Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Shallows (2016) “Very much this generations JAWS or at least that’s what they’ll say…”

The Shallows is a survival horror film with a glossy finish and modern day antics but with its heart in the right place.

Blake Lively stars as a former medical student whose on vacation and decides to surf on the same beach her mother once did back in the day in solidarity. Things seem serene as can be in the water until she’s runs into an injured whale turned on its side in the water with apparent bite marks. This forces her to come to the conclusion that there’s a shark nearby who will stop at nothing rid of everything edible in its path.


The Shallows is a great solo acting vehicle for Blake Lively to showcase her natural acting chops for once. Being from mainly a TV show (Gossip Girl) it’s rare someone gets an original acting gig as intense and inducing and front in centre as The Shallows years down the road. Blake Lively is quite perfect in this role as she plays earnest yet cautious, clever but uncertain and hopeless yet determined. These are all effective traits for a small town girl who doesn’t realize they’ll be up against a giant ferocious CGI shark. Blake Lively makes the character fun to be around which doesn’t allow a movie like this to wallow in dread, but instead carry a strategically driving force such as JAWS that is more about a feverish chess game than animalistic torture porn.


Now one would think a CGI shark would be as enjoyable as watching Scrubbing Bubble mascots in a commercial but surprisingly if you use the shark in the most sparingly shot way, it actually can work to an advantage. Featuring a scene where the shark devours a random surfer in mid sea level and well detailed still shots in a found footage format, the shark at times looks real as can be and equally as frightening. Though there are scenes of CGI delusions of grandeur, the fact these are scenes of urgency and not Deep Blue Sea level obnoxiousness make it part of the fun and at the same time interestingly intense mixed with Blake Lively’s performance. Furthermore the effects do reach Jungle Book-esque impressiveness when at the right angles, that give a perfect surreal quality of realism witnessing it all one screen. With all that said this movie entails tasteful attributes of gore and doesn’t skimp on the blood which gives more than enough to make this shark a worst nightmare.


A few tonally problems do occur in the movie that lessen the intent of the films score and plot. As the movie starts off you get establishing shots of Blake Lively sexually getting her surf gear on, and showing us her characters surf skills while being drenched in a mainstream EDM soundtrack yet the movie begins with a frightfully preparing JAWS-esque score, making the film feel disjointed almost immediately with what looks like scenes from an upcoming surf documentary or uplifting biopic needlessly thrown into a survival horror flick. If kept with the fearing original score from the start, that would of things more consciously disturbing when things get into gear and not be as slightly lackluster as it feels. Even just toning down those scenes as just one far away surf shot with music over it, instead it’s a music video in the middle of the movie. Accompanied with that is an end credits song that is apparently used to invoke “Girl Power” propaganda, as if the only way to display strong feminism is through an implied mainstream pop song. Not the most intriguing ending ever.


So could The Shallows of been darker with a different lead actress? Sure. Could the films soundtrack be more simple and subdued for more theatrical horror effect to enhance the experience? Sure. Could the editing be more focused and less head scratchingly choppy? Definitely! But overall The Shallows is a fun refreshingly scary ride appropriate for an air conditioned escape from these hot summer days in a crystal clear blue ocean on screen. And Blake Lively makes the ride a sweet and comforting one all the well.


And just to point out……The Shallows looks amazing, with some of the best cinematography in recent years. Every inch of a scene looks crystal clear and enhancive to the point of crossing realism with surrealism. And while watching this movie I realized The Shallows is a great test run in how Disney could do the live action version of The Little Mermaid. If so, I for one am “hella” excited.  


-          Maurice Jones

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