Heavily touted as “Jaws (1975) meets The Blair Witch Project (1999),” this Sundance Festival favorite fails in nearly every aspect. Based (very loosely) on a true story, a good film could have been made here, but helmer/writer Chris Kentis was not up to the task. That there were mostly average to good reviews of this pic, and that anyone could have thought this movie was even remotely scary, shows us how desperate people are for entertainment, how standards have plummeted in the last few years, and how the cachet of a trendy film festival can get distribution for just about anything.
Yuppies Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) are on their way to a fun scuba vacation, presumably somewhere in the Caribbean. They spend a quiet first evening in the hotel, as we are treated to a no-sex sex scene, replete with a pointless boob shot. Although the acting throughout this movie is absolutely dreadful, Ryan and Travis are somehow convincing in this scene, where they DON’T have to show any emotion.
Next morning, our couple boards the little boat, and heads off to the prime diving location, promised by Davis (Michael E. Willamson), the divemaster. There are about 20 divers total, and they have 35 minutes to be underwater. Through a very stupid contrivance, Davis loses track of the head count, and, to make matters worse, all the divers except Susan and Daniel come up early. No one seems to notice their unattended gear on board, and Davis doesn’t even miss the two tanks.
The boat speeds away, our heroes come up to the surface, and they soon realize their plight. Although they were told that the local sharks are harmless, it sure doesn’t seem that way, and as the hours pass, they complain, bicker, and hope to be rescued. There is almost no action, save the duo being bit by a large jellyfish, the couple being separated briefly, and Daniel getting a chunk of flesh torn off his leg by a shark.
Most viewers will find the ending disappointing. It is not until early the next day that Davis realizes he left the couple behind. A massive search effort begins, that will hopefully take into account just how far Susan and Daniel drifted. Meanwhile, though, Daniel is lying in the water very still. Is he dead from loss of blood? Could be, but Susan doesn’t check this out too extensively, before cutting him loose.
She continues to drift, is finally surrounded by several sharks, and in a long shot, decides to give it up, and goes under for good. All this to the accompaniment of pretty obnoxious music. In a vapid epilogue during the closing credits, a shark is captured, pulled on board a ship, and its stomach contents examined, to reveal the couple’s lost digital camera.
Besides the boring story line, the ultra low quality digital video, and the miserable performances, there’s more wrong with this flick.
One would think that a movie about scuba diving would at least assure that Susan and Daniel wear their snorkels consistently on the left—as all divers do. Apparently, even this small detail was too much for Kentis. Then there’s the matter of Susan ditching her weights early on, and at the end, somehow sinking to Davy Jones’ locker, despite the natural bouyancy of her wet suit, and lack of the weights.
In the true story, Tom and Eileen Lonergan were divers left behind by a boat captain in Australia, who was in such a hurry to return to port, he didn’t even do a head count at all. Worse yet, they weren’t reported missing until two days after they were stranded. Their bodies were never found, but Eileen’s wet suit and diving weights were discovered some months later, along with a slate saying “Please Help Us. We’ve been stranded by Outer Edge Diving Co. in the Ocean. Please find us soon before we die. The Lonergans.” It was theorized that they either died from dehydration and were then eaten by sharks, or were just plain eaten alive. Either way, it was a horrible death.
Funny how that one paragraph summary of the bare facts conjures up more emotions and stark images, than the entire misbegotten over-hyped jumped-up home movie known as Open Water.