The Reef: Stalked is in theaters, VOD/digital, and Shudder on July 29, 2022.
Andrew Traucki’s The Reef: Stalked is the writer/director’s fourth wade back into aquatic horror waters, albeit with inconsistent results. I wasn’t taken by his first shark attack flick, The Reef, which was a concern that proved detrimental coming into his 2022 sequel. Both films implement a style of using wildlife B-roll that doesn’t match character-focused cinematography, but The Reef: Stalked also falls victim to another son of indie-budgeted shark cinema — poorly computer-animated beasts. It’s never as bad as Alicia Silverstone’s battle against a pixelated atrocity in The Requin earlier this year, but still woefully underwhelming in terms of fine flick thrills.
Traucki’s setup du jour for The Reef: Stalked is four women paddling kayaks towards a Pacific island when Mr. Hungry Shark appears. I’ve seen protagonists adrift on jet skis this year, also floating on a detached coastal hotel bungalow (The Requin is wild, y’all) but Traucki finds sensibility in a getaway excursion on open waters – at least after central protagonist Nic (Teressa Liane) discovers her sister and diving buddy Cath (Bridget Burt) drowned in a bathtub by abusive partner Greg (Tim Ross) during an introductory tragedy, and Nic disappears from other sister Annie’s (Saskia Archer) existence until now. This backstory is how Traucki attempts to empower emotional stakes beyond hunter-prey animal attacks, as Nic frequently hallucinates Cath’s gurgling face gasping for air when gazing into the sea’s churning wakes.