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  • Rev Horror

Open Water 3: Cage Dive

Dir. Gerald Rascionato (2017)

Three friends auditioning for a reality television show find themselves stranded in shark-infested waters.

It's rare that a pre-existing series will turn in a later installment that features found footage, but Open Water did just that with the third film in the series, Cage Dive. Of course, that makes a little bit of sense because neither of the two subsequent films were originally intended to be Open Water films and were re-branded as such by their distributors, which is why neither of them really fit into that "universe" beyond being about people stuck in the ocean with no escape. Granted, it's tough to have an established "franchise" for a movie that's just about two people who are stuck in the ocean and die in the end, but Hollywood is not known for being creative nearly as much as they are for taking advantage of previous successes in whatever cash-grab ways possible.

Three friends, Jeff (Joel Hogan), Josh (Josh Potthoff), and Megan (Megan Peta Hill), are auditioning for an extreme survival reality show by filming themselves cage diving with sharks off of the coast of Australia. After their boat capsizes in the middle of the ocean, the trio are forced to survive against both the elements and the ocean itself, coming face to face with a group of hungry sharks that are looking for their next meals. Told entirely through the footage found on an SD card in an abandoned camera, as well as news reports and interviews with the people who found the footage, the friends' eventual demise is caught in brutal detail as they swim with nature's greatest killing machines.

There are a few immersion breaking things in the film that harm its ability to stay entirely found footage, most notably a soundtrack of fun, upbeat songs that fit well with the movie but make no sense in a found footage context. Making it a faux documentary, with inserted interviews and a presentation of the footage after the fact, actually does help to make the whole film feel more realistic. The realism is a crucial part of a film like this, because it's not just some action/adventure shark attack film. It also helps the film align more with the first movie in the trilogy, as Open Water had a very found footage feel despite not actually being found footage. Despite the fact that OW3 was not initially a part of the series, it works surprisingly well as a followup to the first film, especially if we can ignore the catastrophe that was OW2.

While the shark-fueled violence is certainly upped in this film, it retains a lot of what made Open Water work. The concept of having to survive in the open ocean surrounded by sharks is terrifying, and the sharks are even more present in this film than they were in the original. Open Water was about surviving in the ocean, and sharks were a natural part of that. Open Water 3: Cage Dive focuses much more heavily on the shark piece of the equation, which is exactly what a sequel in the series should do. The ocean isn't a scary place in and of itself. Rather, it is the things that lurk beneath the waves that scare us so much, and OW3 rightly spotlights the danger inherent on being forced to survive in an ocean full of dangers.

OW3 also ups the body count as well. Rather than just three folks stranded in the ocean, the capsizing of the ship dumps a few more bodies into the water that can serve as cannon fodder for the sharks. It's a wise decision, because it immediately raises the stakes and shows exactly what our main characters are in for. The unlikeability of the characters may make you pull for the sharks, but it's still a trip to watch them get eaten. Cage Dive is capably acted, well produced, and is actually a pretty competently made found footage horror film. The sharks are integrated well, and the story makes sense from start to finish. As sad as it is to say, all of those things make this a much better film than most sharksploitation films tend to be, and it's an enjoyable effort that just so happened to be shoehorned into a series that already existed.

There's a lot to love about this film, but to call it a good film may be a little much. There's a lot of character development, though the love triangle angle adds a different layer to a story that didn't particularly need it. There's already plenty to fight about when you're stuck in an unforgiving ocean. The characters aren't likeable, and that's not really a problem, but it does take something away from the potential emotional impact that could have existed if we related a bit more with the characters. All in all, though, it's a relatively scary film with some impressive scenes of shark chaos, and that's really all that you can ask from a film like this. If you're a fan of sharksploitation in general, this is one of the better entries, despite being the second film shoehorned into a pre-existing franchise.

Who this movie is for: Found footage lovers, Shark movie fans, Survivor contestants

Bottom line: Open Water 3: Cage Dive is an impressive sharksploitation film that is leaps and bounds better than its direct predecessor. It doesn't have quite the emotional impact of the original, however, though it's still very well done and genuinely scary at times. The acting, cinematography, and effects are fantastic, and the found footage style that they chose for the film works surprisingly well for an open water shark film. This is definitely one that you'll want to watch if you're a fan of either the original movie or shark films in general.

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