The next film on this 31 scary movies in 31 days list doesn’t feature ghosts, werewolves, aliens who change shape, or mindless zombies. Instead, “Open Water” (2004) frightens by telling a story (based on true events) of a couple left stranded – and treading water – in the middle of the ocean.
(For other scary movies featured this month, you can link to slideshows of the first seven films, films from eight to fourteen, and films from fifteen to twenty-one, “Event Horizon” (1997), “Ringu” (1998), “Audition” (1999), “28 Days Later…” (2002), and “Ju-on (The Grudge)” (2002))
“Open Water” (2004) 5 / 5 stars – Although I like driving to California to step in the ocean and also take an occasional dip at friend’s swimming pool on a hot day, I don’t particularly enjoy swimming.
Sure, an instructor taught me the basic crawl and backstroke during my youth, but I could never get the hang of treading water.
After 15 seconds or so, I’d always give up and then quickly and desperately lunge towards the safety of the concrete edge around the pool.
So, I can’t imagine needing to tread water in the middle of the ocean, and for Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis), keeping their heads above water in the deep blue sea is the least of their problems.
The terrifying 2004 film, “Open Water”, chronicles their unthinkable predicament.
In the beginning of the movie, the only issue facing career-minded 30-somethings Susan and Daniel is peeling Susan away from her work.
The attractive couple lead hectic professional lives, but force themselves to take a vacation.
Without much planning, they opt for a Caribbean getaway with sun, fun, drinks, dancing, and scuba diving.
One morning, they decide to take the plunge, and opt for a scuba diving trip with 18 others on the World Famous Reef Explorer (as proudly proclaimed by Davis, the ship’s captain).
Once they reach the dive site called, The Magic Kingdom, the boat engine stops, a ladder drops in the water, and the happy tourists, including Susan and Daniel, jump in the ocean.
This joyful trip takes an extremely ugly turn for the worst when the Reef Explorer speeds away from the site, and somehow leaves Susan and Daniel behind.
Based on true events, writer/director Chris Kentis weaves a nerve-racking story and heightens tension by shooting his film like a documentary.
Everything about this movie looks and feels real, and I truly suffered a pit in my stomach while watching Susan and Daniel agonize through their range of emotions.
Credit Kentis, but also give kudos to Ryan and Travis. They are completely believable as this not-perfect, but loving couple trapped in dire circumstances.
To make matters much worse for Susan and Daniel, they aren’t alone in the water.
Sharks are close.
If threats of drowning or dehydration don’t make your palms sweat, sharks ripping your flesh to your bones will.
Kentis doesn’t simply throw three or four sharks at the desperate couple, but teases Susan, Daniel and the audience with glimpses of one in the distance or pops one suddenly above the surface just a few feet away.
This is one frightening hold-your-breath-and-hang-on story (pardon the pun).
Seven years ago while watching this movie, I clearly remember lifting my feet off the floor in order to dodge imagined sharks in the crowded movie theatre.
Now, while “Jaws” (1975) made people afraid to go into the water, after watching “Open Water” again (to prepare for this review), I also remembered exactly why I wrote off a scuba diving career seven years ago.
“Open Water” is available on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s rated R and contains adult situations, adult content, strong language, nudity, and disturbing content.