Shark movies like The Shallows always seem to claim to be inspired by true stories. Even when movies don't, audiences tend to see a shark attack on screen and think it must have happened in real life. Blake Lively's new movie The Shallows isn't based on a true story, at least not that we know of. But what about Lively's character, Nancy? In the movie, Nancy is a young medical student who travels to a secluded beach, aptly called Paradise, in an effort to connect to her recently deceased mother. A surfer, she catches a few waves before being attacked by a great white shark only a few hundred yards away from the safety of the shore. What follows is a nail bitting thriller — woman versus shark. Nancy's will for survival might feel super-human, but she's very much a regular young woman, which begs the question, is Lively's character in The Shallows based on a real person?
As much as we'd all like to think Lively's Nancy exists in real life (because, let's face it, who wouldn't want to be like Lively?), she's simply an invention of writer Anthony Jaswinski and director Jaume Collet-Serra. The Shallows, then, is more of a survival thriller than a ripped-from-the-headlines true story. And, that's probably a good thing, considering the whole shark attack thing.
The Shallows follows in the fictional footsteps of Jaws as a fictional shark attack movie, but there are a few shark movies that are actually based on true events (terrifying, I know). There's Open Water, a thriller based on the horrifying true story of tourists Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who went missing in 1998 after being left in the ocean off Australia's Great Barrier Reef by a tourist group. The couple was never found, but has since been presumed dead. It hasn't been proven that they died of a shark attack, and Open Water only takes its premise from the real events — a couple on a diving trip is abandoned in shark infested waters and left to die.
Then there's The Reef, an Australian horror film based on the true story of Ray Boundy. In 1983, Boundy and two other people found themsleves at the mercy of a tiger shark after their boat capsized off the shores of Queensland, Australia. Boundy was the sole survivor.
Both The Reef and Open Water are admittedly heightened versions of reality, with less basis in fact than they appear. It seems that, like The Shallows, shark attack movies tend to veer towards fiction, something that every surfer, swimmer, and beach-goer can be thankful for.
Images: Columbia Pictures