HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still can not forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore….our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection. Here, Dr Lenera takes a look at a fairly recent release which you may have missed since it didn’t get much publicity and indeed went straight to DVD in most countries, but if you liked Open Water or tension filled movies in general, you should definately check out.
HCF REWIND NO.15.THE REEF 
AVAILABLE ON DVD:Now
RUNNING TIME:94 mins
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Five people set out to sail in the oceans of Indonesia -Luke, Luke’s former girlfriend Kate, Luke’s brother Matt, his girlfriend Suzie, and experienced sailor Warren. However, their vessel hits an underwater rock and capsizes with an opening on her bottom. A Great White shark is seen in the water. Luke advises that they should swim in the north direction to reach Turtle Island, in Queensland, Australia, while they have strength since there is a current moving the boat in the opposite direction of land. Matt and Suzie decide to go with him but Warren and Kate decide to stay on the hull waiting for help since there are sharks in the water……
The Reef basically comes across as two thirds Open Water and one third Jaws, only Australian and, though nowhere near the quality of the latter, I actually enjoyed more than the former film. Open Water was one of those films that, like the similarly styled The Blair Witch Project, was hyped up so much to be incredibly terrifying that the film just couldn’t match my expectations, even if it probably was a good movie. I didn’t expect much from The Reef, but it does work really well as an exercise in pure, stripped down tension. Don’t expect much of a story if you watch it, but then again it is based on the true story of Ray Boundy, who was the survivor [well, it’s not a huge spoiler, since the character’s names have been changed for the film!] of an incident in 1983. Director and writer Andrew Traucki added two characters but apart from that what happens in the film is apparently pretty close to the real tale. Traucki, who previously made a similar film called Black Water which I’m certainly going to see now on the strength of this film, shot the extremely low budget film in five weeks. Despite Traucki streaming the making of the film online during its production, it doesn’t seem to have been released in cinemas in many places, though in Australia it got a reasonably wide release despite complaints that it’s showing would hurt the tourism industry! I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of it until fellow critic Matt Wavish reviewed the film a while back on another website.
Unlike Open Water and indeed most films featuring similar situations, whether at land or at sea, The Reef doesn’t spend much time with preliminaries. We are introduced to the characters really quickly, and though a scene in a shop where the jaws of various types of sharks are hanging on the wall nicely gets us in the mood for what may happen, I’m going to say that much of the scriptwriting is a bit crude here, especially concerning Luke and Kate, such as when Kate brings him a present, which turns out to be…….a large sausage. We could have done with just a couple more scenes in the opening section too so we get to know these people a little better. Still, the boat capsizes after what only seems about fifteen minutes, and from then on it really is nerve-wracking tension all the way. Much of the footage just consists of the characters slowly swimming or shaking in peril, but Traucki doesn’t let the pace slow, and the intensity is quite impressive. There’s a really suspenseful bit where Luke is swimming inside the capsize boat which doesn’t sound like much but really does make you feel something could happen to him any time, and you won’t believe you much tension can be wrought from the characters approaching a dead sea turtle. You really believe what you are watching, and it really helps that the characters speak and act how people in that situation probably would act. A good example is that for much of the time they are swimming not huddled together, but more separately, so that if one or more is attacked the others can maybe get away more easily. The ending does come rather too quickly though, even if that is maybe how it happened in real life.
This film uses real shark footage shot elsewhere and just matched in, a very commendable decision when they could have just gone down the whole CG route. The same shot of a shark swimming underwater is annoyingly overused, and there was one shot where a matted in shark didn’t look right but it’s so quick I reckon most viewers would miss it, and for the most part technically the film is excellent. There’s not much in the way of blood and gore, but I’m not sure the film really needed it. What does hamper the movie is the handling of some of the protagonists. On the DVD Traucki compares Matt and Suzie, who are a ‘happy’ couple, with Luke and Kate, who have problems, and gives the impression that the latter couple are the heart of the film. To be honest though, they are not given enough time for us to care about all this, and having them suddenly declare they love each, whilst obviously intended to be a really touching moment, just comes across as totally unnecessary. It reminded me of that ridiculous moment in Pirates Of The Caribbean 3:At World’s End when Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann proceed to get married in the middle of a battle. Traucki is great as a director though on the evidence of The Reef. Although he’s too fond of that incredibly lazy thing every horror director seems to do these days where a loud musical note is played to make you jump, he is terrific at suspense building, uses fast cutting only when he feels it’s needed [which isn’t very often], and employs a variety of angles to keep things moving even when little is happening. He’s helped in his efforts by the superb photography of Daniel Ardilley, who creates some beautiful scapes of the open sea, often pulling back to give us a true sense of the character’s predicament. For the most part humour is nicely avoided in this film, though there is one nice cheeky homage to Jaws, where shots from its great opening sequence are duplicated.
The acting ranges from okay to rather good, and don’t let the fact that three of the cast were in Home And Away put you off! The best performance is by Damian Walshe-Howling as Luke, who sounds like an Australian Jason Statham! The score is written by a guy called Rafeal May, who I initially thought must be the son of the great Australian film composer Brian May [not the Brian May of Queen!], but on investigation is no relation at all. Still, he turns in an effective piece of work combining orchestra and synthesizers, and for the most part achieves the extremely difficult task of not imitating John William’s famous Jaws music. I reckon The Reef is one of those movies you probably won’t remember much of a few weeks after you watch it, but while you are watching it, you may find it quite a riveting experience that could certainly have you on the edge of your seat for much of its duration.