The Shallows (2016) Review

The Shallows snatches defeat from the jaws of victory

A minimalist horror-thriller that squanders its potential by opting for cliché over creativity, “The Shallows” has some genuine thrills to offer before things go off the deep end.

Mourning the recent loss of her mother and seeking some direction, Nancy (Blake Lively) searches out a secret, hidden beach once visited by her mother before she was born to surf the same waves. However, when she is attacked by a shark, she finds herself marooned on a rocky outcrop, only a few hundred yards from shore while the predator lurks nearby.

Lively delivers a solid performance, keeping the audience invested despite the preposterous inconsistencies which accumulate across the plot like body parts washed up on the beach. The film desperately clings to the wrong-headed and frankly harmful myth of the psychotic killer shark. It hasn’t been this personal since the preternaturally stupid “Jaws: The Revenge”.

Jaume Collet-Serra ham-fistedly builds tension only to splurge it in increasingly silly jump scares and set pieces which are delivered with the subtlety of a bloated whale carcass being a potential point of interest for surfers to explore in shark-prone waters. The camera work rivals “Suicide Squad” for its gratuitous fascination with its leading lady’s derrière but it’s through the audience’s intelligence-insulting script that the film commits its worst sins. Leadenly expository foreshadowing is dropped into the script like bricks into wet sand and the severity of the injury and dehydration suffered by Nancy varies wildly as the plot decides how much it needs her to be able to move around at any given time.

Had this had the courage to make the shark incidental to the plot and go for the sheer ironic survival horror of being stranded just offshore but out of the reach of safety, this could have been something really, really tense but when it devolves into an action-adventure finale, your eyes will be rolling as much as the surf.