According to a pretty definitive list on Letterboxd – the online film community – there are in excess of 170 shark-related films and adding to that list is The Reef: Stalked, an indirect sequel to 2010’s The Reef. From the same writer and director Andrew Traucki, Stalked follows Nic (Teressa Liane) as she struggles to come to terms with her sister’s death from domestic abuse by joining friends on a sea kayaking trip. And, of course, they encounter a shark.
The Reef is one of the better shark films of recent years and with Stalked Traucki proves again he understands how to build tension. The key seems to be following the rule that less is more, with the watery setting used expertly to provide both an oppressive atmosphere and sense of forlorn hope. And one dodgy CGI scene aside, the shark action itself is convincingly brutal.
Equally, the performances are good, the sense of jeopardy suitably uncomfortable, and the decision-making understandable. And yet, there is the unavoidable issue that plagues shark films almost without exception. How do you maintain all that built-up tension? Once the shark is in play, as soon as you’ve had a kill or two, there is an inevitable calming of the waters. Show the shark too much and you’re drifting into monster movie territory, ignore the nasty fish altogether and what are you left with apart from characters simply floating around in the ocean? It’s a challenge Traucki doesn’t entirely overcome.
That said, aside from a middle-act slump and the slightly underwhelming finale Stalked is a solid entry into already infested waters.The Reef: Stalked is on digital from July 29th and DVD August 8th.