Open Water (2003)

(In theaters, August 2004) There is definitely something to be said about the purity of this film’s premise: What if you found yourself stuck in the middle of the ocean in a scuba suit? There’s an innate terror there as the situation is so far removed from the daily reality of us land-lubbers. For more fun, add in some jellyfishes, wounds, dehydration, exposure and the usual sharks. Visually, the director cleverly lets the camera hang only a touch above the stranded divers’ heads as they bob up and down in the ever-changing ocean landscape. Yup, some good stuff here –and I’m not even talking about Blanchard Ryan’s completely gratuitous nude scene. But what could have been a one-note premise turns out to be exactly that and even at a mere 72 minutes, this film still feels overlong. Granted, the pedestrian screenplay doesn’t do much to heighten our involvement: The two leads are basically yuppie scum, and while their everyman quality gives a this-could-be-you quality to their plight, it doesn’t go beyond that. Visually, it’s both a shame and a achievement to see that the film was shot in muddy digital video. Sure, it means that a film that otherwise wouldn’t have existed was shown on thousands of cinema screens across America. On the other hand, well, it looks like digital video on a two-storey silver screen: There is no arguing that this is a bottom-basement budget film. So; a mixed bag? Well, yes, but I suspect that the clincher will be the cheap ending, which makes the whole thing feel quite irrelevant. Eh: I call it low-budget film syndrome.

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