The Shallows treats its protagonist not very differently from one trapped in a haunted house or a cabin in a slasher movie. Only, instead of the claustrophobia of an enclosed space, here, the character has the horizon to herself. And instead of an evil spirit or a psycho killer, a great white shark.

Nancy (Blake Lively) goes surfing solo on a secluded beach, gets attacked by a shark and finds herself on a rock that barely fits a human (and a bird). But the early thrills of The Shallows come from the way we anticipate a sunny, foreign, exotic beach turn into psychological horror.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, Orphan) imbues it with mystery. Nancy tells her dad over video call that she is in Mexico but we get the impression she may be lying. The handful of locals who seem to know the place call it ‘Paradise’. Where are we exactly? Collet-Serra uses this setting as a psychic landscape for Nancy. When she returns to the sea after a phone call with her family—she seems to be walking into the waters with a sense of foreboding, her body heavier with the weight of the phone call and the sea choppier with the change of tide. The director also uses the seclusion of the beach as a contrivance to the survival story; as Nancy lies marooned on that rock just 200 metres from the shore, there is hardly anyone to come to her rescue.

The film begins to lose its grip as it increasingly becomes a one-on-one between Nancy and the shark. Everything that could be done in such a scenario is already done in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws with terrifying effect, keeping the shark invisible for most part of the film.

The Shallows fails to invent new things for itself in the third act. It becomes predictable, falling on easy survival movie devices like recording on a video camera, or the fact that Nancy, being a medical student, is able to tend to her wounds. But it is a well-crafted film that engages for the most of its 1.5 hours of running time.

The Shallows released in theatres on Friday .

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