I recently reviewed the awful Lake Placid 2 and now we have another moving about a menacing crocodile, Black Water. Trust me however; the two films could not be more different in every way possible. Black Water is a true, low-budget diamond in the rough. In this case, low-budget doesn’t mean any sacrifice in quality. This Australian-produced film is somewhat reminiscent of 2003’s Open Water in that it has a very small cast—only five actors are listed in the credits—and is shot in only a few different settings. The fear in Black Water is largely psychological and comes from what you don’t see as much as what you do see.
Set just after Christmas, two sisters Lee (Dermody) and Grace along with Grace’s boyfriend, Adam, hire a boat to take them fishing and sightseeing along an Australian river. The river waters are extremely high, creating a swamp out of the nearby forest. As the trio cast their lines in the murky waters, their little boat is suddenly overturned by a crocodile who quickly munches their guide as they climb to safety up one of the trees. Their boat lies overturned, just feet away but it may as well be a mile. They find themselves completely trapped, surrounded by water and who knows how many crocodiles.
Directors David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki deftly build the suspense as each little splash; each ripple in the water sends a chill of fear through the three survivors. Adam wants to go for the boat but the sisters want to wait until someone comes along, a prospect Adam insists is useless as know one knows they are even out there. It becomes a test of nerves and resolve as they try to keep their footing in the tree as exhaustion and starvation assaults them, not to mention the constant biting of mosquitoes.
Unlike Lake Placid, this film doesn’t use cheap CGI effects. In an effort to bring the most realism to the production, they’ve used real crocodiles, combining them with the actors through blue screen photography which is seamless and often horrifyingly real. Its real progenitor might be considered Jaws, as you don’t see the crocodile a lot, particularly early on, although it does provide some of those signature jump-out-of-your-seat moments. You knew the croc was always out there, lurking about but you never knew where.
The cast was superb because they were so completely real and believable. There was not a hint of overacting. Adam didn’t try to be the typical macho hero and the girls weren’t just helpless bimbos. They all did an outstanding job of conveying the helplessness and desperation of their plight. Nerves become frayed and tempers begin to flare. I can honestly say I didn’t know who, if any of them, would ever get out of the swamp.
The film was also shot on location in an actual mangrove swamp and provided the crew with only about a three hour window each day as the tide would go out leaving them in a muddy riverbed. The scenery was beautifully shot and while it was made only a mile or so from Sydney, it strongly suggested a primeval remoteness. This is one of those little hidden gems that you hope to find on a trip to the video store. Definitely one to check out.
The extras included an audio commentary with both directors, a few deleted scenes and an excellent, 23 minute making of documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew.