Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Black Water - review (Killer Croc Season)

To be fair, I should have read more about this one before I did my Rogue review, but it was a last minute replacement as I couldn't get a copy of Crocodile.  Black Water was released in 2007, the same year as Rogue, it's also an Australian film, based in the Northern Territories, also in a mangrove swamp and it's also based on a true story, which you can read here.  Now that Rogue has set the bar for Australian giant crocodile movies, we'll see what Black Water brings to the table.

Warning, this is a spoiler based review


I debated whether or not to just watch this film and then write up a review once I'd watched it, because writing them up as you watch the film is pretty time consuming, but I did all the others in the same style and there's no point in changing now.  To clarify, as I watch the movie, I write up the synopsis as I watch and take the appropriate screencaps, the same as my bullet point reviews for True Blood, but I actually write what happens instead of my reactions to what's happening.

We open to the title of the film on a black screen with a water effect then are transported to a mangrove swamp where we are given an info dump.  The Saltwater Crocodile population in northern Australia is expanding, as is the human population, according to wiki the croc population when from 3000 in the 1970's to 70,000. 

We meet our main characters, Gracie, her younger sister Lee and Gracie's husband Adam, as Gracie and Lee thank their Mum for having them for Christmas.  They get into their rental car and prepare for a two week drive for their holiday.  Let's get screencaps out of the way shall we?
Adam

Lee

Gracie
Adam asks where they should go first, Lee says she wants to see the crocodile place and they agree it's a good place to start.  The credits play over music and a montage of Lee looking at the photos on her camera which slips into a montage of the photos themselves.  It's a great collection of family photos which easily establishes them as a close family and clues us the audience into how Australians deal with Christmas in the summertime, by going to the beach, lucky buggers.

Lee reads a book about the crocodile farm, sharing some info on crocodile farming and when crocs are harvested for their skins.  We then cut to a fishing lure on some murky water and a man on a microphone explaining that he's dipping the lure in the manner that a bird would land on the water.  A crocodile snaps up the lure and the crowd laugh and snap photos.  A guide dangles some meat over another croc and we get a montage of some families and children holding baby crocodiles and posing for photos.

I have the feeling this photo will come back to bite them
It's nice to see some real crocodiles in the movie, it's clearly footage they've shot themselves, not just stock footage, though the problem they have with doing so is now their crocodile will be measured against the real crocodile footage.

A thunder and lightning storm brews as our group drink in a bar and play charades, Gracie says she's off the booze because she wants to lose weight.  She asks what they'll do next and Adam suggests a back water tour, with wild life and fishing.  The girls mock it a little, but agree to go.

In their hotel room, Gracie does a pregnancy test alone in the toilet, it appears to be positive and she slips into bed with Adam.  The next day their car travels through some dirt roads and find a metal shack which they assume to be the back water tour of Backwater Barry.  A man calls them through, but tells them that Barry has gone, but he can take them out fishing in his boat.

As the man takes Adam in the back to get some gear, Lee looks at Gracie and smiles, declaring she knows she's pregnant.  Gracie smiles, but tells Lee not to tell Adam as she hasn't told him yet.  In the office, the man gives Adam some rods and tells him to head out, Lee see's him putting a gun in his pocket and then they head out on the boat.

Happy times are probably not going to last
My genre saviness would tell me to not get aboard this strange bloke's boat and instead politely decline and promise to come back the next day, then get at least a hundred miles away. 

They travel down the river, passing mangroves, unsurprisingly not passing the Backwater Barry they "just missed".  The girls fish with reel lines and the men use fishing rods, the man mentions that the high water at this time of year means that the river is full of fish.  Lee asks him why he brought a gun, the man says it's "Barry's" insurance policy as he can remember when the crocs were everywhere, but now they've all been shot or moved to farms.  Yeah, right.  My arse they have.

Lee looks dubious.  The man offers a drink, but they hear a bang on the underside of the boat.  Gracie asks what it was and they look about the water trying to determine what's hitting the underside.  We're only at the 13 minute mark so I'm guessing the movie is going to fake us out with a log or some debris.

The man pears over the edge of the boat and tentatively dips a net in the water, he pulls out an old paint can.  Ha!  You did not fake me out movie.  They decide to move further up the river and we get a bit of overhead scenery porn, not as nice as the scenery porn from Rogue, but maybe this film has remember it's a killer crocodile movie not a tourism advert.

They get to a random bit of swamp which the man claims is perfect and they cast their lines back out into the water, except for Lee who is taking pictures.  Adam gets a bite straight away and he excitedly starts reeling it in, Lee takes a another photo then see's something strange, but before she has chance to check it, something hits the underside of the boat and they are all tossed into the water.

Oh bugger
Comparing this to the boat toss on Rogue, both films use it effectively, but I still think that it's scarier when it happens in Rogue.  Adam quickly deduces it's a croc as he and Gracie surfaces and he pulls her to a tree, forcing her to get out of the water whilst Gracie screams for Lee.

Lee is tangled in a rope and trapped beneath the tipped over boat, she lifts her head into the pocket of trapped air to breathe as she tries to untangle herself and Adam screams for Lee, but Gracie sees the crocodile and screams for Adam to get out of the water.  There is no sign of the man.

Adam makes it to a mangrove and Lee untangles herself, they shout for her to get out of the water and she struggles to climb aboard the capsized boat, we see a ripple heading towards her and I call bullshit here because crocs should able to swim without you seeing that and not seeing where the croc is coming from makes it more scary.  Lee makes it on top of the boat and panics for a second, but the croc shakes the boat with her struggling to hold on. 

Adam slaps the water
Both Adam and Gracie shout to distract the crocodile and the boat stops shaking.  They now have no idea where the crocodile is, no one knows they are out there, they have no idea where they are, their tour guide without a name is no where to be seen.  Adam tells Gracie to climb higher up the tree and they both climb higher.  Gracie says she thinks that the crocodile is gone because she saw their guides body, Jim, oh he has a name now does he?  Now the body has gone and she wants to retrieve Lee.

Adam says they need to get the boat and get out of there, I agree, Gracie says someone will come for them, but Adam reiterates my point that no one saw them leave and no one knows they're there and the boat is their best chance to escape.  Gracie notices the boat rope floating in the water, the plan is for Lee to grab the rope and toss it to them so they can pull the boat.  Lee reaches in the water and after a few moments manages to pull the rope up, she's scared and throws the rope but it doesn't go far enough and she has to pull it back into the boat again.  She throws the rope a second time and it reaches the mangrove, Adam doesn't catch it but can reach it with a branch.  He pulls the rope up and instead of looping it around a large branch as a pulley system like a sensible person, he pulls on the rope.  It does nothing of course so he hands the end to Gracie and they both begin to pull the rope but it appears to be stuck on something under the water.  He ties the rope to a tree stump and tells Lee to use the rope as a guide to cross the water.

Lee is terrified
This is a terrible plan for two reasons, one Lee's already been tangled in the rope and harassed by the crocodile so she's already scared livid, two they now have no idea where the crocodile is and for all they know it may not return, but she'd probably be safer staying put where she is. 

Gracie and Adam climb higher into the tree and Lee slips into the water, she slowly starts to make her way across the water, but sounds of something dropping in the water frightens she and she suddenly swims quickly to the mangrove.  Adam pulls her into the tree and Gracie hugs her, comforting her.

They pull the rope up into the tree and Adam ties the rope on a high branch, Lee's ankle has a deep cut and a large purple bruise on it, looks like if it isn't badly sprained at the very least, she probably has a fracture.  Lee asks where Jim the guide is, Adam says he was taken.  Adam asks what they should do and how they could escape, a thought occurs that their car is there and if Barry returns and sees that plus missing Jim and boat, eventually he'd probably go to see if something was wrong.

Gracie says they should just wait, as that's what you're supposed to do when your lost.  Adam suggests the boat again.  As Adam and Gracie argue, Lee starts calling for help and Gracie joins in, but then all we get are the obligatory shots of the mangroves, we've actually had a lot of that and it's starting to get a bit annoying.

Adam complains about the flies, Gracie gives him some mosquito cream, Lee finds her phone in her pocket, but the water has killed it.  Adam searches his pockets and finds his wallet, car keys and a small knife.

They hear a sound in the water and we get more shots of nothing happening in the mangroves.  And more shots of nothing happening in the mangroves.  Gracie says that they could try the trees to escape and we get more shots of the mangroves.  Adam points out that would be ridiculous.  

You're gonna need a better plan
They argue about trying the trees, Gracie insists that she's going to try the trees, and no amount of argument will stop her.  Adam tells her to be careful.  I think this is a stupid plan, it would be very easy to get lost in them and very hard to navigate, but she can't hear me so she presses on.  More bloody shots of trees, look, movie, if you're going to make me look at your scenery for half the bloody film, at least make it something to look at, give me some over head angles of underwater POV's.

Gracie makes it to the edge of the mangroves where the river is, she see's a plane over head, then hears a noise in the water.  If, I was executing this plan, I would use the knife to mark the trees on my route and then travel up the river using the trees that run along side it, on the tree the boat was tied to I would carve an arrow pointing the direction I went in and do that along every tree I could so that if rescuers found the boat they could follow my path.

Gracie starts climbing back, but the repeated sounds in the water scare her, look love, if it was the croc you wouldn't bloody hear it, that's their modus operandi.  Silent and Deadly.  She pulls a tree branch off and uses it to poke the water.

Oh no!
She finds a human ear.....  How?  Why?  Is this Jim's ear?  How did it get severed so neatly?  Was it torn off as he was tossed from the boat?  She's not near the spot where they got tossed, so is this the croc's food storage?  Why would an ear get severed like that if it is?  It just raises too many questions.

Adam and Lee hear Grace screaming and she quickly makes her way back to them, but doesn't tell them about the ear, she says they could swim to land, completely ignoring my plan to just climb along the trees, Adam suggest the boat again and Lee suggests they stay still.

After arguing again and yet more shots of the mangroves and water, Lee wakes up after a bit of a sleep and then they drop the mosquito cream in the water.  Adam says it's time for them to go, as the croc will probably busy eating Jim and tells a story about sitting in a cupboard.  Gracie asks Adam not to get the boat, Adam says he has to and after even more shots of the mangroves he finally gets in the water.  He very slowly makes his way to the boat, finding he can't quite tip it over he asks them to loosen the rope, but he still can't do it and so dives underneath the water and finds the boats anchor chain caught around a rock.  He untangles it and we get an underwater POV shot of his feet and then the boat rocking above the water, Lee and Gracie freak out as the boat turns over and Gracie drops the rope, then Adam surfaces a few moments later.

At freaking last
Adam is then violently pulled into the water.  I'd call bullshit here, because crocs aren't supposed to attack from under the water often and are supposed to grab things from out of the water, but the water isn't that deep so I'll let them off.  Lee and Gracie scream for Adam to resurface, then at the 48 minute mark we get our first real look at the croc and it is so not the same model they used earlier when we got a brief glimpse of it's snout.

The crocodile
Thought I have no idea why the crocodile is surfacing at this point.  Is he taunting them?  Is this crocodile just an arsehole?  He grabbed Adam, but didn't death roll him so one can only presume he should be either chomping him up or transporting him to the food storage area, i.e., perfect time to escape.  Gracie cries as does Lee and we get more shots of the mangroves, at this point it's really starting to annoy me.

In the tree, Lee says they are going to die, but Gracie says they are going to escape on the boat, she shouts at Lee and tells her to keep watch whilst she retrieves the rope for the boat.  Gracie uses a stick, slapping it on the top of the water as it can't quite reach the rope, I hasten to add much like the guy at the zoo was doing earlier.  Lee spots bubbles heading towards Gracie and shouts for her to climb back up to the tree which she does.  Gracie decides to get a bigger stick and go back down and she climbs across a branch.

Then this happens
The two reasons why this isn't scary in the least are, one, this is obviously either a CG croc or footage of a real croc coming out of the water which they overlaid, but either way it really doesn't look like the croc is there.  Two, as Gracie steps out on the branch the camera moves down quickly to the surface of the water so you get the full shot of the croc coming out, so you know something is going to happen and it isn't a surprise.  They should have left the camera alone and just had the croc shoot out of the water.

I don't know if they're doing this on purpose, but the croc looks different every time we see it
Gracie and Lee freak out and hug the tree, now I'd probably be scared too, but the good news is you're too high for the croc to reach you.  Gracie sees Adams body in the water, this is a good thing because as soon as it disappears, that's when they should go for the boat, they aren't going to see it like that though I think.  Gracie laments that she didn't tell Adam he was pregnant and that she didn't get to say goodbye, so she says goodbye to his body.

We now get more shots of the mangroves, this is the point where it has reached tedious.  A storm brews over head and it is now dark, only the lightning lights up the swamp for them and they can't see the boat, surely by now Barry would have noticed that Jim was gone and start looking for him.  As Gracie and Lee talk in the tree about how thirsty they are about about their childhood, we see the crocodile between the lightning flashes, surrounding them.  Annoyance, between the flashes it is just a black screen, in very low light human eyes would struggle to see but they aren't in a cave, the moon would offer some light and it would be much scarier if we could actually see the scene but in dark, we'd get that the characters couldn't see by them saying they couldn't see.  The crocodile chomps down on something below them and they hear it, then they realise it's the croc eating Adam and so they press their hands to their ears to block out the sound.

Morning comes....  already.  Lee tries to rouse Gracie, but she appears to be in shock, just sitting in the tree staring into space, not responding , then she starts reciting a nursery rhyme about monkeys and crocodiles.  Gracie says they cannot go back to the boat and they both complain about being tired and thirsty.  Gracie suggests that they climb through the trees to get to the open part of the river where they are more likely to be spotted.

Lee says a little chant to keep the croc away, I don't think it will work in the grand scheme of things, but I suppose it'll make them feel better.  They lower themselves to the base of the Mangroves and begin walking carefully over the branches and logs.  Gracie spots a large tree which they will have to swim to, neither of them really want to get into the water, but they believe it's their best chance of being found.  Gracie lowers herself in first, followed by Lee.

It takes 1 hour 5 minutes for them to get into the water
At the half way point, Gracie thinks they should turn back as she has a bad feeling, Lee points at that they are halfway there and should press on.  Then this happens and I nearly wet myself laughing.


I see you
The croc slowly raises it's head out of the water.  If this were real life, it probably would have just grabbed one of the girls which would have been far scarier and a lot less comedic.  They back up slowly and Gracie tells it to fuck off, then the croc drops below the water and they both scream and turn to go back to their tree.  Gracie is pulled underneath the water and the croc rolls a lot and Gracie screams a lot at the top of the water, then she goes beneath.  Lee Screams for Gracie, and Gracie surfaces and Lee helps her back aboard a tree.  Her leg is bitten, it doesn't look that deep and she's not missing any limbs, but she's in agony and going into shock.  Lee wraps a shirt around Gracie's leg and reassures her that she's ok.

Lee hears a boat and screams for help, we see the boat in the distance and she's screaming across water and water carries sound, but of course the boat doesn't hear her.  Lee starts blaming their boat and swears at it.  She sees that Gracie's leg is dripping blood into the water and screams for Gracie to tuck her legs in and get them away from the water.  She's actually much higher than they were before, but Lee hears the sound of dipping water. 

Lee reaches Gracie and tucks her leg up and then redresses the wound which is losing a lot of blood.  Lee tells Gracie that she's going to get the boat, Gracie begs her not to go as Adam said he would be right back, but Lee presses on.

Lee slips into the water and slowly swims towards the boat, she reaches the side and struggles, but manages to pull herself inside the boat.  Lee tips out some water then takes a look at the boat's engine, she hears a water splash and stops to look around the mangroves some more, then as she moves to look at the engine again we get the only jump scare of the movie.  The crocodile jumps out of the water and then, the stage hands put what is obviously a real crocodile onto the boat prop.  Also it is obviously quite a bit smaller than the crocodile model they have been using.

Lee screams and wades through the water with the croc right behind her, it grabs her and pulls her under the water and the screen goes to black for thirty seconds.  then it fades up again to a sideways view of Lee's arm as she wakes up on a bit of mud, next to her is the half eaten body of Jim.

Oh no!  The make up department glued my fingers together.
Yeah, this is pretty much her only injury, she doesn't appear to be missing any limbs or bleeding profusely from a mortal wound, her fingers bent a bit.  She tears a bit off her shirt and wraps them up and inspects herself, discovering the most gentle crocodile bite in the world on her tummy, it's barely a love bite.  She looks around and cannot see Gracie anywhere and she inspects Jim's body finding the gun, she tries firing it but the gun is too stuck with mud to fire so she washes the gun and bullets in the river water.  She hears a few splashes and reloads the gun which won't fire at first, then she manages to let off a shot.

She inspects the body again and...  I'm not making this up, pulls an arm off the body, she just tugs at it a bit, and splashes it in the water whilst pointing the gun wildly.  This is a terrible plan.  Of course, the crocodile appears behind her and just looks at her for a bit.

I'm really quite positive they've tried to give the crocodile facial expressions
Lee turns and see's the croc and fires the gun at it several times, but it fails to go off, she wades back into the water and the crocodile follows her really slowly and then drops beneath the water.  It comes back up and grabs her again, slowly, then just seems to hold her for a bit without chewing because with  her arm stuck inside the crocodiles mouth, she fires the gun again and eventually it goes off, blowing the crocs brains out.  Though it seems to be alive, blinking and growling for a while.  Lee backs up as the crocodile model sinks into the water, so she wades away, still pointing the gun, she trips and drops it in the water.  She shouts that she is coming for Gracie, whom we eventually see hanging in the tree.  Lee climbs back up to her sister and tries shaking her, but Gracie appears to have died from the blood loss to her leg.  Lee breaks down, emotionally distraught at having gone through the ordeal and her sister having died. 

Lee loads Gracie's body on to the boat and with a paddle begins to paddle up the river, Lee hears a splash behind her, but ignores it and carries on.  End of Movie.

Summary:

Well if Rogue set the bar for Australian, crocodile movies, based on a true story, or crocodile movies in general, Black Water falls far beneath it.  Let's address the most important thing, the crocodile, whether it was intentional or not, the crocodile was very inconsistent.  In most, actually, all crocodile movies, the crocodile is a character as much as the protagonists are.  This one seems like an arsehole, because instead of wanting to behave like a normal crocodile, it just wants to fuck with them.  This is the crocodile, that at crocodile family reunions, the other crocodiles ignore, "Don't talk to Cecil, he pops his head out of the water and looks at his humans for five minutes before he eats them.  What a knob head."

Jim is the crocodile feed, first death in the movie, which is rubbish because not only do we not see the attack, it's not scary.  A similar thing happened in Rogue, but at that point the crocodile had already eaten one person and we were already scared by the crocodile at that point.  Adam it's hard to give a shit about because he barely does anything before he gets taken and again the scene is underwhelming.  This leaves us with Gracie and Lee, Lee is the final girl, for about the last ten minutes of the movie, the rest of the movie is them arguing about whether or not to take the boat or the trees or trying to swim for it or complaining that they're thirsty.  So you kind of care about Lee at the end, but they had to pull the pregnancy trick out on Gracie to get the audience to feel a modicum of sympathy for her.

If I threw this movie into windows movie maker and trimmed out all the random shots of the mangroves, I'm willing to bet I could shave 10 or maybe 15 minutes off the movie.  In Rogue we had a lot of scenery porn, but it was breathtaking scenery porn which was beautiful to look at and not the same three trees over and over.

This even falls behind Lake Placid 3 a bit, because Lake Placid 3 was certainly not taking itself seriously, as this movie was and therefore had fun with it's characters and death scenes.  Because this one takes itself so seriously it falls to the two actresses to keep the film together and the dialogue and plot is just too thin for them to manage it.

If you didn't do so at that start, go to the link at the top and read the true story this is based on, it's actually quite scary and you get the feeling from the two boys involved as to how truly terrified they must have been going through this.

The movie gets points for the relatively realistic crocodile, though it's inconsistent, also some for the last ten minutes of the film and it's jump scare and a few good moments here and there.  I'd maybe watch it again, possibly, but if given the option I'd probably suggest watching Rogue instead.  Though it wouldn't be the situation where I'd pause the movie if I went to the toilet.

6 out of 10

Edit:  After I posted my review I did what I always do and go and read some other reviews of the film, see what other people thought and read information that I avoid before seeing the film, to avoid spoilers.  Apparently, the film recorded lots of footage of real crocodiles and pasted it into the movie.  This is the reason the crocodile is so inconsistent throughout.  Some have said that it puts the CG croc to shame, but I disagree because the CG croc was about twice the size and still looked real, consistent and like it was actually there.  Half the time, the differences between the croc was really jarring for me or a lot of the scenes just looked silly like the croc wasn't actually there with them, so I stand with what I originally said.

5 comments:

  1. I agree the crocodile looks dumb they shouldve used a fake ome so it looked the same the whole time and it would have been better than it was with it being a different one every time so they shouldve used a fake,

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  2. I do not agree!!!

    It is far better to have real crocs conveying real behavior. And no I am not dumb I know in some of the scenes the crocs were drugged and I know they had no contaact with the actors.
    But at least the footage looks good CGI can wreck a perfectly good movie.
    Lets take the differences between lets say "the reef" and "jersey shore shark attack": "The reef" used real white pointer sharks then worked the actors around the footage they had. which made the death scenes realistic because they could actually work.
    In "Jersey shore shark attack" they used CGI sharks and it was bullshit. It was crap!!!
    Other movies that were perfectly good but were ruined by CGI include: "Malibu shark attack", "sharktopus", "Shark attack 3: Megalodon", "Sand sharks", "Snow shark", "Blue demon"!!! the list is endless!!!

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  3. My question...if Adam was carrying a gun. Why the hell didn't he use earlier??

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    Replies
    1. Adam wasn't carrying a gun....the guide was.

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