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Saturday, November 19, 2011

BLACK WATER -- movie review by porfle

You don't watch BLACK WATER (2007), you subject yourself to it. This is one of those movies where I don't want anything to happen. The periods of inactivity between croc attacks are such a relief that I would've been happy just to see these people sit safely in that tree over the water until the end credits. But they're only a temporary respite between moments of either unbearable suspense or sudden, grueling horror.

During the lazy opening minutes, in which sisters Grace (Diana Glenn) and Lee (Maeve Dermody), and Grace's husband Adam (Andy Rodoreda), embark on a tranquil river tour in the Australian outback while on vacation, we're lulled into a sense of false security that is shattered when a huge crocodile overturns the boat and starts eating their guide. Grace and Adam manage to scramble up one of the trees that's growing out of the water, while a terrified Lee is stranded on top of the upended boat.

And that's just the beginning. With no prospect of rescue in sight, each of them must venture into the water at one time or another in an effort to retrieve the boat or scramble for shore, never knowing when the ravenous crocodile will strike as it lurks beneath the murky water.

Since there are only three people in the cast for most of the running time, I knew that one or more of them were going to get chomped somewhere along the line, so I hoped that I wouldn't care about them. Why couldn't this have been about Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Charles Manson getting eaten by crocodiles? That would've been fun. But nooooo...these characters had to be nice people who are instantly likable, damn it. And worse, they're apparently pretty tasty, too.

After the main situation is established, this "based on a true story" story by writer-director team David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki (THE REEF) is mined for all the potential nerve-wracking events that can be dug out of it. The cast is convincing, and so is the crocodile. The box art made me suspect that this would be a monster movie like ANACONDA or LAKE PLACID, with a big fake-looking CGI beastie. But most of the time Mr. Croc's appearances are handled about the same as with Bruce in JAWS, with just enough shown to give the illusion that we're seeing the real thing. Even when it jumps straight out of the water and snaps at the people cowering precariously on a tree limb--giving new meaning to the phrase "leapin' lizards!"--the effect looks real.

BLACK WATER is done about as well as a movie of this sort can be done. It's definitely a riveting experience, although I can't say I enjoyed it much. In fact, while my relief was palpable, I felt a bit sick to my stomach from all the constant tension after it was over. But I expect that's exactly the effect the filmmakers were aiming for, so BLACK WATER must be considered a success. Be prepared to suffer through it, though--light entertainment it ain't.

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