Review: Open Water

A young married couple on the rocks (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) venture to the Caribbean on a scuba-diving trip to help bring them back on track (They’re work-driven people by nature and in need of a break). When an oversight sees them left behind by their scuba-diving group, they find themselves stranded…in the middle of the ocean…with sharks…inhospitable ones…So what do they do? Play the Kevin Bacon game of course! Oh, OK, so they panic, bicker, cry, and try to stay afloat as well.

Dubbed “Jaws” meets “The Blair Witch Project” by many, this 2004 Chris Kentis low-budgeter (Costing US$130,000) based on a true story (not that it needed to be. It’s a pretty identifiable situation anyway) has a mostly realistic feel to it, with the mid-section being tremendously effective and unnerving stuff. When you realise that those sharks are actually real, it makes for an even more startling experience.

It’s not all gravy. Constant cutting back to dry land becomes aggravating (nothing of interest happens there, so why bother cutting back to it?), and the film depends on at least one ginormous contrivance of plot that is hard to swallow (maybe such an error would occur, but I just didn’t buy it). The early scenes on dry land come off as a little amateurish (loved the inexplicable full-frontal nude scene by Blanchard Ryan, though. Yowza!), with the leads far too low-key here to convey whatever point the filmmaker is trying to express, but once it kicks into gear, you believe their every terrifying moment. Even me, who tends to think scuba-diving is essentially Break and Enter, so I can’t say I have too much sympathy for anyone dumb enough to invade a shark’s home (Yeah, that’s right, scuba diving is trespassing, and depending on what happens next, even burglary! Think about it, people!). It still worked for cynical, possibly heartless old me. Having lots of night-time scenes helped make it almost unbearably tense for me (I’m a wuss, so sue me!), such an old-school horror tactic never fails to raise the hairs on one’s body. Also, for a Digitally-shot film, it looks mostly stunning, though the lovely water should take some of that credit.

It works, it achieves what it sets out to, sometimes superlatively. Scripted by the director, although rushed the ending certainly is rather ballsy. Not for people with a shark phobia, by any means (It’s interesting to note that co-star Ryan is deeply fearful of the creatures herself. Now that’s commitment to one’s art if ever I’ve seen it! Probably a little blatant stupidity too, actually). Definitely effective for what it is.

Rating: B-


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