Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
Summatiiiime! I like to watch Jaws at least once every summer because it is awesome and I have a special place in my heart for leisure suits embroidered with tiny anchors. Whereas Jaws is a grand adventure, telling a thoughtful story about dynamic, clashing characters, most modern shark movies fall into two camps: (1) ravenous (possibly mutated) sharks slaughter useless, pretty people in increasingly inventive scenes of carnage, or (2) survival horror, in which stranded sea frolickers find themselves on a slow, hopeless journey down the brackish buffet table. Open Water said pretty much all there is to say in the second category, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other worthy movies in this particular market. Some of them are even Australian.
And so it is with The Reef. In many ways it’s as generic as its title suggests: a stranded group of likable, good looking people start happy and end sad as one by one they’re devoured by a hungry shark. On the plus side, this is the rare thriller in which hardly anyone just up and loses their shit for no damn reason. One-note movies, e.g., most survival horror, like to offset external attacks with internal strife. (“We’re the real monsters, maaaaaan.” PUKE.) Tensions flare, two alpha males wrestle until one gets impaled on a stalagmite, some chick starts hyperventilating and screams, “It’s all your fault, MARK!” before accidentally falling off a cliff…you get the idea. The Reef thankfully missed that memo as none of the characters ever really turn on each other, except in the immediate aftermath of the death of a loved one, which, hey, come on.
Added bonus: If a shark kills in the ocean without showing any blood or severed limbs, does it still count? For all we know, this shark is dragging the characters to safety aboard SeaQuest DSV with Roy Scheider…who just so happened to be in Jaws! Speaking of SeaQuest, did you know Jonathan Brandis hanged himself ten years ago this November? I had no idea he was even dead. I must have heard about that and completely forgotten. That is some depressing shit. I guess that’s why we never got a sequel to Sidekicks, a/k/a the greatest martial arts tournament movie ever, not counting Best of the Best. (Karate Kid can eat a DICK.)