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STUDIO: Sony Pictures
RUNNING TIME: 89 Minutes
- Deleted Scenes
- Filmmakers’ Commentary with Writers/ Directors Andrew Traucki and David Nerlich
- The Making of Black Water Featurette
After their boat is overturned by a malicious crocodile, three friends must figure out a way to get from a) the tree in which they’ve taken refuge to b) safety without c) becoming delicious to the malicious.
Diana Glenn (Grace). Maeve Dermody (Lee). Andy Rodoreda (Adam). Ben Oxenbould (Jim the Tour Guide). Co-writers/co-directors David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki.
Hungry for the above.
In terms of recent entries, the killer croc genre seems to be running neck and neck with the zombie genre. This small Australian film is a little threadbare in terms of story and character, but it does manage to elicit a few scares by using some good old-fashioned filmmaking. They had a zoologist sedate a real crocodile for some of the shots, for example. So take that, last year’s CGI-laden and Dominic Purcell-laden Primeval!
“Now, I know this looks bad, but I didn’t even know you ladies were up here. I was just trying to teeth my initials into this branch.”
The difference between crocodiles and alligators can be tough for non-zoologists or non-wikipediests to discern. If you are being death-rolled by either and are confused about the species of your attacker, simply look to the beast’s snout. A V-shaped snout means you are about to be drowned, de-limbed, and devoured by a crocodile; a U-shaped snout means an alligator is about to treat your body like it’s Chex Mix. Of course, such quick deductive powers are only needed for this situation in real life. If you find yourself being attacked in a movie, there’s no need to check the nose area – it’s probably a crocodile doing you bodily harm. Let’s look at the alarming pattern:
In any case, in a movie or in reality, what were you doing near or in swampy, crocodile-infested waters in the first place? I’d pose the same question to the characters in this movie. The reason behind them being in this deadly situation is one of the problems I had with Black Water – a not altogether bad killer croc movie from Australia.
“I know how this looks, but I swear I found him floating. I think maybe he drowned. I tired to give him teeth-to-torso resuscitation, but it didn’t work.”
Having just spent a portion of their two week vacation visiting their mother, sisters Grace and Lee take off in a rental car to seek out some fun and adventure. Along with Grace’s boyfriend Adam, they decide to visit a tourist trap called the Crocodile Adventure Park – a farm that breeds and raises crocs in order to turn them into handbags. Before the creatures meet their fate, the owners sell tickets to people who are keen on gawking at the reptiles as they laze about in the sun and eat whole chickens dangling from strings. Basically, it’s the crocodile high life right up until the handbag endgame. After that quick Man Abusing Nature lesson, our three protagonists spend the night in a hotel and then immediately head to Backwater Barry’s Alternative River Tour. The word “alternative” is filling in for the word “goddamnfuckingdangerous” here. This impromptu leg of the vacation is Adam’s bright idea. The women aren’t too excited to go fishing, but they convince themselves that Backwater Barry’s tour sounds like a good time killer – not a good them killer, which is what it turns out to be. Backwater Barry employee Jim (a Steve Irwin impersonator in real life, according to the commentary) takes their money, quickly holsters his gun before they can ask him why he’s holstering a gun, sprays his ramshackle boat with croc-attractor, rubs raw meat all over the craft, puts Crocodile Rock on repeat on his iPod, and then ushers the fun-loving youths aboard so they can spend a relaxing day fishing in deadly waters. Once their tin can-like motorboat is inevitably upended by an aggressive aquatic beastie, they scramble up the nearest tree and try and figure out why they went fishing in a swamp on their vacation instead of, you know, going somewhere fun.
“Now, I know how this looks, but let me explain. The swamp hosts an annual Halloween contest. This is a piece of my Vincent van Gogh costume. There were two of us, this year. Two crocodiles dressed as the same post-impressionist artist! Can you believe it? I was so pissed.”
Once I got past the weak set-up, I found myself enjoying the film. The actors, who all bring fairly natural acting styles to the proceedings, won me over. There is a lot of screaming, obviously – but the women in particular are able make you feel for their thinly drawn characters. The writer-directors do a good job of keeping the survival portion of the movie believable. At one point, Grace decides she’s going to try to climb from tree to tree to tree to see if she can make it to land or at least to passing boat shouting distance. And this idea, while futile (land is miles away), would be something I would try before ever getting back into the creepy, teethy water to try and overturn the capsized boat. In fact, the only way I’d ever get back in that water is if the branch I had sweat-welded myself to snapped under the weight of my terror. They’d find me like that guy who climbed up the water tower in Tremors, basically. But I digress. Of course, the three quickly figure out that the boat is their only shot of escaping the secluded mangrove. The crocodile, meanwhile, isn’t about to leave the flesh buffet that has landed in his wet, croc lap. And, thusly, the rest of the movie unfolds.
Unlike the realism injected into the survival side of things, the crocodile itself is portrayed as a meanie who likes to torment his victims. He likes to play with his food, so to speak. (I’m assuming it’s a him – my attempts to pause the action in hopes of getting a clear view of his underparts proved unsuccessful. And fun.) A calculating, vengeful beast doesn’t make for a bad villain, but I balked a bit when he started packing TNT around the base of the tree and then tried to get one of the women to wear a poison dress. Oh, wait – I think I’m mixing up his nefarious doings with the nefarious doings in other crocodile flicks…like Elizabeth. Anyway, while the crocodile’s behavior is somewhat hard to believe, it at least looks real. It was probably a budgetary decision not to go with a CGI creature, but the filmmakers’ use of real reptiles here goes a long way in making this movie stand out in comparison to other movies in its genre. In most killer crocodile flicks, the creatures are enlarged to such ridiculous sizes. It’s nice to see a normal-sized croc being fearsome for once.
“Okay, that’s my bad.”
At 89 minutes, the film is brisk but still feels a little padded. There are some great nature shots of animals and insects that don’t figure into the story – like a dragonfly buzzing around a hanging light. At first, I thought the shots were inserted to help smooth scene transitions. But after a while, these shots just proved distracting. It feels like they are simply meant to beef up the movie’s runtime. Overall, this is a fun, somewhat suspenseful movie that’s worth a rental. At the very least, it’s better than the Doobie Brothers song it shares its name with.
“I’M SORRY I TRIED TO GET YOU TO WEAR THAT POISONED DRESS!!!”
On the disk’s one commentary track, the co-directors and co-writers spend a little too much time telegraphing the action and praising their actors. The writer-directors have a good camaraderie and are proud of the movie, but I think they missed the boat here by not talking more about the rigors of the shoot. I would have liked to hear about the nuts and bolts that went into hammering the flick together (and about the sedate-happy zoologist and the stoned crocodile high jinx). Instead, we are left with a semi-listless track that’s typical of the failings of many DVD commentaries. The actor-praise extends to the disappointing making of featurette, as well. Like I wrote above, the actors do deserve to be complimented for selling the bleak situation. However, please don’t tell me that a dummy was placed in a sedated crocodile’s mouth and then pushed up and down in the water and not fucking show it to me. There are three deleted scenes included, none of which would have added much to the flick. The picture quality of the movie is a tad grainy, which actually helps the mood. The ugly cover of the DVD actually introduces, at last, a make-believe crocodile. Perform a Google search to see the great original poster for the film.