Open Water: Based on true events, the film follows an American couple who embark on an island getaway to escape their workaholic lifestyles and marital problems. Daniel and Susan, both certified scuba divers, board a local dive boat full of other vacationers for an underwater tour of the reef. Due to a series of innocent miscommunications and a distracted crew, the couple is accidentally left behind. As isolation sets in, they turn to one another for support but quickly fall apart. Soon they are prompted to question their own fate as they fight to stay alive in the chilling open waters of the shark-infested ocean.
Open Water 2: Adrift: Based on a harrowing true story about a weekend cruise aboard a luxury yacht that goes horribly awry for a group of old high school friends who forget to lower the ladder before they jump into the ocean for a swim. The boat proves impossible to climb, leaving them adrift, miles from shore. As the reality of the situation sinks in, the friends begin to turn on each other. Soon the exhaustion of keeping afloat and the struggle to get back on board begin to take a terrible toll. What started as a joyful reunion becomes a fight for survival!
Watching 'Open Water' is like experiencing one of the worst nightmares imaginable. And sadly, it actually happened to one unfortunate couple after just completing a tour with the Peace Corps. We'd like to think that such unlucky accidents, those that occur from either employee negligence or the bad judgment of the victims, are simple fantasies invented for the plot of horror movies. But low-budget features like this one remind audiences that such nightmares do in fact occur. Although the majority of the story is, of course, imagined, the fact that it did happen still remains true. And part, if not all, of the movie's effectiveness at generating fear depends on the viewer knowing that.
In case you missed the trailers, posters with the tagline, or the endless publicity for the theatrical release, we are told once more at the start of the movie the plot is based on true events. It may seem a bit overkill, especially as we watch the two would-be victims (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) load up the car and head over to their vacation destination. Or should we say, to their inevitable demise, since we clearly know where this story is headed. Funny thing, however, is that the anticipation to that point has less to do with what happens once we're there. When everything conveniently goes wrong and the couple resurfaces, we still think to ourselves, "Damn, that's really messed up."
A perfectly natural reaction, and one which I'm sure the filmmakers are really hoping for from their audience. It is guerilla filmmaking at its finest — despite the limited funds, let the simplicity of the story and the setting generate fear and horror rather than in-your-face gore. Once in the water, we begin to have a physical shared response with the two characters. We can almost imagine how terrifying it would be to be trapped in a similar situation, where the chances of being rescued are so slim you might as well spend your time learning to accept your fate. The couple may not be characters we completely care for, but we can surely sympathize because surviving such a gruesome fate is not something we'd wish another. The movie's success at frightening viewers is in this visceral reaction to a terrifying and harrowing ordeal. And it works decently well. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
Open Water 2: Adrift
If the first movie can be said to have been caused by employee negligence or bad judgment, then the sequel can easily be explained as simple stupidity. You may shake your head at the lack of common sense on display, but it's a fairly good device that gets our blood boiling and raises the anxiety level quickly. Filmmakers also up the ante by having not two but seven castaways in total as a group of high school friends go for a weekend yacht cruise. At the start, the story seems predictable since one of the characters, Amy (Susan May Pratt), clearly suffers from aquaphobia. But then again, this is where a lack of common sense rears its ugly head once more. If she's afraid of water, why travel on a boat to the middle of the ocean? And what friends are these to make her go anyways?
Turns out, this too works because the plot suddenly goes in another direction. Although once in the water, it's rather easy to guess who dies first and who is best likely to survive. And believe me, after a while you're almost actually glad that person's gone, allowing the audience to ironically enjoy the open water's silence. We're also glad to see the person we want to survive actually does, even though her role is an obvious standard sympathy ploy, one which little-known director Hans Horn milks for all its worth. Her death would definitely be the filmmakers taking things too far in this sort of setup, so the conclusion is an interestingly stylish welcome. A few twists and turns are thrown into the narrative for good measure and surprisingly put to good use in making the plot more engaging.
But ultimately, the movie's most effective aspect is in the bickering and tension which builds amongst the stranded swimmers. Everyone is happy and chummy in the beginning, but as soon as fear and realization of their plight sets in, their once-close friendships rapidly disintegrate. Their instinctual desire to survive and understand what went wrong adds an entertaining, complex element to the film. 'Adrift' has reasonably little to do with the original except the name. It's not inspired by any true events that I could find and is actually an adaptation of a short story from Koji Suzuki. But it makes for a satisfying sequel, filled with plenty of tension and some compelling drama. It's good to see the filmmakers not attempt a repeat of the first and instead, do their own thing. And the result is a decently strong thriller. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings the 'Open Water' series to Blu-ray as a double feature on a single Region Free, BD50 disc, inside a blue eco-case. At startup, we have a couple of Lionsgate promos. Viewers can pick their movie of choice by selecting the "Play" icon, which also allows access to bonuses.
Shot on modestly-priced digital cameras, 'Open Water' looks every bit like a home video camcorder production on Blu-ray. Contrast is way off and far too bright, causing highlights to noticeably clip and bloom while ruining some of the finer details. Posterization can also be seen in several daylight scenes, and aliasing creeps its way into the image at various spots. Overall definition and clarity is some of the worst, making the entire transfer appear like a VHS recording rather than the latest in video technology. The color palette leans heavily towards the red and on the warmer hues, so the picture is far from accurate. The director and producer served as their own DPs, so that might account for something. Blacks receive the biggest benefit in the jump to high-definition, but it's all for naught in a presentation that pretty much flat and bland. (Video Rating: 1.5/5)
Open Water 2
With a slightly bigger budget, this loose sequel looks much better than its predecessor, which is none too surprising. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) comes with good, sharp fine object detailing throughout. Textures around clothes and the faces of actors appear natural and very well-defined. Even in nighttime sequences, the transfer maintains excellent visibility in the darkness. Contrast is intentionally on the warmer side to better reflect the tropical weather, but it doesn't ruin the image though highlights tend to bloom in several spots. Black levels are accurate and surprisingly rich, providing the video with an attractive cinematic quality. Colors are bold and cleanly rendered, making this a very good presentation of a low-budget thriller. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
In the audio department, 'Open Water' earns some much needed points with a design that takes advantage of a plot set in the middle of the ocean. Though it often feels like a home video recording, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack enjoys a nice openness in the front soundstage. Channel separation and movement is clear and fluid, as birds and airplanes fly from speaker to speaker smoothly. Dynamics are clear and precise while low bass maintains a good, efficient response when called upon. Vocals are perfectly audible. Rears are used very well for not only enhancing the soundfield, but also for generating a frightening sense of being surrounded by a vast, empty ocean. It's an excellent lossless mix for a micro-budget film. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Open Water 2
Like its predecessor, 'Adrift' also arrives with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that's really much better than a movie of this caliber ought to be. Vocals are perfectly audible and precise so that we can plainly hear the distress in the voices of actors. Most all the action is located in the front where movement between channels is fluid and convincing. Imaging is very satisfying. The few spikes of action allow the mid-range to flex its muscles with excellent clarity and sharp detail while the low-end provides a healthy deep-tone that's appropriate to specific events. The rears only really come alive during a thunderstorm and rain showers towards the end, but it's an added welcome that's immersive, making this a fun lossless mix. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Open Water 2
Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings the two 'Open Water' films to Blu-ray as a double feature on a single disc. The original remains an effective low-budget suspense feature loosely based on the unfortunate true story of two scuba divers left in the middle of the ocean. The sequel has little to do with the original, but it too is an entertaining film about surviving while stranded in the ocean. The picture quality of the first movie is pretty much as would be expected from a movie of this caliber and the sequel is miles better. The audio on both is about equal and quite satisfying, but supplements are rather disappointing. For the right price, the package is strong and worth picking up.