On holidays in Northern Australia, Grace (Diana Glenn), boyfriend Adam (Andy Rodoreda) and younger sister Lee (Maeve Dermody) decide to take a river boat tour with Jim (Ben Oxenbould) as their guide. As they drift into a mangrove swamp their boat is suddenly capsized and Jim disappears. Realising they've been attacked by a crocodile, Adam drags Grace to the safety of a tree whilst Lee clings onto the top of the overturned boat.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's ironic that 2007 produced two Australian crocodile creature features with similar stories. But the premise is where the similarity ends. While Greg McLean's $30 million Rogue might be termed a traditional genre film, this $1.2 million directing debut from its writers Andrew Traucki & David Nerlich is more reminiscent of a psychological thriller. Superb cinematography, a great sense of place and an eerie sound score are the mainstay of this horror story set in the mangroves of Northern Australia and whatever the film lacks in budget, more than makes up for it in atmosphere. Maeve Dermody gives an outstanding performance as one of three adventurous holiday makers who find more than they bargain for under the rippling, shadowy waters. It's tense and terrifying as a simple outing becomes a fatal nightmare.
The mood is light and cheerful as the Grace (Diana Glenn), boyfriend Adam (Andy Rodoreda) and Grace's sister Lee (Maeve Dermody) set out for two weeks on the road. 'It looks like a dirty big truck with teeth coming at ya,' is how the infamous Northern Territory crocodile is described at the Crocodile Park, but the holiday makers have little idea of the dangers ahead as they embark in a small metal boat with fishing lines in tow. Good writing establishes the characters and very soon, it's not the fish that are biting, but a massive, ravenous crocodile.
Tension and chaos swirl like a quicksand as the three-some tentatively make their way to shore through the apparent perils. The camera focuses on the rippling waters and the dark shadows of the mangrove. A spider spins its web; a bird flutters through the leaves; flies buzz fanatically; crickets make their sounds like an orchestra tuning up; sunlight flickers on the bark of the gnarled mangrove trees. It's what we don't see that is terrifying as the mood reaches squealing pitch. It's all about facial expression as fear, despair and horror set in. Relationships become strained as options disappear and then it's a battle for survival as the snapping crocodile jaws come closer and closer.
No doubt driven by the small budget, the decision to use images of real crocodiles, rather than computer-generated ones is effective and it is credit to the filmmakers that these are used so well. Also as a result of the budget, the choice of the swamp location (in Sydney's south) is as authentic and effective as any in the Northern Territory. There is no melodrama, just an eerie reality as we wait and wait for the crocodile to create the rules. In the credits, the producers acknowledge that no crocodiles were injured or endangered; that's more than can be said for the characters, who predictably are worse for wear after their encounter.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Splendid in its economy, Black Water gets a grip on our senses and never lets go, rather like a crocodile with its victims. Quickly into the action, the film sinks its teeth into the meat of the exercise with serious intent - to give us a scary hour that ends in tears ... and blood.
The ever diminishing cast do a terrific job in naturalism, with nature indeed as the villain of the piece. It struck me while watching the film how the writer/directors portray nature as something wondrous and deadly all at once, which is what it is of course, without guilt, without an agenda - except survival. This subtext elevates the film to something of value beyond its excellent credentials as an adventure thriller/creature feature.
Among the highlights of the film are the many instances of restraint, making the audience do the dirty work of imagining the terror lurking and stalking our human characters. Excellent technicals and music/sound design make this a solid entry in its genre. If you've seen Rogue (another Australian croc thriller) you'll be interested in this as a companion piece; if you haven't seen Rogue, you should certainly see this as an example of genre filmmaking with a bloody good Australian accent.
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BLACK WATER (MA)
CAST: Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody, Andy Rodereda, Ben Oxenbould
PRODUCER: Michael Robertson
DIRECTOR: Andrew Traucki & David Nerlich
SCRIPT: Andrew Traucki & David Nerlich
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Biggins
EDITOR: Rodrigo Balart
MUSIC: Rafael May
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Aaron Crothers
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: All Interactive
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: NT: April 24, 2008 (other states later)