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Jaume Collet-Serra


  • Blake Lively as Nancy Adams

An energetic, nail-biting horror thriller, The Shallows is entertaining in many ways. Originality is checked at the door and we are vibes a fun and at times terrifying fight for survival between woman and beast. This is the first entry into my Month of Horror.

Nancy Adams is a medical student who has traveled to Mexico in the wake of her mother’s death. She goes to a beach she knows her mum loved in order to honour her memory and avoid dealing with her father, who it seems is distant from her. She takes to the surf and is relaxing in the sun. After encountering a dying whale, a monstrous Great White Shark attacks her. Nancy’s leg is injured, but she manages to clamber up onto some rocks. Being a medical student, she treats her wound the best she can as terror sets in. Being miles from land and knowing that the tide will soon wash her away and her safety, she has to embrace an inner toughness and fight back in order to live in the face of the shark. The question is, just how long can Nancy survive as the tide turns and the shark comes looming?

Building on a simple prestige of the lone female being menaced by something horrible, Jaume Collet-Serra ratchets up the tension from the start. He drip feeds smidgeons of foreshadowing that something bad is going to happen among the glorious cinematography. The Shallows deserves kudos for its visual appeal, especially in the lighting and scenery. The lush surf is rendered gorgeously as a paradise before the predator comes calling for food. Plus, the technique of showing us the time and connecting Nancy with others, in this case a videophone, leads to some wonderfully nifty shots. Added to this are frequent close-ups on her face that display her resilience and terror in the face of horror. Now The Shallows isn’t a perfect movie, some areas lag, but it isn’t trying to be the best movie out there. What it wants to do is scare and excite, which it does with ruthless efficiency. It’s a B-movie with a little bit of that something extra. And it has touches of humour in the form of a Seagull that gravitates to Nancy and earns the nickname, ‘Steven Seagull’. The score is excellent at slowly carving out scares and the perilous journey that Nancy attempts to go on in order to survive the shark that is menacing her.

One of the best things in The Shallows is Blake Lively. Getting to grips with the physicality of the part, she also displays courage, heart and fierce steel as she does battle with the shark. Lively is a beauty and often her acting gets overlooked, but she shows here that she’s definitely more than a pretty face. In the hands of someone else, the part could have been just eye candy, but that’s not the case with Lively. It’s a commendable piece of work because the film largely rests on her athletic shoulders. Luckily, she is up to the task of it.

A tense and thrilling survival horror with a fine lead performance and terror at almost every corner, The Shallows is a movie that truly entertains and scares in equal measure.