Film: Open Water

Cover image
Film:

Open Water

Director: Chris Kentis
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Lions Gate Home Entertainment

Shot on digital video with a pair of unknown actors (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) who tread water for most of the film’s brisk 79-minute running time, Open Water is a fact-based exercise in primal fear that will scare the socks off anyone who dreads death from the deep, but it’s familiar stuff if you’ve ever watched “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel (which is mentioned in writer-director Chris Kentis’s economical screenplay). If you can’t accept that a trendy young couple could be accidentally abandoned during an open-sea diving excursion (but…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Shot on digital video with a pair of unknown actors (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) who tread water for most of the film’s brisk 79-minute running time, Open Water is a fact-based exercise in primal fear that will scare the socks off anyone who dreads death from the deep, but it’s familiar stuff if you’ve ever watched “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel (which is mentioned in writer-director Chris Kentis’s economical screenplay). If you can’t accept that a trendy young couple could be accidentally abandoned during an open-sea diving excursion (but hey, it really happened!), then you’ll surely be hooked by the intense what’s-gonna-happen anxiety that escalates when the horrified vacationers realize they’ve got unwanted company. It’s too easy to call Open Water a poor man’s Jaws, and the movie’s too realistically frightening to be compared to the popcorn thrills of Deep Blue Sea, so what you’ve got here is a shark movie that creates its own little low-budget niche. Before placing his actors in actual proximity to sharks, Kentis betrays them with some silly, bickering dialogue, but with adequate realism in its favor, Open Water offers a perfect excuse to stay on the beach. —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

The terrifying story of a young couple who go scuba diving with a large group only to be accidentally left behind in deep water off the Bahamas, Open Water was touted as this year’s Blair Witch Project: shot on digital video with a shoestring budget, this independent film delivered more chills than most major-studio fright films costing millions more to make. It didn’t generate quite as much hype as Blair Witch, but the achievement of husband-and-wife filmmakers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau remains an impressive one. The movie was independently financed and shot over a period of more than two years, on weekends and during vacation time. (Kentis didn’t want to leave his day job.) It’s a minimalist story, to say the least; aside from some basic expository footage showing the yuppie couple on vacation, there’s nothing else but the basic shark-circling situation—which is all the more harrowing for its simplicity. The movie poses one essential question: Will the couple be rescued by humans or eaten by sharks? What makes it compelling is the suspenseful depiction of the ordeal. The camera stays trained on the husband and wife as they register annoyance at first, then fear, and ultimately resignation. Using digital video cameras they bought after researching equipment on the Internet, Kentis and Lau became a crew of two—there were no electricians, gaffers, makeup people, or boom handlers. The couple edited the movie at home on their computer. Costars Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis, who provide one of the two commentaries for this DVD, confirm something else discussed in the behind-the-scenes featurette: They performed all their own scenes in shark-infested waters without stunt doubles, relying on a “shark wrangler” to keep their finny colleagues well fed and properly motivated. Ed Hulse

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