Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra appears to have fully embraced his role as one of Hollywood’s leading purveyors of multiplex-ready, polished B-movie schlock. He follows up his Liam Neeson action trilogy with a return to the horror genre for killer shark movie The Shallows. Shark movies are generally the stuff of garbage like Sharknado nowadays, but The Shallows is professional enough to easily overcome any such associations, though that’s not to say it takes itself too seriously. It’s not comedic, but there’s a knowing wink to a few of its scares.
Its premise is a very simple one; lone surfer Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) gets bitten by a shark while out at a remote Mexican beach. She makes her way to a rock but then finds herself stranded with the tide rising and a hostile Great White hungrily circling.
The Shallows gets pretty much everything it could out of such a set-up, the injured Nancy must, in one quite excruciating moment, tend to her wounds, assess her situation and work with what she has to find a way out. The film packs in a good few frights with the shark, which Collet-Serra uses sparingly leading to a number of startling visuals upon its first couple of appearances. It effectively treats the survival elements with a degree of authentic pressure which manages to work in tandem with the horror ones. Nancy possesses very few items she could use to escape but the resourceful surfer manages to find a use for most of them, while also failing to fall into complete desperation thanks to her interactions with an injured seagull on the rock with her.
It eventually cements in B-movie credentials though building up to a satisfying if very silly climactic showdown. Even at a brisk 86 minutes, it takes a while to get going with a long introductory sequence that attempts to inject some family drama into proceedings but comes across more like Collet-Serra playing with methods of portraying modern communication technology on screen. Overall, it’s a pleasingly solid, unpretentious mix of lone-woman survival thriller with monster movie shocks that delivers on its premise.