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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Dark Waters (2003)

"No air. No time. No escape."


When a pack of sharks attack an undersea oil station in the Gulf of Mexico, a science team is sent to investigate what happened. However, their sub is also attacked by the sharks and the only three survivors are picked up by a top secret Navy research submarine. It is there where the team find out the horrible truths about the deadly sharks and realise they must find a way to stop them before they reach the Florida coastline.


The killer shark sub-genre is arguably one of my favourites of horror and that's mainly down to one of the only worthwhile entries: the all-time classic, Jaws, which then went on to spawn a whole host of similar films set at a beach community under attack from some underwater menace. Then in the late 90s and early 00s, Deep Blue Sea was responsible for a new breed of shark films where underwater labs and military installations conducting top secret scientific research on sharks is the name of the game. Dark Waters is another of the "genetically enhanced sharks on a rampage" fad that feels as redundant as the original spate of Jaws knock-offs. If you have a fraction of the budget of the film you're ripping off, and a fraction of the talent, then why bother?

In order to make a decent shark flick, you need to have one thing: sharks. Dark Waters goes to great lengths to avoid any sort of shark action. These predators aren’t well fed in the slightest and, save for the odd death here and there, they’re not the main focus of the story. There are some early attacks within the first five minutes to make you think that you’re in for a treat but then the treats dry up once the film has you believing in it. The sharks end up being off screen so much that you’ll forget you’re even watching a film with them in. Of course they show up as a token gesture in the finale but that’s more likely to remind the viewer that they’re watching a film about killer sharks as opposed to any real need for the story to have them there.

What you have instead is your typical mad scientist film where the main characters get into plenty of discussions and arguments with the mad scientist creator, get locked up for their troubles so that they can’t interrupt his experiments and then finally the scientist realises what a mistake he's made before it's too late and all hell has broken loose. There are lots of Navy guys running around in the submarine shooting at each other. There is really hot chick (Simmone Mackinnon) that spends most of the film in a bikini, a low-cut tank top or a wet t-shirt but who can’t act for toffee. There are some more Navy guys who constantly scream out "Now" at the end of every sentence (example being "open the doors, now!" or "full speed ahead, now"). It’s all very annoying but when a script is about killer sharks and decides to ditch them into the background in favour of all of this rubbish, it’s a no brainer how it is going to end – badly. The ending itself features a shocking sequence of events in which a load of innocent people are killed as well as the evil scientists. They were only doing their jobs!

The sharks don't look too bad in CGI form - at least they're not stock footage sharks – but you just don’t get enough of them. Dark Waters also gives them silly noises as if they're motor cars racing along at the bottom of the sea. The effects are much better than you'll see in some of the other killer shark flicks but given what happens in the film and what the sharks are required to do, the budget doesn't match the scope in any shape. Physics never come into the equation in this type of flick and the sharks are able to do stuff they have no business doing. But you get to see so little of them, I wouldn’t have been bothered if they started walking on land or firing laser beams from their frickin’ heads (ten points if you got that last reference). What you do get is plenty of exposition, lots of talking and things threatening to get out of control and then some Z-grade action scenes in the final third. Blink and you'll miss the sharks.


Final Verdict

Dark Waters takes Deep Blue Sea and runs it through a blender, ripping out anything interesting, dramatic or even mildly budgeted it had and presenting the empty leftovers inside a DVD case. A definite no-no. The only thing the sharks need to be fed here is the script writer and the director.


Dark Waters

Director(s): Phillip J. Roth

Writer(s): Brett Orr (screenplay), Phillp J. Roth (screenplay)

Actor(s): Lorenzo Lamas, Simmone Jade Mackinnon, Jeffrey Gorman, Bruce Gray, Ross Manarchy, Stefan Lysenko, Robert Zachar, Rodrigo Abed

Duration: 93 mins


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