Open Water

Open Water (2004)
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Trailer

When a film like "Open Water" comes about, my immediate thoughts are of films like "The Blair Witch Project." Very small budget indie films that market themselves as films where a supposed perspective of the film is reality based. "The Blair Witch Project" did this by giving the impression that the events of the film were based upon actual documented footage found by local authorities regarding the disappearance of three young adults. Unfortunately the picture was nothing but a hoax. A well marketed hoax though. Sadly I was not a fan.

But in a film like "Open Water, " the reality of the picture is the fact that the actors were consistently in the presence of wild sharks. The fact that an event like this has actually occurred, and the fact that 90% of the film takes place with the actors floating for survival out in the high seas. Knowing this ahead of time, I was intrigued to see what the end result would be. Thankfully this time I was impressed.

The film focuses upon a young couple’s trip to the tropics for a much needed vacation. While scuba diving miles off the coast, the couple’s lost at sea when one of the tour guides miscounts the number of people in the group. Now stranded in the middle of the ocean, the next 24 hours become a dangerous struggle to survive not only the dangerous predators of the ocean but also the realization that they might never be found.

What impressed me the most about this film was the realistic manner these events occur. The building tension that occurs as the couple slowly realize that things are only going to get worst as time goes on is handled perfectly. Considering that both actors are not very well know, I enjoyed the fact that their performances seemed more genuine, unlike the cast of the Blair Witch. For those that haven’t seen the film, please be aware that unlike what the advertising states, this is not Jaws 2004. The film does have sharks in it but they are not the focus of the film. Do not expect a bloody film.

Filmed on DV film, don’t expect this film to look good. In fact this film looks downright awful in regards to the quality of the image. Shot on handheld cameras the image has an almost jittery look to it. Color saturation is passable but not great. The lighting used throughout the movie is mostly natural so again nothing is going to pop off the screen. The film also has an incredibly shoddy look to it. Just jump to Chapter 4 and the opening shot of that scene lacks any sense of detail. An average 5-6 Mbps bit rate is used even when the frame isn’t in motion. But considering that this film looked bad in theaters, I wasn’t shocked to see how it appears on DVD.

A <$DTS,DTS> ES 6.1 audio track? Yes you read that correct. Even films that cost over a $100 million to produce are not being released with a 6.1 DTS ES audio track. How’s that for a reality check? And for those that don’t have the capability to use the DTS (754kbps) track, there is also a <$DD,Dolby Digital> EX (448kbps) track as well. Unfortunately both these tracks are not really effective. The film has a minimalist musical score and for a large portion of the movie we have mainly dialog and the sound of the ocean. The highlight of the soundtrack occurs during a tropical storm in chapter 16. This is really the only time the soundstage really brings you further into the picture. Overall it’s satisfactory for the type of film it is.

Besides the selection of surround formats two audio commentaries are available to listen to. The first is with the two main actors Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis. The second is with Director Chris Kentis and Producer Laura Lau.

A Deleted Scenes section is also available. Six extended scenes, as well as an alternate opening, are available for viewing here. I’m quite glad they were left on the edit room floor mostly because they tended to drag the early portion of the film. The alternate opening also ruins the end of the film so please make sure to watch the film first before watching this feature.

"The Indie Essentials" is a short 5-minute feature on the making of an indie film. It’s interesting but unfortunately far too short. It also seems like a marketing push for all of Lions Gates other upcoming films. They show footage from everything like "Saw" to an upcoming North American release on the French horror film "Haunte Tension."

"Calm Before The Storm" (15:50mins) is the making of the film. It’s again fairly basic but thankfully it isn’t the type of short documentary that has the cast rehashing what the films about. Both the director and producer talk about their decision to move from 35mm down to a lower budget DV format. Early casting tests are also shown and it was really interesting to know that the cast had to do all their own makeup and there was practically no crew used in the shoot. Overall it’s a good yet short making of feature.

"On Location" (2:30mins) is a bonus feature that shows Chris Kentis on an early dive before shooting began on the film. It’s cool to see that the sharks are in the water with him and they are in a bit of frenzy. Sounds like fun.

And last the Theatrical Trailer has also been included..

"Open Water" is definitely on of the better small budget independent films I’ve seen this year. Considering "Saw" was released later in the year by the same studio, "Open Water" is definitely the more suspenseful and better written of the two. You might not want to outright purchase it but definitely give it a rent.