Director: Andrew Traucki, David Nerlich
Writer: Andrew Traucki, David Nerlich
Producer: Michael Robertson
Cast: Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody, Andy Rodoreda, Ben Oxenbould, Fiona Press
Running Time: 88 min.
“Black Water” opens with an ominous message. To paraphrase: “The Saltwater Crocodile population of Northern Australia is increasing.” Pause. “So is the human population.” Even with the knowledge that the film received funding from the Australian Film Commission, you probably know what you’re in for: some hapless humans are gonna wander into croc territory and become lunch. Did I mention it’s based on actual events?
“Black Water” is a low-budget Australian indie film from 2007. It was co-directed by David Nerlich and Andrew Taucki. Taucki went on to direct the 2010 killer shark movie “The Reef” to rave reviews. He’s stated he’s planning a trilogy of films about Australian creatures, though funding is not yet in place for the final movie. Here’s hoping that Taucki’s vision for a trilogy comes true as he’s revealed himself to be a promising filmmaker.
Considering its low-budget origins, I found “Black Water” to be a taut and effective thriller. It’s a movie about people being threatened by killer crocs, sure, but it’s no “Lake Placid” – don’t expect a computer-generated croc to launch out of the water to rip anyone’s arm off in a gory display. For the most part, real live crocodiles were used in the filming of this movie and then spliced into scenes with the actors through careful editing. On one hand, it means that you don’t get to glimpse the beast as much as you might in your typical Hollywood monster movie; on the other hand, what you can’t see is often more terrifying than what you can and “Black Water” mines this sense of dread to pitch-perfect effect. And in this day of CG overkill, I love any movie that uses real animals.
The script is smartly written. Does that mean the characters don’t do the stupid things that people always do in horror movies? I wish I could say “no,” but again, “Black Water” is based on a true story and it’s about people reacting to an extreme situation. It’s easy to second guess what you would do if threatened by a crocodile while you’re reclining in a La-Z-Boy, know what I mean? A lot of screentime is taken up by our characters sitting in a tree, trying to figure out if they should make a move for their upturned boat or wait for a potential rescue team. It’s admittedly not that visually interesting to watch a trio of people bickering in a mangrove swamp but it helps build tension for the climax of the film.
I still stand by the script because the dialogue doesn’t insult your intelligence and each character is given their chance to shine. Despite the potentially dangerous setting, I have to imagine that “Black Water” was an actor’s dream movie; it unfolds almost like a stage play, with a constant focus on the cast. I found the performances, scripting, and editing to be way ahead of similar films like 2010’s “Frozen,” which featured three poor bastards stuck on a ski lift.
“Black Water” is recommended to audiences who are willing to give a chance to low-budget indie filmmaking from the other side of the world and who can appreciate a horror film that isn’t a thrill-a-minute, no-brainer slasher movie from Platinum Dunes. The use of real crocodiles and some expert editing, as well as a tasteful restraint when it comes to onscreen violence, mean “Black Water” is more of a measured, intelligent thriller. We could debate all day about whether or not we would do what these characters did if we were stuck in croc-infested waters – but, hey, at least that means the movie got you talking.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 7/10