Review: ‘The Shallows’ Makes It Scary To Go Into The Water Again

Between ‘Jaws’ and ‘Deep Blue Sea’ Lies The Intense Fun That Is ‘The Shallows’

I admittedly love shark movies. Hoping to get something with more substance than 2003’s ‘Open Water‘, there was a happy surprise to see that ‘The Shallows‘ is campy horror that knows exactly what kind of film it is.

The story is simple: Blake Lively plays Nancy Adams, a young girl with a heavy heart and a need to find peace. She believes surfing this hidden spot in Mexico is the way to that peace. What she finds is a great white shark who doesn’t enjoy her entering his feeding area. Stranded on a rock, she fights nature & a shark to survive.

My biggest compliment has to be the way it strings together different elements of the horror genre. Intense gore, great suspense, and some jump scares can be found within this film. ‘The Shallows‘ also leaves room for some genuine humor within this twisted situation. Summer horror films needs to have this sense of dread while remaining entertaining; this is something not many films do well but director Jaume Collet-Serra pulls it off. He totally used the most of his PG-13 rating.

Also, the breathtaking cinematography from Flavio Labiano has to be noted. I can recall many times where I was just taken back with how jaw-dropping the scenery was or applauding sleek stylistic shot choices. The scene where Nancy is first attacked and the water turns red; the entire scene becomes red and you instantly feel the pain and panic. All the masterful work from Labiano is showcased from beginning until the very last frame.

“What was once in the deep is now in the shallows”

Blake Lively really impressed throughout the film. While her exposition scenes are clunky, Lively’s “fish out of water” All-American girl character was perfectly used here. That is until her survival instinct kicked in & we saw her go from bubbly girl to a determined mad-woman. There was a quirk the creators gave her and that was this medical background. It was hinted her character wanted to drop out of med-school but that training is what kept her alive during this ordeal. Filling dialogue within the film, the character Nancy Adams would verbally walkthrough her self-performed medical procedure step-by-step. Lively also worked well with her seagull sidekick…told you got it a little campy at times.


Now it’s time to talk about the shark.

The shark films of recent have relied heavily on their computer generated creatures. While obviously the good chunk of the shark’s screen-time was CG, the practical moments were superb. Animatronics or prop effects used in 70’s masterpiece ‘Jaws‘ still have a place within the film world so there’s admiration for seeing it used here. That’s not to take away from the visual effects as they were stellar. In particular when it came to the epic ending fight scene.

Many will call them over-the-top but the underwater sequences were the most suspenseful moments. The build up to the shark attacks was slow; the audience was treated beautiful surfing shots with fake-out scares along the way. A great one being a slow brooding build & it just turns out to be adorable dolphins. When you finally see the shark underwater, you’re sucked into the moment.

Final Thoughts:

Look, you don’t go into a film like this knowing the story will be the shining star but the script was backed by original thrills & stunning visuals. The third act becomes a bit slow but all of the earlier exposition paid off with emotion and plot development.

I have to recommend this fin-tastic horror film.

The Shallows‘ comes out June 24th, 2016. Starring Blake Lively and Óscar Jaenada.

EJ Moreno
EJ Moreno
Who is EJ Moreno? Is he a trained physician? No. Is he a former Miss Universe contestant? Possibly. With a bachelors degree in film and a love of pop culture, he brings an alternative view to the world of pop culture journalism. Follow him on Twitter @EJKhryst and check out his film work at