"Survival is her only option"
A group of vloggers end up stranded in the middle of the ocean after their plane crashes during an attempt to do some illegal filmmaking of a protected cove. Struggling to survive in the water, they find themselves being slowly picked off one-by-one by a pack of great white sharks.
Well here’s a turn-up for the books in 2018 – a shark film that doesn’t involved adding some gonzo gimmick to the sharks for kicks (Ghost Shark, Nightmare Shark, Toxic Shark, etc. You name it, it’s been done. And if it hasn’t then copyright it asap) Surrounded is a back-to-basics shark film, completely free of the absurdity of Sharknado and its ilk but hampered down by an even worse problem than giving the sharks superpowers – a dead-on-arrival script that is about the most contrived I’ve ever seen.
Surrounded doesn’t even give you time to sit comfortably before it brings the plane down and has the sharks tucking in. I’m all for getting to the action quickly in a film like this as its core audience isn’t sitting here waiting for a slow build but the script isn’t imaginative enough to keep us on edge for long. It doesn’t know what to do with the survivors once they’re all floating around in the water and it becomes a vicious cycle of whoever is left trying to get something in the water or get to the island before the sharks come back to get someone else. There seems to be a lot of useful stuff floating around on the surface, too conveniently for my liking, and there’s no way any sane character would attempt to dive underwater to retrieve something from the wreckage knowing full well there are three deadly killer sharks out there that have already eaten your friends. Eighty-five minutes seems to be an eternity here which is criminal given how well the likes of Open Water or The Reef flowed, both films dealing with identical scenarios. There are few well-built scares and most rely on quick jump scares of the sharks popping out of the water at random moments.
You’d think that the shark action would be enough but Surrounded frames itself around a series of flashbacks as the main character drifts in and out of sleepy consciousness. These flashbacks are designed to flesh out the characters but by certain points in the film, some characters who are dreamt about have already died and therefore any potential development is a total waste as we know their fate The flashbacks revolve around love and relationship drama between the characters but who cares when we know one of them is already swilling around inside the belly of a great white? Its superficial padding designed to beef out the running time and it’s also very jarring – one minute we’re in the middle of the shark action and the next we’re being pulled out of it to go back to the pool at the hotel. I understand the desire by filmmakers to try a different narrative but this one is far too abrupt and distracting. Playing out the drama in chronological sequence would have fleshed everyone out a bit more so that when the sharks do start killing people, we feel a little bit of something.
The sharks bother me. Aside from the first time we’re aware of the presence of them as they discreetly take a body in the background of a shot, they don’t act very shark-like throughout. Now don’t get me wrong – the shark in Jaws didn’t act completely like a real shark would but it was generally a faithful representation of how they behave, particularly in the movement. The single biggest issue I have with so many of these cheap killer shark films is that they don’t make the sharks real enough. I’m not talking about the effects used to bring them to life – the effects in Surrounded are fine to do the job for the most and definitely better than the usual Sy Fy / The Asylum efforts – but I’m talking about how the sharks move and behave, especially around food. It’s almost like there’s a hit ratio of shocks and kills needed to be crammed in before the end credits roll and the script has so many ‘face palm’ moments both in the sharks’ behaviour and that of the survivors. Can’t think of a suitable way for the shark not to eat this person who has another ten minutes of screen time before they die? That’s fine, just have the shark suddenly stop charging in for the kill and veer away at the last moment like a runaway truck being brought under control. The sharks appear stupid and clumsy, rather than methodical and ruthless, which takes away any fear factory they’re supposed to have. And when the sharks aren’t scary, films like this lose any advantage they were hoping to get.
A more down-to-Earth approach to Surrounded at least gives this one a bit of breathing room away from the increasingly insane legion of shark films being released but that doesn’t mean to say it’s any good. Sadly, the one-sentence idea wears itself out within the first fifteen minutes and it doesn’t really recover.
Also Known As: Frenzy
Director(s): Jose Montesinos
Writer(s): Graham Winter
Actor(s): Aubrey Reynolds, Gina Vitori, Lanett Tachel, Taylor Jorgensen, Michael New, Pope Bustos
Duration: 85 mins