Black Water (2007)

Black Water (2007)

What You Can’t See Can Hurt You.

Grace, her boyfriend Adam and her sister Lee are holidaying in Australia when they decide to take a river tour. As they head into the mangrove swamp, the boat capsizes and their guide goes missing. Realising that they’ve been attacked by a crocodile, the three survivors scramble for safety in the trees. They are now stranded in the middle of nowhere with the crocodile still lurking in the water, waiting for them to venture in. Realising that help will never find them where they are, they need to come up with a plan to escape.

 

Likened to a crocodile version of Open Water, Black Water dibbles its feet into the murky water of the killer crocodile flick with mixed results. If you’re expecting a blood fest like the cheesy Lake Placid sequels, then this isn’t the one for you. Similar to Australia’s other killer crocodile flick of 2007, Rogue, Black Water offers the same sort of dire situation which was apparently ‘based on a true story’ although likely one which was made up by a six year old boy.

Black Water opts for the realistic approach, with the film being shot on handheld cameras to make it look downbeat and gloomy. The location itself is rather enclosed, claustrophobic and sparse but you can’t help but feel that some flamboyant cinematography to show off more of the beautiful wilderness wouldn’t have gone amiss here. The characters are in the middle of nowhere but you get little sense of that due to the mangrove trees encroaching on all sides of each shot. It’s only when one of the characters breaks through this dense mangrove and heads towards a big river that the isolation really hits home.

Black Water could also have suffered the problem that many films with limited casts have – that the individuals fail to deliver what is needed of them and thus the film collapses around them. With so few people in the film, it’s essential that the three main actors here are all dependable and capable of conveying the psychological damage and stress that their characters are enduring. Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody and Andy Rodoreda aren’t big names but they give realistic, heart-felt performances that we can associate with. They act naturally, logically and don’t make decisions to seemingly further the plot. Every decision they make is to escape, not to provide another opportunity for the film to throw in a cheap scare or gore moment. It’s a pity that they have little to do except hang from trees and gaze at the water for the majority of the film. But in conveying their hopelessness, they’re all spot on.

There’s no animatronic crocodile on display here as far as I can see. The croc is all real and this adds to the authenticity of the situation. However you don’t get to see much of it as Black Water borrows from the best, opting to keep it hidden underneath the surface like in Jaws. The only signals we get to know that the crocodile is still there is the odd ripple in the otherwise still water. The directing duo make good use of some jumpy moments although they’re too few and far between to really impact the viewer. I can understand them wanting to keep the croc quite low-key and keep it lurking in the background but it’s so low-key, you wonder whether it has just swam off looking for more lively victims.

The film writes itself into a virtual hole within the opening twenty minutes and it never manages to recover. It doesn’t take long for the characters to encounter the crocodile and become stranded so what’s left? The rest of Black Water then tries to keep you interested in these characters as they spend their time grabbing hold of the trees and desperately trying to avoid going into the water. And that’s about it really for the rest of the film. They come up with plans to escape but they all involve trying to get to the overturned boat and ultimately meet with disaster when the crocodile reveals its presence again. It’s a rather monotonous sequence of the same scenes over and over again. But in all honesty, this is about the only thing that they can do apart from bicker, cry and worry about their lives. No one knows that they’re missing. Mobile phones have no reception in the middle of nowhere. And the only way out is the boat. It’s hardly a writer’s wildest dream to be lumbered with this predicament and after while, it becomes tiresome and you wish they’d fall in the water and get it done with.

 

Black Water isn’t that bad for a few cheap and limited shocks but runs out of steam quickly and becomes a monotonous cycle of the same scene over and over again. How much mileage can you get from a limited premise like this anyway? Definitely not eighty-nine minutes.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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