MOVIES: Black Water (2007) and The Reef (2010)

blackwaterFor some reason, last weekend I was really in the mood to watch movies about people being eaten by regular ol’ earth creatures (as opposed to, say, “mansquitoes”) with big teeth and serious grudges against mankind.

Both these two “people-eaters,” as I call this genre, were made by the same Australian director, Andrew Traucki, and are, apparently, the first two movies in a planned “trilogy of terror,” so it seemed logical to watch them back-to-back as a double-feature.  I’d actually seen Black Water before, but not for many years, and I didn’t remember much about it, aside from the fact it was about a bunch of people stranded in a swamp and stalked by a really big, mean crocodile.  Which: sweet.

Of these two movies, Black Water is definitely the better one.  The Reef is about a group of people who are out sailing in the middle of nowhere in the ocean (one of my least-favorite places) when the hull of their vessel suddenly gets ripped open (I guess by the shark? That didn’t make a lot of sense) and flips over.  They have to decide: stay on the boat and hope it doesn’t sink before someone finds them, or jump into the water and try to swim for shore?  One of the guys is an experienced local diver and seems to know which direction to swim in, so all but one of the gang decide to make a break for it.  Remaining behind?  The local fisherman guy, who is all, “Dudes, I fish these waters. I know what’s down there.  Best of luck to you.  Write if you find work.”

HOLY OMINOUS FORESHADOWING, BATMAN!

thereefThe movie ends up being a fairly standard man-eating shark flick, with, you know, lots of people getting eaten by a shark that won’t stop stalking them all the way to shore.  Is that really how sharks act?  I don’t know.  Probably not, since in the real world, they don’t seem to like the taste of human flesh much (lots of single chomps on surfers, very few going back for seconds).  But this is just how shark movies work, I suppose — it’d be hard, in fact, to be a shark movie without this.  In any case, at least it wasn’t Jaws: The Revenge, in which the shark stalks the Brody family from New England to the Bahamas, even though they fly there on an airplane (?), and then later in the movie, Michael Caine falls off a boat and gets back on dry (??).  See?  Things could be worse.

Anyway, aside from the fact The Reef fills the bill of “movies about people being eaten,” the characters weren’t interesting enough to make it stand out amongst all the other movies just like it.

Black Water, on the other hand, is a truly terrifying movie.  It claims to be based on a true story, and I believe it, even if it’s not true at all — that’s how believable it is.  It’s about a group of tourists — two sisters and one of the sister’s husbands — who decide to hire some guy named Jim to take them out into the mangrove swamps of Northern Australia to fish.  They’re in a dinky little metal boat, which ends up being no match for the utterly GINORMOUS crocodile that flips them over in the middle of nowhere in the swamp (and here’s where I pulled out my list of “Places Never to Go” and added “Middle of nowhere in the Mangrove swamps of Northern Australia,” by the way.)

Jim gets eaten right away, poor guy (SPOILER ALERT!), while the other three manage to get into the trees, high enough the croc can’t reach them.  For the moment, they are safe.  But they can’t hang out in the trees indefinitely, talking about life and hoping to get rescued (well, they could, but then this would be a mumblecore movie instead of a people-eater).

The husband decides their best move is to try to get to the boat, so, either bravely or foolishly (both), he declares he’s going to try to slink smoothly into the water, quiet as a mouse, and swim slowly over to the boat to flip it over.  The working theory is that as long as the crocodile doesn’t hear him splashing around, he should be totally safe.  Ladies, keep an eye out, he’s goin’ in.

As it turns out, to no one’s great surprise, crocodiles can totally tell when bravely foolish husbands have suddenly made themselves available for lunch, and things kind of go downhill from there.

What I liked about Black Water was the setting, which is suitably disconcerting, and the fact it was a crocodile — a fairly normal one, I’d imagine — that was out to get them.  I haven’t seen nearly as many killer-croc movies as I have killer-shark movies, and the change of predator was kind of refreshing.  Er, so to speak.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, I actually cared about the two sisters — they had a very authentic “sisterly” relationship I could relate to, and they were real nice ladies, you know?  I didn’t want to see them get eaten by a crocodile.  I wanted them to make it out alive.

Whether they do or not, you will have to find out on your own, and I highly recommend you do!  You can pass on The Reef, but if you’re a fan of people-eaters,  Black Water is definitely worth checking out.

Incidentally, the final movie in Traucki’s terror trilogy is called The Jungle, and it was crowdfunded on Indiegogo last year and is in production now, apparently.  It’s about a killer leopard!  SIGN ME RIGHT UP!

[Netflix Black Water (DVD only) | Netflix The Reef (streaming) | Stream Black Water or The Reef on Amazon (free for Prime)]

Genre:  Shark, Croc, Creature, Horror
Cast:  Black Water: Maeve Dermody, Diana Glenn, Ben Oxenbould, Fiona Press, Andy Rodoreda
The Reef: Damian Walshe-Howling, Gyton Grantley, Adrienne Pickering, Zoe Naylor, Mark Simpson, Kieran Darcy-Smith

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