The Reef: Stalked is a dumbed down do-over of its predecessor

Billed as a “spiritual sequel” to 2010’s The Reef by returning director Andrew Traucki, The Reef: Stalked instead raises the shipwreck of the original only to see it sink in entirely similar fashion this time around.

When a group of friends set out on a kayaking adventure intended to heal the wounds of recent tragedy, it’s not long before Nic (Teressa Liane), Cath (Ann Truong), Jodie (Saskia Archer), and Lisa (Kate Lister) find their catharsis thrown into chaos as an unusually persistent mostly Great White shark decides they are the perfect midday snack.

Most shark movies take pains to ensure their characters are suitably isolated before bringing in the fishy foe but not The Reef: Stalked. For much of the movie, the characters spend most of their time within spitting distance of the shore, yet choose to remain in the perilous open waters, seemingly resigned to the promise of shark-infested doom. It’s a decision that defies not only survival instincts but also common sense, with their final stand on a leaky skiff—untested for seaworthiness—being the cherry on this sundae of stupidity. The shark’s behaviour is equally baffling, displaying an unusual penchant for catch-and-release tactics rather than the usual chomp-and-scarper approach, making one wonder if it’s more interested in playing with its food than eating it.

Special effects in The Reef: Stalked range from the laughably poor to the surprisingly decent. The shark alternates between stock footage and CGI so inconsistently that it might as well be a shape-shifting sea monster. Yet, amidst the visual chaos, there are moments where practical effects shine through—such as the chilling sight of a fin slipping below the surface—that offer a fleeting glimpse of genuine terror. Lisa’s death, the film’s first shark attack, manages to be well-shot despite the shark’s magical ability to change size and species mid-bite.

The overall performances leave much to be desired with performances swing wildly from wooden to overly melodramatic, with the main actress delivering trauma-laden pauses so prolonged you could paddle to shore and back in the interim. The lack of chemistry among the cast makes their collective emotional plight as convincing as a rubber shark in a bathtub. The script attempts to infuse the drama with flashbacks to the traumatic event, but these are so overplayed and under explained they become tedious interruptions rather than moments of insight and illumination. The dialogue is equally uninspired, often failing to build any real tension or suspense although The Reef: Stalked does get props for not just cynically putting a couple of cute kids in the water to raise the stakes but actually letting one of them get bitten.

The score is noteable, because there does seem to be a concerted effort to evoke at least the spirit of Jaws but the film itself misses that lofty aim by a nautical mile. Yet, for all its faults, The Reef: Stalked possesses a certain charm for aficionados of bad shark movies. It’s like watching a slow-motion train wreck—horrifying yet impossible to look away from.

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