Open Water (2004)

14 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Open Water” is one of those movies that uses what limited resources it has and yet somehow causes a strong effect on you. That effect is the experience of not merely watching a movie, but letting it happen to you. And in a horror film such as this, it works even stronger—you constantly have to make sure you’re in the theater or living room or wherever you’re watching it, just to make sure it’s only a movie.

Oh yes, “Open Water” feels realistic—the characters seem credible, the atmosphere is their atmosphere (becoming our atmosphere), and the scares are genuine. Nothing happens when we expect it to, and that’s what keeps the tension rising.

The movie, loosely based on true events, tells the story of a couple (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) who vacation in the Caribbean and go scuba-diving in the middle of the ocean. But when they surface, they’re met with the shock that the boat has left without them. There’s nobody around. They’re all alone. They’re just drifting in open water.

But it gets worse—the ocean is infested with things like jellyfish and worst of all, sharks. The man remembers only what he saw on TV documentaries featuring sharks, and warns the woman not to kick around or swim too much, because of the risk that a shark could come along and eat them. However, things get complicated and more deadly once the sense of anger and hopelessness has caught up with these people. There’s the sense of isolation brought upon by being left behind and forgotten—that sense is obvious throughout the movie.

“Open Water” was made on a shoestring budget, and you can easily tell by the film’s quality (or lack thereof). But luckily, most is made of filmmaker Chris Kentis’ limitations. He hired two good, convincing unknown actors to play these two characters we sympathize with, and it should also be noted that his use of digital cameras is effective in underwater shots. Also, his screenplay for this movie is composed of dialogue that sounds like realistic conversation given the circumstances. All of these elements make for a credible experience—a truly effective thriller.

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