Sharks! Are there any other creature that is as universally feared as there fearsome monsters from the deep? It seems wherever you go in the world you will always find someone that has such a fear of these creatures that they will never venture far into the water at the beach. Certainly cinema has played a big part in that with the master himself, Steven Spielberg, scaring the pants off swimmers and surfers forever with the cinematic classic Jaws. Well, if you thought now was the right time to head back into the water you might want to re-think that because now Australian filmmaker Andrew Traucki (Black Water) is about to reignite that shark fear with The Reef: Stalked.

Traucki himself is one of the most underrated filmmakers in the world… he has been for perhaps the better half of the last two decades. His debut feature Black Water was a classic film that more people should know about and his follow up in the franchise more than a decade later with Black Water: Abyss once again should make a generation fear crocodiles.

Of course in-between those films Traucki also made the sensational The Reef which eerily mirrored a real case where scuba divers were left to fend for themselves after a tour boat operator ‘forgot them’ while his film The Jungle took a more supernatural feel but again used the elements around the characters to further the suspense and horror.

Now Traucki returns to The Reef franchise with a film that follows the events of what happens when Nic (Teressa Liane – The Vampire Diaries) is left shattered when her sister Cath (Bridget Burt – Camp Off) is murdered by her boyfriend Greg (Tim Ross – Wonderland).

Emotionally destroyed by the events it is suggested to Nic by her friends that she should try to repair her life by going on the scuba diving holiday that they have always dreamed about. So Nic, her friends Lisa (Kate Lister – Clickbait) and Jodie (Ann Truong – Cowboy Bebop), and her sister Annie (Saskia Archer – Bali 2002) head off on a dream trip that soon becomes a nightmare due to a menacing shark.

As you can probably tell from the plot this is a pretty basic film but where it comes into its own is the realism that Andrew Traucki is able to generate through his filmmaking style. The key to his previous films, The Reef and Black Water, working has been that they make the audience feel like they are right there trapped with the ‘victims’ in the film. Traucki does that by not allowing the ‘horror’ overcome the general story at hand. He captures realism by showing every single emotion that the characters at hand are going through… it is truly an art that many filmmakers could learn from.

The other thing that he does different to other filmmakers is to use ‘real’ footage whenever he can. If you think the shark in The Reef: Stalked looks real – that is because it is. Of course a fake shark has to be used for some of the shots but for the most part here Traucki is using actual footage of sharks which straight eliminates the audience laughing at the ‘fakeness’ and once again brings in a realism that Hollywood just cannot fake.

The result is when you are watching an Andrew Traucki film you are always sitting on the edge of your seat. You can never feel totally comfortable because you simply never know what is going to happen next. There are times during The Reef: Stalked where as an audience you will feel that you are right there in the water with the characters on the screen and if you weren’t already terrified of sharks you will be by the time the end credits roll.

Credit must also be paid to this film tackling the issue of domestic violence as well. Often in surfing circles sharks are referred to as ‘the grey man in a suit’ and the way the shark here menaces the female characters is exactly what Greg does to Cath early on the film. The film also explores the emotional heartbreak that is left behind for relatives of the victim during domestic violence cases. Yes this is a shark thriller for an undercurrent that reveals something much more sinister.

Many will toss this film aside as just another ‘shark horror’ but they shouldn’t. The realism that the director manages to capture with this film takes it more into the thriller/suspense genre rather than horror and its hidden message is one that we can all learn from.

3.5/5 Stars