There's nothing quite like the suffocating, inescapable sensation of fear. It's the driving force of of the human psyche, a defence mechanism embroiled in our DNA to protect us from danger. The Shallows is a movie that taps into that primal fear, telling the story of a surfer who becomes trapped between a rock and a hard place. The hard place being a massive great white shark.
Despite the whole shark attack shtick being used numerous times since Jaws made us all fearful of the deep blue sea, the film has earned both critical and commercial success. Blake Lively, in particular, has been praised for her absorbing portrayal of Nancy Adams, who has to use all the courage she can muster to avoid becoming a lively lunch.
A Terrifying And Relateable Concept
The success of the film shouldn't be surprising. After all, triggering our fight or flight response is one of the key aims of the horror industry, and there aren't many fears that run deeper than the thought of being stranded, helpless and alone, stalked by a deadly predator in its natural habitat.
Steven Spielberg's classic, Jaws (1975), sent cases of galeophobia (the irrational phobia of sharks) through the roof. Due to the film's success, the trend was set for Hollywood's new favorite boogeyman — the great white shark. Since then, there has been a mixture of big budget and independent films willing to exploit the creature's fearsome reputation.
The Shallows proves that we're still thirsty for more shark themed horror movies. The concept, as basic as it is, still works. And if executed correctly, will have audiences squirming in their seats, and vowing to stay glued to the sun lounger next time they're on holiday.
So if you're one of the many out there who enjoyed The Shallows, and want to dip your toes into the bloodied waters of shark shock fests, push the boat out and check out these tension filled flicks below:
4. Jaws (1975)
It was always going to be on the list, but making it number one would be too easy. Spielberg was only 26 years old when he directed the movie, but illustrated his creative flair by overcoming a problem with production. Technical difficulties with the mechanical shark were costing a lot to repair, biting a huge chunk out of the budget.
So, instead, Spielberg decided to tell most of the story without actually showing Jaws himself. The result was a terrifying yet restrained thriller, using the iconic soundtrack and a simple, ominous fin to scare audiences.
3. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Renny Harlin used CGI to maximum effect for his shark-themed blockbuster, which is shamelessly enjoyable. In contrast to Jaws, the film relies on jump-scares rather than subtlety, with one death in particular standing out as one of the best in cinema. You know the one I'm talking about, right? Well, just in case you've been stranded on a rock somewhere:
The one where Samuel L. Jackson gets chomped to bits during an inspirational speech, only halfway through the movie. Poor Samuel.
2. The Reef (2010)
In contrast to Deep Blue Sea, The Reef ditched CGI and used actual footage of sharks to help drench the film in realism. It tells the story of a group of friends who struggle to safety after their boat capsizes, and their fight for survival.
This is another shark-themed movie that slowly builds tension, exercising restraint to chill the audience throughout its entire run-time.
1. Open Water (2003)
What makes Open Water a great movie? It's a masterpiece, providing enough detail to let the audience project their worst fears onto the narrative. It's a film that builds suspense to unbearable levels. But, most of all, it's a film that makes us put ourselves into the flippers of those involved. And that's not a fun place to be.
Even if we took the shark out of the equation, it's still a simple premise that has traumatic consequences: A couple go on a scuba-diving tour, only to end up stranded behind. The events that follow are difficult to watch, as they explore not only the murky depths of the ocean, but also the murky depths of human survival.