FrightFest 2007: Black Water review
The first film of FrightFest 2007 was great. The second, Black Water, wasn't.
The warning signs were there right from the beginning. The ‘based on true events’ tag, the fact that there were two directors credited, the initial cursory dialogue, the minimal/lazy characterisation, the recklessness of the characters choosing their holiday activities… But much as the characters ignored the warning signs reading “You’re all going to get eaten”, so, too, did I ignore the big red flashing neon sign that said “this film is going to suck beyond belief.”
So I’ve only got myself to blame that I wasted 90 minutes of my life on this. My only excuse is that I was buoyed up by the gleeful brilliance of Black Sheep and thus wasn’t prepared for anything this mindnumbingly awful.
Okay. So, the set up is pretty familiar – tourists end up heading out into the back of beyond where they get stranded and promptly terrorised. In this case, you’ve got a woman, Grace; her boyfriend, Adam, and her sister, Lee. And in the blue corner, there’s a bloody massive crocodile.
It should be a recipe for awesome, but it’s not, and the character list will give you a good idea why not: there aren’t enough characters. With this kind of movie, you need some cannon fodder. It’s not scary if you’ve only got two characters left, because you know someone has to make it through the rest of the film or there’d be nothing to watch (actually, in this case, they probably could have killed everyone off in the first half hour. Black Water is the perfect title for this movie, because the directors spend an awful lot more time filming water than they do anything else. Honestly, it felt like they’d rather have been making a wildlife documentary).
And therein lies the problem. For most of this film, absolutely nothing happens. At all. Sometimes there’s some screaming, and for about three minutes out of the 90 you actually get to see a crocodile, but mostly it’s just screaming and murky water. The filmmakers seemed to be trying to turn a film about a giant crocodile that likes to eat people into a serious, tense, psychological thriller – and sometimes there was enough style in their direction, for example in the scene lit by lightning, for them to pull this off. But more often, it just didn’t work.
In the early scenes, the tension sort of worked, but they tried to amp it up just that little bit too far, allowing no time for relief and constantly playing the obligatory scary music, to the point where the audience was just giggling at things they were supposed to be scared of.
Which is never a good sign.
Technically, this was a completely competent film, and there were some very nice shots in there, but ultimately, if you don’t write any characters for the audience to get to know and like, they’re just not going to care. And if you make a film about a giant crocodile, you really, desperately, need more than three characters, or else you’ve not got anyone to play with by killing them off at random intervals. Scary music will only carry you so far: and in this case, that wasn’t even as far as the end credits.