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‘The Reef: Stalked’ Review: A Film that’s Scariest Under the Surface

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What is summer without a shark movie?

Starring Saskia Archer, Teressa Liane, Kate Lister, and Ann Truong, The Reef: Stalked follows a group of friends kayaking at an Australian island resort as one grieves the death of her sister, Cath (Bridget Burt). The loss doesn’t stop there as the group of friends quickly find themselves relentlessly pursued by a great white shark.

Although this film is directed by Andrew Traucki, who also directed the original (a film based upon the true story of a group of swimmers who were marooned in shark-infested waters off the coast of Australia), seeing the first film is not necessary to enjoy this sequel as The Reef: Stalked tells a new story about new people.

Through powerful female characters coupled with strong performances, Traucki creates a suspenseful tale wrought with meaningful metaphors and helps shine a light on domestic violence issues.

Because Cath was drowned and murdered by her husband, and her sister Nic (Teressa Laine) witnessed the horrific aftermath, Nic is left plagued by PTSD-related flashbacks whenever she is submerged in water.

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Despite this, she consistently puts herself in harm’s way to protect her friends whenever the threat of a shark looms. By both overcoming the fear of impending shark attacks and constantly confronting her trauma, Nic radiates powerful feminine energy. Teressa Liane does a fantastic job of portraying this strong character.

Each female character takes turns demonstrating their versions of badassery, with their resumes not limited to spear hunting fish and fishing for a shark. This film exudes girl power through and through. Each actress executed her role gracefully and created a truly realistic picture.

By creating believable and relatable characters, the film felt more realistic, aiding in the delivery of suspense. Though the shark action doesn’t begin until about thirty minutes into the movie, the shark’s presence is ever looming both in the water and in our minds. We know a shark attack is coming, but we don’t know when. By the time it does happen, the suspense doesn’t lighten up as the fates of all the characters hang in the balance.

With a score reminiscent of Jaws, and typical shots of unsuspecting feet dangling in the water, there were plenty of moments where I was left holding my breath. When I finally came up for air, I was disappointed in the number of times that the suspense-building amounted to nothing. Though this film demonstrated that getting out of the water doesn’t make a person safe from a shark attack, the movie misses its mark on being genuinely chilling. On the thriller/horror meter, this film is more of a suspenseful thriller than a scary movie. What would stick to my bones long after viewing, though, was the commentary and presentation of domestic violence.

Andrew Traucki wanted to highlight the dangers and realities of domestic violence and did so in a way that showed the effects of DV more than just the victim. As Nic continuously relives the drowning of Cath in her mind, the pursuant images haunt not only Nic but the viewer as well. Domestic violence is by far the scariest part of the film.

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Justifiably so, given that 2021 saw only nine shark attack related fatalities, while the same year saw 112 people lost to domestic violence in Pennsylvania alone.

The film’s dedication to the women finding safety in numbers and leaning on each other during the most harrowing moments stands as a beautiful metaphor for the power of community and friendship when dealing with hard times.

The metaphor lengthens as many shots show nothing happening on the ocean’s surface although the shark is prowling. It’s a fearsome reminder that the ocean can hide much beneath what we can see. This almost on-the-nose metaphor shows that just because everything looks calm from the outside does not mean there is no vicious monster lurking underneath.

Furthermore, given that the women in this film take turns spotting the small signs that a shark is nearby, such as the congregation of birds or a fin just barely grazing the surface, the film demonstrates that it can take many eyes to spot a monster.

Overall, what The Reef: Stalked lacked in action, it made up for in powerful performances and heavy metaphors. On the surface, it may be just a suspenseful shark film, but floating underneath is a powerful display of feminine teamwork and domestic violence awareness.

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Check out The Reef: Stalked, releasing July 29th in theaters and on Shudder.

If you or someone you know is currently suffering from domestic violence, call the domestic violence hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org for help, resources, and support.

A writer by both passion and profession: Tiffany Taylor is a mother of three with a lifelong interest in all things strange or mysterious. Her love for the written word blossomed from her love of horror at a young age because scary stories played an integral role in her childhood. Today, when she isn’t reading, writing, or watching scary movies, Tiffany enjoys cooking, stargazing, and listening to music.

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Art and Pain: A Look into the World of ‘Allegoria’ (2022)

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No, an artist doesn’t have to suffer, but we remember those who did and do struggle so much more than those who don’t. Take, for example, Vincent van Gogh, whose final words were “The sadness will last forever.” These words lead us into the anthology film Allegoria (2022), written, produced, and directed by Spider One, in which several artists fight against their fatal flaws and the forces of evil.

The movie shows segments of disparate artists’ lives. There are actors, musicians, a painter, a writer, and a sculptor. On the surface, their stories are connected only by the theme of pursuing their craft. As the film progresses, we see interlacing threads that weave them together, such as a painting, a conversation, a desire. The main connection is the presence of evil, of course, making this a horror film. The gore and unease amplify the horror, and while they are abundant, Allegoria doesn’t hinge on the obvious scares. Instead, it focuses on the ramifications of internal fear.

There are many common fears experienced by artists of all sorts, including imposter syndrome, not being able to support oneself, selling out, and not being understood. As any creator knows, these experiences can halt our work, can stifle our creativity, and can make us want to quit. But for most determined artists, the desire to create is greater than the fear of failure. The artists in Allegoria face these fears quite literally, as they manifest in physical form. How can, say, insecurity be represented physically? By an aggressively instigating, sufficiently creepy person in hellish makeup and costume, of course.

Spider One has successfully completed his first feature film (and directed nine shorts), but most of the creatives in Allegoria are not so lucky as to have a finished product. The writer/producer/director is not so confident in his work that he is never plagued by fear, according to an interview with Portalville Podcast, and we can therefore assume that some level of projection is present in Allegoria. Having a personal connection to one’s art shows in obvious ways: a passion project is often more enjoyable than one produced simply for a paycheck. The cast and crew have certainly experienced the anxieties they present on the screen, giving the film a feeling of authenticity.

Suffering is an essential part of the human experience, but is it essential to the artist’s experience? To an extent, yes, because work that resonates comes from lived experience, but it is not mandatory. Requiring anyone to suffer is cruel, and moreover, requiring suffering for a better experience in consuming art is selfish. So why are we so drawn to evocative art? It’s a complex question that doesn’t have a straight answer, especially considering everyone’s different experiences and preferences. Most can agree, however, that powerful art makes us feel. To paraphrase the sculptor Ivy in one scene, good art takes an object, turns it into a feeling, and turns that feeling into a visceral reaction. Allegoria’s success, much like all horror movies, depends on eliciting a visceral reaction. It deftly uses gore, dread, and dialogue to show that something is not right in these artists’ lives.

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My favorite segment of the film centers on the painter Marcus. He’s an unlikeable protagonist, openly disparaging other art forms such as acting, and he is also pretentious, looking down on his agent for not knowing about Jacob Isaacszoon van Swanenburg’s painting “The Harrowing of Hell.” As he fights against the clock to finish a piece, Marcus deals with the annoyances of forced social interaction. A creator myself, I understand his short temper with interruptions, and I can’t say that I’ve never wanted to get totally immersed in my work and shut out the world. This segment of the film also includes my favorite shot, which I won’t spoil for you.

Allegoria is a great representation of the misfortune of creativity. Those who are cursed with it often suffer for their art. That suffering is not necessary, but I’d say it is felt by the majority of artists. Through physical manifestations of their anxieties, the depicted creators face evil forces. But is it truly evil, or is it simply an allegory?

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REVIEW: ‘They/Them’ is a Problematic Yes/No

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This movie needs a ton of trigger warnings: homophobia, transphobia, sexual harassment, animal cruelty, and aversion therapy.

When I first heard about They/Them I was incredibly nervous for it to come out. While it’s not new to have nonbinary characters in horror films, we rarely get such explicit representation. I expected this film to either be a radical example of queer representation and catharsis or completely off the mark. I was especially wary because of the conversion camp setting. However, I felt like it was a mixed bag.

Let me start by saying that there are some genuinely upsetting moments, especially for those of us who can relate to the campers. There are many scenes where the characters share their motivations for being at the conversion camp, and while this helps us understand their motivations and watch their growth throughout the film, it can hit a little too close to home. There are also instances when transgender characters are outed and then misgendered. The movie obviously pulls heavily from Friday the 13th but lacks the pacing that made other slasher movies suspenseful. Furthermore, I would have liked to have felt more anxiety for the campers, to really emphasize how fucked up the conversion camp was. However, the actual violence we see against the campers is pretty upsetting. I would have rather the movie focus on the camp’s backward conception of gender roles rather than seeing outright violence against queer characters.

One thing I think They/Them got right was its characters. The campers are all likable and have their own plotlines, despite the movie having a bit of an ensemble cast. At some points, the characters do feel like caricatures of LGBTQ+ stereotypes, but this is done more for inside jokes to make those of us in the community laugh, rather than making a joke at our expense. Jordan, the main character, is very capable and confident. They are the nonbinary representation I was hoping for, even if they sometimes fall into the Gary/Mary Sue category.

Overall, I’m not sure if I can recommend this movie. Its final message is interesting, and preaches finding strength through community over violence. But for anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community, this movie might be difficult to watch. It’s nice to see representation, but the possibility of being triggered is very real in this movie. Although They/Them was quite funny at moments, it’s not very scary. I’d say this movie is enjoyable, but not worth the risk if you are sensitive to any of the triggers listed at the beginning.

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They/Them is now streaming on Peacock.

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