Recently Rated Movies #12: Drowning Open Water

Those of you who know me well out there will be shocked by this news, but I disliked Open Water

It is widely known that I am a shark enthusiast. Not to the point where I want to make out with one of the fearsome but lovely creatures, but I do love them. Shark Week is much anticipated every season in my household ( I, and I only, am the target audience of Shark Week); if I am cruising with the remote and I happen upon some random show with a shark in it, no matter how horrid, even if it starred the Olsen Twins in all their troll-like pre-pubescent horror, I would stop and watch the damnable thing; and the only person that I know that has seen Jaws more than I have is my buddy Tony. If I see that Shark Attack, Shark Attack 2 or Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (where a 60-foot shark swallows an entire boat!) are showing on the Sci-Fi Channel, especially all in a row, then I am staying on that station for the duration, no matter how truly terrible all three films actually happen to be. The execrable Jaws: The Revenge? A mere walk in the park for me.

So, you would think that Open Water, a film about an annoying couple who get left behind in the Caribbean by their dive boat and then are left in the open water for hours facing the dangers posed by sharks, jellyfish, hypothermic exposure and dehydration, would be a natural film for me to love. The problem is that, while this is based on a true incident that happened off Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the story behind the making of the film is far more intriguing than what actually ends up on the screen. My favorite part of the DVD was the behind-the-scenes documentary, and I kept watching the film thinking about what Hitchcock could have done with such a scenario.

This is actually pretty unfair to think regarding a filmmaker making only his second film; really, its unfair to compare any young director to the Master. And I do think that Chris Kentis has some legitimate talent and certainly a lot of chutzpah (I will be interested to see what he comes up with next), but his film never really got me caught up in the two main characters (which is bad because, outside of the sharks that torment them, they are the only two actual characters in it). If you are going to be stuck watching two people for eighty-odd minutes, and pretty much two people only, you have got to be engaged by at least one of those people. Surprisingly for me, the male is the more sympathetic of the two (I tend to take the side of women in most films, because men really are, as a gender, assholes), but he is whiny, and I didn't like him even if he is the only person who seems to watch Shark Week as much as me. And his female counterpart? Well, she's a movie producer, so she is a lost cause from the start.

As for the shark scenes, they are well-staged, and are the strongest element of the actual film (apart from the short running time); but because of the organic nature of the film (no CG effects; live sharks baited or fed to react in certain ways), one expects the suspense level of the shark attacks to be amped up a little more due to the rule of "less is more," that being a way of expressing that the more that is left to the viewer's imagination, the more effective the thrill delivery level. Perhaps it is the somewhat amateurish acting, perhaps the overall staging of certain scenes, but I never really bought into much of what occurred in the story, even with live actors splashing about in the ocean with a bunch of actual sharks. It is entirely possible that because I had heard so much about how the scenes were made, that it sunk the picture for me. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I had seen it in the theatres as soon as I heard about it. (I did have plans to see it at one point, but they were quashed at the last minute.) Consider it a lost opportunity...

Numerous people have asked me for my opinion of Syriana. This is all you need to know, and you will have my answer in a nutshell: I hate cars. I hate car culture. I believe that anyone who even thinks about buying a Hummer should be castrated to prevent their further propagation. I believe our country would be better off with monorails and increased bus systems. I believe in the immediate and focused development of any cleaner burning and more eco-friendly energy sources. And I despise all oil companies, and those individuals and institutions who line their wallets with "soft monies" and political "contributions" gained from their time spent making out with these companies in the backs of air-polluting, gas-guzzling automobiles. Too extreme? Too bad.

Now, ask me again what I thought of Syriana.

The Ratings:
Syriana (2005) - 7; The Matador (2005) - 7; Kaze no tani no Naushika [Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds] (1984) (TCM) - 8; Open Water (2003) (DVD) - 5; The Machinist (2004) (DVD) - 6; Cat People (1982) (DVD) - 6; Tenku no shiro rapyuta [Laputa: Castle in the Sky] (1986) (TCM) - 8.


EggOfTheDead said…
I read this during a lunch break at Borders - that's all the time it takes - and snagged the audio version for my next road trip. I listened to it twice. Absolute
swerve-over-the-center-line-iced-tea-out-the-nose hilarious. In the book the shark swallowed a mini-sub so the pilot could kill it from the inside. No matter what I tell you, it can't spoil the joy of reading the scene as written. What's the deal with the acres of Adventure, Horror & Fantasy novels that are written at a 3rd grade reading level, but with lots of 3rd grade sex and violence thrown in. It scares me to think what that means. My favorite shark movie is Deep Blue Sea. If I
happen to surf past it (no pun intended) - usually on FX - then I'm sucked in for the duration. Good production values, acting doesn't suck, tolerable sci-fi plot, doesn't take itself too seriously, lots of fun twists .... and, ermmmm, Thomas Jane in a wetsuit for almost an hour. Don't ask me to explain, especially to a guy with the hots for Charlize Theron ;-) Second favorite shark movie? Zombi 2. It just doesn't get better than SHARK vs. ZOMBIE! I didn't see Open Water. Being based on an actual event, the premise was too scary-real for me given my love-terror relationship with ocean water more than about 16 feet deep. This born of seeing Jaws 2 - Yes, the crappy one - on the big screen when I was 11. After a few years overcoming my panic in the deep ends of swimming pools(!), I've graduated to ocean snorkeling and lake swimming (although I have to consciously squash my fear of alligators there, and I've never seen a scary alligator movie.) Anyway, your review makes Open Water sound criminally boring which is worse than being scary-real, by far. It was really unfair to bring up Hitchcock. Were you thinking of Lifeboat? Your blog is brilliant, Boog'. It's a privilege to have access to your filmic erudition. I'm humbled :-) I've been sending the Horror Hotel folks your way in hopes that the gospel of Boog' will spread through their vast social network. *heart* ---Eggor

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