The struggle to integrate an emotional plot in a shark movie continues with “The Reef: Stalked.” Yet, the inability to hit the spot remains a sore truth. Why? The reason is that a shark movie has very high stakes in terms of the thrill, and it isn’t really effective to provide the audience with something that makes them divide their attention between the thrill and the emotions. This is a result of all the shark movies that the audience has been subjected to, as in almost all of them, what the audience gets, and perhaps wants, is a primal fear [grandly uplifted by John Williams’ two-note score whenever the shark attacked in Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws”]. And when there is primal fear involved, no other emotion can compete. “The Reef: Stalked” suffers from this very problem. Here’s more on the film:
‘The Reef: Stalked’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
Nic, Cath, Lisa, and Jodie are best friends who share a “deep” love for the sea. Nic and Cath are sisters. One day, after the four of them return from an excursion to the ocean, Cath’s boyfriend Greg takes her home. The little heated conversation that Cath and Greg have shows that their relationship is strained. Later on, Nic receives a text from Cath requesting that she come to her place. Upon reaching there, Nic finds Greg sitting at the dining table quietly. He has scratches on his face. Upon looking for Cath, Nic finds her dead in the bathtub. Greg has drowned her.
Nine months pass after Cath’s death, and Nic hasn’t been able to recover from the trauma. However, when Lisa, Jodie, and Annie, another sister of Nic, decide to go kayaking to honor Cath, Nic joins in, although she is uncertain whether she is ready or not. Clearly, she has stayed away from the ocean since Cath’s death. The kayaking trip is for two nights and three days, after which they will reach a 4-star resort. They will halt at the islands that fall in the way.
However, their trip is cut short by an uninvited guest. A shark begins to stalk them, waiting for the perfect moment to have its meal. Will the girls survive the ocean’s most feared predator? “The Reef: Stalked” is their story.
Nic hasn’t recovered from the trauma of her sister Cath’s death. This is what has kept her from going back to the sea. However, when the girls decide to pay tribute to Cath, she can’t say no. As the trip begins, Nic is very conscious of her surroundings, not out of fear of the ocean but of the water itself—the same water that Cath drowned in. The first time she has to get into the ocean after Jodie and Lisa decide to check out the reefs underneath, she hesitates. Once in the ocean, she struggles to dive in, the visions of Cath drowning taking a toll on her. She didn’t see Cath die, but she can very well imagine Cath’s struggle and how she could have saved her [more about this later]. But when the shark attacks, Nic’s fear of water takes the shape of the fear of her inability to save Annie, her other sister, as well as Lisa and Jodie. It is possible that even if it wasn’t a shark but a swordfish or a barracuda or even a whale shark, which are much less likely to attack unless provoked, Nic’s fear would have persisted all the same. What adds to the fear, and by extension, the trauma, is when, in the second half of the film, Annie decides to make a larger boat by joining two kayaks and a runner boat so that they can move from the island they are on to the next one. By then, Lisa had already been killed by the shark. Naturally, Nic is beyond terrified. As Annie and Jodie are going off in the runner boat to the spot where they left the kayaks, Nic again has visions of Cath being strangled by her boyfriend in the bathtub. There are two ways to look at this.
She feels she didn’t do anything to save Cath just like how she isn’t able to do anything here. Or, right now she feels like Greg, who was the reason Cath is dead. By not stopping Annie, she is letting them die (another way to say killing them). After they resume their journey to the second island, the runner boat malfunctions, and the three girls are stuck again in the middle of the ocean. They have to row the joined boats for the rest of the journey. Nic snaps at Annie for not thinking things through before opting for this solution. Nic is probably right, but we cannot help but think that this reaction of hers is purely out of her own trauma and fear and not Annie’s decision.
Nic and Annie start arguing with each other when Jodie intervenes and stops them. The shark returns and hits their joined boats, throwing Annie off. She barely misses the shark’s attack and is brought back into the boat by Nic. Realizing that they cannot go ahead without getting rid of the shark, Nic decides to force the shark to the bottom of the ocean by anchoring it to one of the kayaks, using a dead fish that Jodie had caught earlier as bait. The plan works and it seems that the shark is gone. They untie the second kayak and continue rowing in it, leaving behind the runner boat, which is now useless. Sometime later, they notice the kayak they had used as bait under the surface of the water. A minute later, the shark hits their kayak again. Jodie falls into the water but is pulled up just before the shark could plunge its teeth into her. This time, Nic decides to kill it once and for all by using a net. As the shark comes close to the kayak again, Nic and Annie throw a net at it, but in the endeavor, Annie falls into the water.
‘The Reef: Stalked’ Ending Explained – Does Nic Kill The Shark?
In no way letting Annie, another sister, die, Nic also jumps into the water. Annie is stuck inside the net with the shark. Annie’s struggle reminds Nic of Cath’s, and she knows she has to do what it takes to save Annie. Fighting the shark is, in a way, Nic’s fight with her fear and trauma that she has to win. She cannot let Cath’s death get the better of her and thus abandon herself from something that Cath and Nic love to do together, i.e., explore the ocean. So, she takes a knife that was there in the kayak and stabs the shark again and again, killing it. She, with help from Jodie, pulls Annie out of the net and to the surface. Annie is alive and breathing. The film ends with Nic, Annie, and Jodie reaching the second island, where they install a plaque on one of the rocks by the ocean with Cath and Lisa’s names on it. The ocean will remember them forever. Nic is finally at peace with her past.
As much as we have discussed Nic’s trauma regarding her sister Cath’s death, we have to admit that the film isn’t able to pull off what it seemingly intends to. As we stated in the introduction, primal fear takes over all our other senses, and when you are stuck in the ocean with a shark stalking you, the only thing you should be worried about is how to survive the death that is staring right into your eyes. Any moment could be your last. “The Reef: Stalked,” despite having a handful of thrilling moments, fails to compensate for the emotional plot. Despite being only an hour and a half long, the film seems too long, and the shark becomes a secondary aspect, the primary being the chemistry among the ladies. In this way, the film stops being a shark movie and becomes a thriller where a group of women is being “stalked” by a stranger in an unknown land, and the plot shows how they try to protect themselves. If you love shark films, “The Reef: Stalked” is a must-watch. If you don’t like shark films, then this is also a one-time watch.