BLACK WATER : ABYSS - REVIEW
3 STARS OUT OF 5 ( GOOD )
DIRECTOR : ANDREW TRAUCKI
CINEMATOGRAPHER : DAMIEN BEEBE
CAST : AMALI GOLDEN, JESSICA MCNAMEE, LUKE MITCHELL
RELEASE : 2020 THE YEAR OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
Warning: This review contains spoilers. If you want to avoid them, just get the tip-off that this is a good crocodile thriller - not so good that you should wade to the theater, but a decent pair of jaws to snap one's attention on TV.
This film breaks two world records all at once. Half the film features tense footage of an electric torch shining a shaft of photons on murky water, searching for a killer crocodile. No other cinema has searched so much for so little. The second is that the coloured person is alive at the end. How this incredible ending came about, without the coloured person being the first to go, I will never know.
It's one of those Sunday night situations - you catch a B movie on cable ( I'm the last person on Earth doing this - the rest are devoured by Netflix and Amazon Prime). It seems interesting so you soldier on. Before you know it, you're reaching the half-way mark and thinking - I've come this far, I might as well finish it. The movie gets over and you either feel like a jackass or a person who's bitten off a surprisingly tasty morsel.
' Black Water : Abyss ' is a good movie. Movies featuring predators chomping up humans usually aren't. Its 44 % rating on Rotten Tomatoes is not a fair judgement on the film-making focus and sporadic winks that prop up this monster tale. Shooting a decent crocodile thriller requires logistics that are beyond many film-making teams. Writers John Ridley and Sarah Smith, Director Andrew Traucki and Cinematographer Damien Beebe, however, navigate these blood-curdling waters with a smoothly swerving gameplan.
The biologically minded among you may later wonder why this picture's crocodile would want to attack all five people one by one - is it that rapacious, whereas animals usually settle for just one kill ? The answer may be found in the terrible climate catastrophe which afflicted Australia in 2019-2020. The land was consumed by fire and there was nothing to eat. Our Crockie might have learnt then and there to stash multiple kills for a rainy day.
Five friends - three lads and two maidens - travel into Northern Australian jungles to explore an underground cave. It is clear they have no particular wish to live safely, as sensible people would not take undertake such subterranean dives considering Australia's fine selection of deadly creatures.
No, they don't get bitten by snakes. The snakes very considerately cede the submerged turf to their grander brethren here. The adventurers go down a rope into an underground labyrinth, then swim through a water channel to finally surface in a vast natural auditorium which is even deeper underground. The floor is water and the entire place is rimmed by rock.
The quintet marvel at this commodious end-hall, not realizing that they are being played like snapped strings by the weather which has turned into a cataclysmic deluge. The place floods steadily. They sense movement in the water, and before long, a deadly attack ensues, leaving one of them with a mangled torso.
They manage to scramble out of the water, and perch high on rocky ledges. That is when the long, orgiastic, tortured torch-views into the green water ensue. They see little eddies and bubbles in water, petrified to get in and reach the exit point that is now drowned by the raised water level.
The crocodile is never shown clearly in these initial stages - a cunning move designed to tease interest. The first fatal attack is also a "buried" shot. The money shots come later.
Two of the dudes decide bravely to swim out the way they came from and see if that avenue is still patent for escape. This segment is as interesting as the rest and made more boiler room by the narrow passage closing in all around them. The pair lose each other. The scrawnier of the two palpitatingly sees that his favourite archosaur is nuzzling close. That sets up the first great underwater shot of the surging beast.
In case you hate this primal fear scenario of an underground hole with green water hiding a murderous crocodile and would really like something else to enjoy, do not fear ! The writers pencil in a moving scene involving two girls, one boy and one scandalous love triangle that would do any soap opera proud. To find these soapy suds all the way underground in murky Australian jungle currents adds one more feather on this crocodile's cap.
Finally the remains of the group hit upon a discovery to make their great escape. This at last sets up a truly gory shot where a long narrow triangle of deadly jaws lunge to make short math of the stupid torso who had stumbled into this doomed hemisphere.
To their credit, all the actors look really scared of the villain, which is more than what can be said of some other movies' supposed heroes whose wooden expressions show no fear at all. In some scenes, some actors look more scared than others which discloses a gradient of emotion that provides welcome thespian variety. Amali Golden does one better than all, and she may have very organically taken her tip from the crocodile - she has this way of ruminating by keeping her mouth open so that her teeth and tongue are seen - you can't quite figure out whether she's nonchalant, happy or angry.
The last sequence shows a crafty sense of humour. At this stage, there is no hesitation in showing the crocodile clearly. I told you about the spoiler alert so if you want to swim away, do it now. The great beast homes in on them like a slow torpedo, and finally attacks. Was there an option where it could swim past its supposed victims, clamber onto land and waddle away leaving its human targets bewildered ? After all, it has eaten enough, and a surprisingly eco-friendly ending might not hurt anybody. No, such an ending has been gunned through its head. It will not achieve the bloody closure we need. The white girl saves the coloured girl. The white girl is a bigger celebrity to boot in real life, so who did you really expect to steal the show anyway ? After all the work of making a decent crocodile movie, aren't we too demanding when we expect the coloured girl to be the ultimate heroine ? She has survived after all - she needs to be grateful for that.
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