Horror in/on the water with “Ghost Ship”, “Open Water” and “Open Water 2: Adrift”

There’s something awfully frightening about the depths of the ocean. You don’t need to read Jules Verne to know that there’s so much unexplored territory we can’t even fathom. Sometimes what you don’t see is scarier than anything else. With some movies it’s the same, though sometimes you wish the directors would be a bit more subtle and think before they shoot the flick.

Ghost Ship
(USA/Australia 2002, director: Steve Beck)

Like other Dark Castle-productions which are remakes of original, classic horror movies, this is just a reimagining with better special effects and more gore. I still haven’t seen the original movie, so I can’t give any comparisons.
After a pretty violent start the movie can’t really decide what it wants to be: there’s definitely not enough horror (read: ghosts) and atmosphere to make it scary. The action scenes are a bit too dramatic and the characters themselves don’t deliver any memorable lines or are in the least interesting. What is left is a lukewarm approach to a cool idea (even if nothing new) which gets an interesting twist at the end, but all in all it doesn’t have much going for it. Like the first House on Haunted Hill there’s simply not enough happening to keep the audience interested.

Rating: 5/10
imdb

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Open Water
(USA 2003, director: Chris Kentis)

Many people seem to criticize this movie as one “long amateur vacation video”. In a way that’s completely true, at least for the first half an hour. But what most forget is that, like Paranormal Activity, this actually works in two ways: you get to know the characters and the whole scene becomes more real than if you just throw the audience into the scary part. And it’s really nerve racking to see the protagonists struggling in the water. The idea is simple (as it’s inspired by true events; even though I usually take such a statement with a pinch of salt) and the execution works. One might argue that the scenes outside the dangerous situations (showing tourists enjoying themselves at parties or the mundane, busy street life going on as usual) are unnecessary and deviate from the experience, but I think that’s not the case here, as it makes the predicament the two protagonists have to face more tragic.
After watching it again and knowing what happens there is of course a slight lack of suspense, but what keeps the movie interesting is the interaction between the characters. It’s always a risky business to rely on few people in a closed environment as they can be quite annoying (see the Spanish shaky-camera-failing of R.E.C. or Kidnapped) and if the dialogues fall flat it can become a very boring experience. But Open Water has so many great dialogue scenes which range from funny to touching. It makes you realize how alone you are in the middle of the ocean and how vulnerable you can be, how human. So it’s not only a scary, suspenseful movie, but one which works on a psychological level as well. More like a stage drama, only that the theatre is flooded and full of sharks.

Rating: 9/10
imdb

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Open Water 2: Adrift
(Germany 2006, director: Hans Horn)

Sequels to low-budget-hits (or any other movies) are always a hit-or-miss result, building on the success of the original and either doing the same all over again (which can work) or doing something completely different (which most often doesn’t fare that well). You just have to take away the number from the title and you’ll see that there’s not much the movies have in common except for people being “stuck” at sea. Too bad that the “based on true events”-formula doesn’t cut it this time. A couple of idiots (there’s no other way to describe them) first show themselves in their college time being drunk and annoying and years later in their late 20ies, early 30ies have this great idea to take to the sea where no one’s around… and after everyone jumps into the water, the most stupid one of them decides to jump right after with an aquaphobia (childhood trauma)-riddled mother (whose baby is left on the boat). Only problem: The ladder is still up, so they can’t get back on the boat.
Okay, so people act stupid in a stress-related situation, but what follows are the most make-my-head-hurt inducing actions and dumbest situations I’ve seen in a movie: One guy tries to dive under the boat to find an entrance, loses his knife, then dives to catch it, realizes that he doesn’t have the lungs of a fish, surfaces… and hits his head on the underside of the boat, suffering a skull fracture. Later another guy tries to crack the boat with his knife, tries to climb and accidentally (while struggling with another idiot) drives it into his chest.
Of course it’s quite a gruesome situation dying in front of the only escape (and if you get over the stupid main idea, there is actually some suspense), but if you don’t care about the characters (including the baby on board which seems like another desperate way to capture the audience’s sympathy), you really wish the sharks of the original would finally finish them off. Too bad there aren’t any. So, yes, it’s slowly dying at sea again, facing each character’s vulnerability, but in comparison to Open Water, this flick doesn’t have the same intensity (in no small amount due to the mediocre music and camera work, and of course the bad acting) and doesn’t in the least deserve the connection to the original (which is funny because the UK DVD doesn’t even have the Open Water title). A missed opportunity and as a film on its own a complete disaster. The reason for that could also be that this was done by a German director and another German camera man who tried in vain to include some psychological artsy-fartsy style which doesn’t work on any level whatsoever.

Rating: 2/10
imdb

Buy the BD on
Amazon Germany
Amazon USA
Buy the DVD on
Amazon Germany
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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