Black Water

Black Water (2007)
★★ / ★★★★

Grace (Diana Glenn), Lee (Maeve Dermody), and Adam (Andy Rodoreda) are traveling all over Northern Australia. Everything is going along quite smoothly until they decide to go to the swamp with Jim (Ben Oxenbould), a local tour guide, and try a bit of fishing. The trio believe it will be a worthwhile adventure because not many tourists go there. While fishing, Jim claims that crocodiles have become a rarity in the swamp recently because locals capture and kill them for money. Just as quickly, their boat capsizes and the four scramble in the water for their lives.

“Black Water,” written and directed by David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki, might have been a much more enthralling creature feature film if the characters are given more to do or if it would have had a running time of just above one hour. Once the terrified characters climb up the trees with seemingly no means of escape, the pacing becomes as stagnant as the swamp’s muddy water.

Naturally, they argue about which course of action they should take. Lee and Grace opt to wait to be rescued while Adam wants to get to the capsized boat that happens to be about twenty feet away, turn it over, and find help. The scenario amused me because, at least from my point of view, there is really no debate in terms of what they should do next. To wait to be rescued is far from a good idea because the swamp is obviously deserted. Waiting means expending energy on sitting around. They have no food nor water. Now, if they had provisions, their debate would be more interesting to listen to. Instead, the picture grows tiresome and we wonder if or when there will be a next solid scare.

I wished the characters had a bit more knowledge about crocodiles. It would have been more fun to watch if they somewhat have an idea what they are up against. If they did, they could have come up with creative and entertaining ways to get away from their increasingly grim predicament. For instance, crocodiles are extremely patient hunters. When they decide to move, their reactions are extremely fast. Accuracy does not matter much due to their sheer power and size. The catch is, after an explosion of energy, they are back to observation mode because their muscles need to recharge. Even if they can see their prey getting away, they are forced to stay in a passive position. Unfortunately, none of the crocodile’s biology or physiology is acknowledged or explained. Yes, it isn’t required but watching the trio sit in a tree and accomplishing nothing will test anyone’s patience.

However, I liked that the filmmakers choose to hide the crocodile’s full appearance for as long as possible. It made me squirm in my seat because every time someone reaches into the water to grab the rope that is tied to the boat, one image keeps popping in my head: when the shark finally rears its head from the water as the well-intentioned Chief Martin Brody looks away for a split-second in Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws.” The two films are also similar in that we see the creature’s entire body much later than we expect.

“Black Water” has some well-earned jump-out-of-your-seat moments and unintentionally comic reactions shots, but it ultimately leaves the audiences hungry for more.

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