ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Open Water (2004)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Chris Kentis

Starring:
Blanchard Ryan/Susan
Daniel Travis/Daniel
PLOT-CRUNCH
An "auto-pilot” couple, go scuba-diving for some well earned R&R, but wind up abandoned in the open water instead. Bickering, boat sightings, Jelly Fish and sharks with the munchies follow. Isn’t love grand?
THE LOWDOWN
Hype…gotta love it! I still remember the advertisement on this one DVD box claiming that the “alternate endings” found on it would haunt me for days…yup…FOR DAYS! Needless to say, I forgot all about them quicker than I can zip up my zipper. Having been bombarded by the overly positive buzz on "Open Water", (one critic even went as far to say: “Prepare to jump out of your skin”-- easy tiger!), I came in ready and able to have my knob spit-shined by a hefty serving of horror. Sadly...that wasn’t my experience.

Inspired (premise-wise) by the true life tale of Tom and Eileen Lonergan who were left behind by their boat when scuba-diving, "Open Water" did succeed in occasionally getting under my skin-coat via one device: I felt for the people due to the severe “this could be me and I don’t ever want to go through that” type of situation. Being that the flick was shot on DV, it communicated the bulk of its action in a “peeping tom” type of way and, in consequence, led me to being closer than usual to what was going down. The phrase “that sucks for them” was regurgitated out of my yapper many o' times throughout this sitting. But was I scared? Not really. I semi-jumped out of my seat maybe twice via "boo" jolts and was hit with three ounces or so of “unsettling” anxiety when the shite started to hit the water-fan. To say that this was the most frightening thing on the market since my last torrid affair was beyond an overstatement. I’ve seen SpongeBob Square Pants episodes that terrified me more than this fish stick. You ever see Patrick Star get real mad? Now that’s some bloodcurdling stuff!

Apart from the seldom bad editing cuts (what happened to that first boat again?) and the crappy, groan-inducing “artsy African music”, my biggest peeve with "Open Water" is actually one stemming from individual perception. Meaning, that just because I didn’t get anything out of it, that doesn’t mean you won’t. My beef was that I didn’t give much of a fudge about the two lead characters (Ryan and Travis). The introduction to the couple was stale (nice tit/bush shot though), so that was that for the base and the ongoing lack of genuine chemistry between them lessened the stakes of the events for me. I never saw these crazy kids as a unit “in love”. I felt like they were “together because they were used to each other” instead. If that was the intent, bad move, where having sharks chow down on a duo of this ilk would be a “mercy snack”. If that wasn’t the goal, well, I guess I just wasn’t able to connect with the divers or their affection for each other. Bummer for me!

Having said that, both lead actors were competent enough in their respective roles, the pacing was swift (at 79 minutes, it better be), the cinematography, at times, arresting, the pessimistic/poetic moments much appreciated and I did respect the movie for taking its low budget and trying something fresh. The fact that the shark attacks were shot “for real” on location, undeniably gave the affair some extra "oomph". Those escalating random Tuna assaults kicked my butt to “Quint” land! Overall, "Open Water" was a decent and engaging watch, but it never fulfilled the high expectations that the hype had built within me. No, I didn’t jump out of my skin. WILL YOU?
GORE
We get minor shark bites and some blood. Nothing to write home about to Ma, Pa or Uncle Fred.
ACTING
Blanchard Ryan (Susan) was swell eye-candy and presented a credible performance, on the whole. I did find her to be too subdued in places though, especially when taking into account the dire situation in which she was. Daniel Travis (Daniel) fared better as the more energetic of the pair. His “freaking out” bit had me smiling. Good stuff, bro! Both actors did well individually, but I wasn’t jazzed by their “tie”. They just didn’t feel like much of a loving couple to me.
T & A
Blanchard Ryan (Susan) graced us with her melons and her “bushy” landing strip while the ladies got Travis and a couple of other dudes doing the shirtless thing.
DIRECTING
I grooved on the many creative shots, the intermittent slick scene transitions, the potent bleak mood and the “peep into reality” approach, but I was not too fond of the choppy cuts.
SOUNDTRACK
The score by Graeme Revell was criminally underused while the “chanting Ewoks”-like ditties were overplayed, grating the “ooah” out of me. The film’s tunes were at their best when SILENT.
BOTTOM LINE
Props to the brave folks behind "Open Water" for taking their low budget and the dreaded (by distributors anyways) DV format and creating a unique wet and wild ride with them! I was kicked in the nads by these shark shenanigans, affected by the imposing isolation of the characters, their insane predicament and their wet-back pain. Too bad I just didn’t care as much as I should have about THEM as people or a couple. "Open Water" was a flawed, yet appealing, bit of “mock” reality genre cinema, but the second coming of “stain your pants” it wasn’t. Now you going to go for that swim or what?
BULL'S EYE
The sharks in this film were real bull sharks and gray reefs. Ryan and Travis both wore protective chain mesh under their suits in case of shark nibbling. Surprisingly, no sharks gave it a shot during the shoot.

Director Chris Kentis and his producer wife Laura Lau financed the film (it cost $130,000 to make). They are both practicing scuba divers.
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5:10AM on 09/23/2005

choppy

Bleak - that's the word that comes to mind.

Apart from 'Stalingrad' and the like, there are few films more engulfingly bleak than this strange and unlikely box office hit.

You will know the story already. A modern couple try to restore the spark to their marriage via a diving holiday. They're left behind in open water when the boat they've hitched a ride on leaves without them. The rest of the film, shot from eerily low perspectives, follows the pair as they hopelessly bob around in the
Bleak - that's the word that comes to mind.

Apart from 'Stalingrad' and the like, there are few films more engulfingly bleak than this strange and unlikely box office hit.

You will know the story already. A modern couple try to restore the spark to their marriage via a diving holiday. They're left behind in open water when the boat they've hitched a ride on leaves without them. The rest of the film, shot from eerily low perspectives, follows the pair as they hopelessly bob around in the tide, drifting here and there, and being nibbled at by various sea-going nasties.

What's really surprising is that this nightmare is based on something that really happened. Tom and Eileen Lonergan lost their lives in just this way, and it seems more than a little odd that their next of kin did not kick up more of a fuss about this relatively recent tragedy being used as a premise for what is - ultimately - a voyeuristic fright film.

It's not a jump-out-of-your-seat flick. The sensation it evokes is more a salty nausea. You (and your guts) feel in synch with the drifting, despairing couple, and in that sense the film-makers have been entirely successful. For all that, it remains an unsettling and unsatisfying movie experience, albeit with several redeeming features. It may only be 79 minutes long, but it's plenty long enough.

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