Friday, February 11, 2005

Dances with Sharks

OPEN WATER (2004). With Blanchard Ryan & Daniel Travis. Written and directed by Chris Kentis. Available on DVD from Lions Gate Films.

'Open Water' was shot with $130,000 and made over $30 million at the box office after it stunned Sundance audiences last year, so it hardly needs help from me. But those who missed catching its wave when it was released in August should pick up the DVD (which includes worthwhile commentary by cast and crew, and an eyebrow-raising making-of feature). The sheer economy of the filmmaking is worth the price of rental: 81 minutes, spare story, real sharks, no stunt doubles, all shot on mini DV by a crew of two (Kentis and producer wife Laura Lau). The film's story is no secret -- a couple gets left behind on a scuba excursion and must combat the elements in the middle of the ocean. But where the story draws its fear from has been kept a secret, despite the thrashing, nightmarish trailers and ad campaigns. Sure, a pack of ghost-gray sharks circling under you is terrifying, but 'Open Water' taps into a deeper, more devastating fear that has nothing to do with multi-toothed fish. When that fear is articulated at the film's end, it is literally breath-taking.

Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan play couple Daniel and Susan in 'Open Water.'