Black Water

The Crocodile Punter

We all have our guilty little pleasures that are difficult to explain to others and perhaps even to ourselves. Winona Ryder likes to shoplift.  Michael Vick fancies dogs.  George W. Bush enjoys getting ripped and bouncing up and down on the coffee table with his face.   Captain Midnight loves movies where people get eaten by crocodiles.  One of my earliest memories was of sitting on the odd geometric patterned carpet at my grandmother’s house, watching on the giant 27′ inch screen, some movie that featured stories from The Bible, shot in glorious Technicolor! The only thing I remember vividly was the part where the Pharaoh’s Army marched out in formation (Ah-Ha! Now we’re gonna get some action!).  Then they showed a steep slope or something like it and over the edge there was a watery area, maybe the Nile,  filled with crocodiles.  My eyes were as big as saucers.  “What the heck are they gonna do with those?”   These crocodiles were not the well-behaved variety that you see in nature shows.  They were not contentedly drifting along with only their eyes breaking the surface, no, these crocs were as giddy as school girls at a Justin Bieber concert, bouncing up and down, hoping to take a bite out of something.  Next, the Pharaoh’s soldiers started shoving people over the side. “Aaaaaaaaaaah!”

I suspect that the idea was that we, the audience, would see these lily white All-Americans pretending to be Old Testament era Jews and get some sort of moral enrichment from the experience.  I don’t remember the rest of the movie.  As a child, I never failed to draw the wrong conclusions from the morality plays I was given.  Instead of a morally uplifting message, all I got was a life long love of crocodile mayhem.

The year 2007 was a banner year for those of us who love a good yarn involving people getting back to nature and slipping a rung or two down the food chain to the mighty crocodile.  Our long time reader (Hi, Mom!) will remember that last year I reviewed the Citizen Kane of movies about crocodile menace, the visually stunning Rogue.  Now we’re finally going to have a looksie at Rogue’s little sister, Black Water, a more intimate take on the matter, it’s the . . . I dunno . . . the My Dinner with Andre of killer crocodile movies?  Most horror films that are of the “stupid humans go into the wild and become a buffet for an insanely large and  seriously hungry animal” type have a large cast, the idea being that there will be plenty of action and suspense generated by the hapless cast being picked off one by one.  You can make a game of figuring out who is going “red shirt” it, that is, picking out the characters whose sole purpose is to die a horrible death as a screaming man burger.

Black Water has a cast of five, one of whom stays stay home, so for our purposes and the crocodile’s, she doesn’t count, leaving us with a cast of four: Adam (Andy Rodoreda), the guy with the car keys; his wife, Grace (Diana Glenn); her younger, but still very much of age, sister, Lee (Maeve Dermody) and their boat master and tour guide, Jim (Ben Oxenbould).  Once we have a our greet and meat . . . er . . . meet with the cast, it’s time to head out in the mangroves in a dangerously small motor boats for some fishing, fresh air and crocodile terror. Yeah!

I really can’t give you the specifics with taking the metaphorical boat up Spoiler Creek.  Black Water can’t play the numbers game,  it can’t do the small things to make you care for superfluous characters so you’ll yell, “Nooooo” at the TV when the guy you liked, who wears the silly hat and gives up his seat to the old lady, gets it.   Instead, the movie gets you emotionally invested in all the characters, which is fairly easy as there are only four characters to develop into identifiable, rounded people.  In Black Water, investing your emotions with Adam, Grace and Lee is done with surprising economy.  First, we see them in the context of Christmas holiday togetherness with Grace and Lee’s mother.  During the opening credits, we get to sort through the Christmas photos with Lee and her new digital camera.  Everyone is so happy and hamming it up for the camera.  I like the funny picture where the cat is dressed up as Rudolph and suspended from the ceiling so she can “fly.”  Later we also learn a little fact that will color our perception of these characters, making them more sympathetic.

The trick is keeping the suspense going with so few possible outcomes.  After all, a crocodile can only eat you once.  Even with a small cast Black Water manages to keep things nice and tense, with the focus being on how Adam, Grace, Lee and Jim are going to survive rather than who is going to buy the farm (crocodile farm?) next and how  he or she is going to get it.  The feeling of detachment that you find in many horror films, especially in classic slasher films and daikaiju/giant animal movies, has been largely stripped from Black Water, so that the audience feels closer to the action.  You’re sitting there, treed with Adam and the gang, hoping that you never so much as see a pair of crocs (the shoes) again, let alone an actual crocodile (the reptile).

The acting is fine.  The cast had me totally believing that they were desperate, scared and treed by a voracious crocodile.  Diana Glenn has enough gravity as an actress to hold my attention. Maeve Dermody was also spot on.  How the about crocodile, the star of the show, you ask?  The crocodile is scary and not CGI.  According to the movie’s producers, they made a point of using real crocodiles instead of a monstrous CGI beast.  I assume that they used an animatronic crocodile for the bitey scenes, either that or a couple of rambunctious reptiles ate really well that week.  Then again they might be onto something with the “real croc” business.   Perhaps we could get the Travel Channel to do a show called Sarah Palin’s Australia?

Diana Glenn
Maeve Dermody
Andy Rodoreda
Ben Oxenbould

Andrew Traucki
David Nerlich

Andrew Traucki
David Nerlich

Three and a half of five Vincents

One Response to “Black Water”

  • TreverT:

    What I found fascinating was how seriously different this was as a film from Rogue. It’s the sort of thing that no one believes, when they hear you say they’re both movies about small groups of people being trapped by a big killer croc, yet they were totally distinct. Rogue was a great popcorn giant monster flick, sort of a modern drive-in throwback, but I think BW was my favorite of the two for the sheer intimacy of the situation.

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