based on a true event, is the story career-couple Susan and Daniel (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) who surface after a half-hour scuba dive to discover that their tour boat has left without them. For the bulk of its 79-minute running time, we, Daniel and Susan are stranded in the middle of an empty sea being terrorized by sharks, stung by jellyfish, pounded by a huge thunderstorm, parched by thirst and ravaged by hunger.
That’s it. All of it. And, for reasons I can only hint at, it’s all conjecture. Think of “The Perfect Storm” done “lite.”
Oddly, since it’s set in the middle of the ocean, “Open Water” is one of the more claustrophobic films I can remember. It’s one of the more unrelentingly grim, bleak and depressing films as well.
It’s essentially the film version of the “S**T HAPPENS!” bumper sticker. Through no fault of their own, the world simply takes a giant dump on Susan’s and Daniel’s heads, and Kentis has made a movie of it.
Shot on videotape, “Open Water” has the flat, washed-out look of a 1960s skin flick. There are odd cuts (Kentis shifts us back to the island occasionally for no apparent reason), a truly weird soundtrack (two or three snippets of unintelligible songs pop up in the background from time to time) and a singularly linear unfolding (get ready for vacation, go on vacation, go scuba diving, get left behind, tread water, fend off sharks, talk).
Travis and Ryan are competent actors and Kentis’ direction, such as it is, achieves what most certainly was the goal of making us feel terrifically uneasy and like we were there in the water with the couple.
But in terms of real story lines, character development, back story and the like, “Open Water” is dead calm. It’s not unlike “The Blair Witch Project” in that it’s all anticipation of the big scary bit that never comes. It’s all minor chords with no resolving tonic note at the end.
It is suspenseful but in a tedious, irritating way, like wondering when someone is going to stop scratching their nails on the chalkboard. While I respect the effort of Kentis and the actors, I just wasn’t crazy about the finished product. I’d rather have seen “Finding Nemo” again.
— By Ralph Patterson
Heeding not the horrendous press, director changes, fear of pea-soup vomit, or talk of an on-set curse, I went last weekend and saw“Exorcist: The Beginning.”
The Devil made me do it.
Not wanting to bore you with the film’s pseudo-epic plot line (a fallen-away priest, a mysterious church marking the spot where Lucifer fell, a Linda Blair lookalike), what I’ll give you instead is what most religions do when the subject turns to hell: A few damned-good reasons not to go:
• A pack of hellhoundish jackals — as wicked as modern computer generation can make them — literally tear an 8-year-old boy apart before our eyes while he screams for his father to help him.
• A recurring scene, often shown in horrible slo-mo, in which a Nazi shoots a girl of perhaps 4 in the head at point-blank range, her blood fanning out in a fine mist from the exit wound.
• A close-up shot of a very bloody stillbirth, in which the baby emerges, covered in maggots. Later, the baby is cremated on a funeral pyre, and the lens lingers on the charring flesh.
• Lots and lots of maggots.
• An old guy with a steadily worsening case of boils on his face, which finally burst to reveal (yep, you guessed it) maggots. Ravens then pluck the eyes right out of his head, shaking them down their gullets like oysters.
• A patient in an insane asylum cuts his jugular vein with a shard of glass, the blood spraying like a garden hose.
• More maggots.
Call me crazy, but I tend to love those schlocky movies about devils and angels, at war for our souls. “The Prophecy” series, “The Omen” movies, “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Witches of Eastwick” — even crapola like “The Devil’s Advocate” and “Little Nicky.” I love them all. Movies like that compact all of man’s failings into a perfect diamond of evil — something that can be fought hand-to-hand instead of just scratched at pitifully, the way it works in the real world. That was what made the original “Exorcist” so scary, in the end — a personified evil, so terrifying it made you check under the bed and in the closet before you went to sleep.
But pea-green vomit and the often-explicit demands for sex by Blair/Satan notwithstanding, it never became a pornography of violence. Maybe it’s a sign of our times — and a measure of what it takes to scare us these days — but this one does.
-- By David Koon
Opening Friday at Market Street Cinema, is “Carandiru,” a bleak but very human prison drama from Brazil. Based on the memoirs of Dr. Drauzio Varella (played by Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos), it's the story of Varella's stint as prison doctor inside Sao Paulo, Brazil's notorious Carandiru Prison in the early 1990s.
Trying to halt an AIDS epidemic that is sweeping the prison, Varella often finds himself starting friendships with the dying or injured cons he treats. Though the build is slow, the result is something akin to gritty prison show "Oz" meets the warm-and-fuzzier parts of “The Shawshank Redemption.”
Especially effective are the flashbacks that appear whenever Varella asks a convict why he is there, revealing the men both as they appeared in the free world and at their worst possible moments — arrogant, scared, full of rage, jealousy, greed and murderous intent. For the most part, these flashbacks also depict them at their most vulnerable, as they try to deal with the terrible thing they have done.
Though the tension of “Carandiru” does tend to wind down in series of tragicomic vignettes as the prisoners both try to connect with and manipulate their loved ones still on the outside (the drug kingpin called Majesty for instance, who tries to have conjugal visits with two different women who both think they are his wife), a tragic end ensures that it is a moving statement about what those in prison will do to try and create a community, and how nervous that struggle for dignity often makes their jailers.
-- By David Koon