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  • Rev Horror

Open Water

Dir. Chris Kentis (2003)

A couple are stranded in the open ocean after their boat leaves them behind during a dive.

The dichotomy between the two different schools of thought on the ocean is fascinating. For thousands of years, its been a source of entertainment and entertainment, and for many countries around the globe it is a vital part of the supply line. It is impossible to avoid considering the other side of the coin, however, in which we know that the ocean is home to millions of creatures that want to supplant our place in the supply chain for one in the food chain. Knowing that somewhere beneath the surface lurks some of the most dangerous animals in the world, beasts that could swallow you in one bite or, perhaps more horrifically, would much prefer to eat you piece by piece. Being stranded in the middle of the ocean, with no rescue in sight and with nothing between you and the denizens of the deep, is a terrifying thought, a fact that director Chris Kentis kept full in mind when he made 2003's Open Water. Side note: this was a first watch for me, and this is definitely a movie I should have watched years ago.

Couple Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) are on an island vacation, seeking to escape from the stressors of their lives on a once-in-a-lifetime getaway. When they are left behind by neglectful diving instructors, they must fend for themselves in a dangerous ocean. All alone and with only the diving supplies on their backs, they are forced to weather the storm, literally and figuratively, as they fight for survival against nature itself. Sharks, jellyfish, and the unstoppable tide all threaten to overcome the couple, and all they can do is hope that they are rescued by a stray boat in an ocean where no one knows they're missing.

It's a horrific based-on-a-true-story plot, though it almost feels like a shame to have this one kick of our Shark Week because it's not nearly as much of a "shark movie" as most of the others on this list. This is more of a survival horror, because while there are certainly sharks involved, they're not the only thing to fear in the middle of the ocean. Being stranded alone would be a death sentence, and adding in large-toothed predators is just icing on the proverbial ocean cake. By the time night falls and a storm is on the horizon, their chances of rescue dwindle by the minute, and the isolationist horror becomes almost too much for the audience to bear.

What is striking about Open Water is its realism. There's nothing fantastical about this, and Ryan and Travis do a fantastic job of being entirely believable in their roles. They way that they react is the way you would likely react, though they are perhaps a bit more good humored throughout than most would be. The way that the characters slowly break down over the course of the film, eventually turning on each other, is so authentic that its almost as much of a relationship drama as it is a shark movie. Two people, looking desperately for an escape from their situation, even if its just mentally, is incredibly relatable and somehow so sad. The audience knows that Susan and Daniel must stick together to survive, but their natural devolution to squabbling with each other becomes inevitable.

It's rare that a movie looking cheaply made would be a compliment, but for this one it certainly is. It almost feels like a found footage film, the grainy camerawork both a product of the indie production values and likely a purposeful choice to greatly increase the realism. It works wonderfully for a survival horror, and it's genuinely terrifying. While I would say that I preferred The Reef as an overall film, Open Water is the OG lost-at-sea shark movie from which all the others sprang. The fact that it's a true story makes it all the more horrific, and it's a must-see for any fan of shark movies or survival horror in general. And hell, it's the summer, the absolute best time of the year to watch.

Who this movie is for: Shark movie fans, Survival horror lovers, Inattentive dive guides

Bottom line: Open Water is terrifying and super realistic, a horrifying true story put into film that is basically any human's worst nightmare. It's survival horror at its best, and while it's far from the most impressive "shark" movie, it's got more than enough underseas monsters to fit well into the genre. It's a helluva kickoff to Shark Week, and it's a movie I should've seen a long time ago. If you haven't seen this one, you must: it's hair-raising and shockingly effective.

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