thrill ride for the viewers, with a budget of $17 million which mostly went for the digital filmmaking in a giant swimming pool, with only a portion film in the luscious richness off the Gold Coast of Australia.

When discussing or even viewing a shark related horror film, one cannot dread it slightly, after Jaws (1975) terrorized beach goers, swimmers, surfers and cinema fans, the fear of shark films consequently veered into the silliness. The titles alone generate sneers, snorts, shrugs, thinking of them alone – (sigh) Sharktopus, Sharknado, Shark Night 3D and the doozy Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2015), it truly became the CGI of lackluster involvement.  Face it, shark flicks loss the ability of scaring the audiences reducing them to watch Shark Week on the Discovery channel for any thrilling bloodlust and thrills, however, Collet-Serra uses Spielberg’s design keeping his shark for the most part just out of range view, creating terror of the unknown, building suspense through careful editing and this works very well.

The film starts with the centralized character Nancy (Blake Lively) as a blonde Texan seeking to surf and forget about the troubles of life all at a secluded Mexican beach, the one her deceased mother spoke of and used often. She hitches a ride through a woodland jungle of vibrant colors with a local named Carlos (Oscar Jaenada (The Valdemar Legacy [2010])), her friend ditched her as she favors the porcelain toilet of hungover regrets. However, before hitting the waves she amazingly gets a signal from a webcam with her sister Chloe (Sedona Legge) and ends up talking to her dad (Brett Cullen), here we learn of Nancy’s decision and knowledge of medical school. This might seem overkill of a slow build, but it layers itself beautifully for later revelations in the film.  Then she paddles her board out meeting two other local surfers, who give the warnings, think a little Crazy Ralph, but more friendly and it all becomes very interesting to say the least. As the others called it day, Nancy decides to surf alone, and get that last ideal wave, from there the buildup all works a little too much forewarning lessens the jolt, but the turmoil for her begins and the audience begins ache for her. After she nearly drowned, slammed down by pounding waves and her thigh torn open thanks to a great white shark, finds brief safety on an island-rock. This is where all of the background information comes into play as the survival rises with the tide, and the time for living passing quickly, the isolationism sets quickly no help only Nancy can help herself. Lively dominates the film, perhaps 90% screen-time taking the focus of just one character can lead to a devastating result, but she delivers the talents, emotionally and psychically. One must note an aching time of her confessing a speech, which pulls on the heartstrings, no laughter rather clear indication of the peril and survivability.

Some take offense that the scenes of an independent woman versus a great shark might not be realistic, however it is just a movie, and the emotional course of the lead really drives the film gripping the viewers to a suspenseful squirm in their seats. In addition, sharks in general are quite unpredictable, even the experts in the study of them, learn that at sometimes-frightening pace. While the movie does take a little swipe at a skin flick, after all Lively is a beautiful woman, but this really falls away, as her character makes strong connections to the audience. Again, the script makes the right tension pulls all executed very well by the director, and used to torture the viewers. Most of the film does use effects on a closed set, but all the visual tricks never escape from the suspense driven film, Hitchcock would definitely support this flick, which contains his earmarks on it. As for the other star in the movie, the shark, Collet-Serra choose an interesting avenue for the presentation, with a little knowledge and research chose Nancy to battle and match wits with a female species, larger and scarred from mating season.

Therefore, as one seeks to escape from reality or just want to return the clear water paradise remember that nature plays for keeps, with memories lasting forever, and in The Shallows both beauty and danger exist. The tense storyline works wonders on the story, and gives a fresh breath into sharks hunting depth and their once incredible ability to scare the audiences effectively well.

This review was originally posted in January 2017 on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website with a view count of 1,653.


  • What was once in the deep is now in the shallows
  • Plan your getaway.
  • Not just another day at the beach.

IMDb Rating: 6.3/10

Baron’s Rating: 6.0/10