Open Water

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The ViewChristchurch Review

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Review byMatthew Turner8/09/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 80 mins

An effective low-budget suspense film that lives up to its “Blair Witch Meets Jaws” buzz, though it’s not as good as either of those films.

For once, the pre-release hype that has seen Open Water labelled “The Blair Witch Project Meets Jaws” is pretty accurate. It has the same low-budget, hand-held camera feel as Blair Witch and, well, there are sharks in it. At the very least it’ll make you think twice about that scuba-diving trip you might have been planning.

Counting Error Leads To Ultimate Horror

Based on a true story (or “true events”, as the credits prefer), Open Water stars newcomers Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis as Susan and Daniel, a workaholic American couple vacationing in an unnamed resort. Keen scuba-divers, they take a crowded boat trip some 15 miles out to sea, in order to explore a popular underwater reef.

However, a head count error on their boat leaves them stranded in the middle of shark-infested waters…

Open Water is the second film by writer/director Chris Kentis, which (un)fortunately precludes any jokes about making a splash with his debut feature. The low-budget, documentary-style approach works less well in the set-up scenes at the hotel (particularly during the minor sex scene, which feels intrusive) but pays off brilliantly once the actors are in the water, when the camera is right there with them, in tight close-up.

It also helps that Kentis and producer Laura Lau used real sharks – the film was shot in the Bahamas, where it’s apparently possible to swim with fairly docile (and, presumably, well-fed) sharks.

Flawed But Good

Ryan and Travis do a great job of making Susan and Daniel seem like a real couple – neither of them are particularly likeable and there’s a palpable tension in the relationship that finally explodes into a full-blown argument once the reality of their situation sinks in. (“Has this, somehow, over the hours, become my fault?”, Daniel asks).

Kentis uses several techniques to help build the atmosphere, including the use of captions to indicate how long they’ve been in the water. In addition, he occasionally tells the audience more than the characters know, such as when you see a flash of blood in the water and realise that one of them is hurt (and that the blood will be attracting sharks). There’s also an effectively nasty “underwater vomit” scene and a genuinely scary thunderstorm sequence.

In short, Open Water isn’t without flaws but it perfectly conveys the terror of being stranded in the middle of nowhere and labelled “Food”. Recommended.

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Open Water
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Content updated: 22/03/2019 15:17

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