Open Water (2003) & Open Water 2: Adrift (2006)

Chris Kentis (OPEN WATER)

Blanchard Ryan - Susan Watkins (OW)
Daniel Travis - Daniel Kintner (OW)
Susan May Pratt - Amy (OW2)
Richard Speight Jr. - James (OW2)
Eric Dane - Dan (OW2)
Niklaus Lange - Zach (OW2)
Ali Hillis - Lauren (OW2)
Cameron Richardson - Michelle (OW2)

Genre - Thrillers/Drama/Bad Animals/Indie/Sequels

Running Time - 79 Minutes (OW)/95 Minutes (OW2)

Figuring that July 31 through August 6 is Shark Week, I would do at least one film that involved sharks scaring the hell out of people. Now, I could have gone with any of the JAWS films, but I'm saving those for something more monumental. So I decided to go against reviewing something expected to review a film that has caused a bit of a debate with movie fans. That film is 2003's OPEN WATER, a film that takes the documentary-style of filmmaking to tell a story about a couple of stranded scuba divers stuck in the middle of the ocean while dealing with sharks, other sea life, and themselves. I know a lot of people who really like this film and I know a lot of people who don't see the big deal about it, feeling it's just capitalizing on what CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT had done before. Even so, the independent film was a pretty big success considering its tiny budget. In 2006, filmmakers of a film called ADRIFT [which was written prior to filming of OPEN WATER] decided to capitalize on OPEN WATER's success, adding OPEN WATER 2 to the title to gain some attention, even though both films have nothing to do with each other. The appearance of Eric Dane of Grey's Anatomy also helped in selling the film.

In this special double review, I'll be discussing both films. Is OPEN WATER an over-hyped thriller? Was it horrible business for ADRIFT to add OPEN WATER 2 to its title? Are they both worth the watch, or should they be avoided just like swimming with a bleeding arm inside shark-infested waters?

In OPEN WATER, Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan) are a couple trying to get away from their busy, hectic professional careers. They decide to take a vacation in a tropical paradise, leaving the world behind to unwind. They pay to go on a scuba diving expedition with other vacationers. Unfortunately, Daniel and Susan accidentally stray away from the main group admiring the sea life underneath the ocean. A miscalculation by one of the instructors causes him to believe that all the customers have returned to the boat, leaving Susan and Daniel behind and all alone inside the middle of the ocean. Abandoned, Susan and Daniel struggle with their situation, eventually arguing about their next move and how to make it to safety. However, as the hours go by, a school of sharks take notice of them and begin surrounding the duo. With no safety or help nearby, how can the two possibly survive?

In OPEN WATER 2: ADRIFT, four friends Amy (Susan May Pratt), Zach (Niklaus Lange), Lauren (Ali Hillis), and Dan (Eric Dane) decide to have a reunion of sorts in honor of Zach's thirtieth birthday on Dan's yacht. Dan brings a fling named Michelle (Cameron Richardson) while Amy brings her husband James (Richard Speight Jr.) and their newborn daughter.

Zach, Lauren, James, and Michelle dive into the ocean once the yacht is anchored, enjoying it. Amy, however, has a fear of water stemming from her childhood. Being a good, caring friend, Dan decides to grab Amy and jump into the water with her. Unfortunately, Dan forgot to lower the side ladder for any of them to climb back up. With the only person on the boat being Amy's baby daughter, the six friends are now stranded with no signs of help in sight. With the constant panicking, arguing, fighting, and even crying, can these idiots make their way somehow onto the yacht? And where are those sharks when you need them?

OPEN WATER was a sleeper hit in 2003 and 2004 due to its hype and marketing after its success during the Sundance Film Festival. While many have compared the film to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, the two don't have much in common other than the fact that they're shot handheld with camcorders [in OPEN WATER's case, digital video]. I think the film is closer to JAWS, especially with the sharks coming to play. It's as if this could have been the final act of Steven Spielberg's blockbuster if that boat was never involved. And while many have called the film overrated, I think OPEN WATER is pretty solid for the most part. It's not a scary film but it still manages to be gripping and tense.

OPEN WATER makes sure you know that the narrative was based on true events. While the characters and the situation are fictionalized, the film is still based on a 1998 incident involving a married couple named Tom and Eileen Lonergan. Apparently they were abandoned by their diving school and apparently disappeared after being stranded in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The fact that no one knows what really occurred with the Lonergan couple proves that OPEN WATER isn't a reenactment of that actually event. So the movie comes off more fiction than true.

It's pretty tough to discuss the screenplay in detail when the film is really just two people stuck together in a large body of water that just happens to have sharks swimming for food. OPEN WATER comes off more as a drama where the story makes you an unseen third participant - a voyeur - as you witness the struggle Susan and Daniel must overcome in order to somehow survive. We barely know the characters except that they're together and feel that a vacation could save their relationship and themselves from being too stressed out. It's only until they're actually aware of their ordeal that we see their personalities come out. Daniel, while caring for Susan, talks a big game but is helpless to back up his claims and actions. Susan looks to him for answers, but Daniel is just as clueless as she is. Susan, while a bit of a whiner, still manages to be strong enough to support Daniel, especially when bad things start to happen in the final act.

This is a film where the background of the main characters really have no effect on the story. They could have been the best swimmers in the world and still be stranded without a sign of hope. That's why OPEN WATER works. It makes us feel on an emotional level, putting us into Daniel and Susan's situation and making us ask ourselves what would we do in their position. You feel bad for them because the film puts us in a position where we're watching them for 79 minutes without many distractions. We don't want to be abandoned in the middle of the ocean without food or water we can actually drink. We don't want to be stuck in a large body of water with dangerous animals who can sense fear and panic, waiting for the right time to strike. When the two lash out at each other, I believe its justified. It's human nature to be angry and be in denial that someone will save them, when they really know that they're screwed. OPEN WATER plays on the human condition and does it well. Daniel and Susan think and behave like real people, making us believe that they share a deep history with each other and depend on each other for survival. Whether that's good enough is up in the air.

I do have issues with the narrative though. I think my main concern has to do with the diving school itself. Now I can believe without a doubt that people could be mistakenly left behind due to a miscount of heads on a tiny boat. It's happened before and it will happen again. But I have trouble being convinced that these instructors running the school didn't realize that a couple was missing until the day AFTER the fact. Why? Because Daniel and Susan left their clothes on the boat. None of them bother to check the boat to see if anyone left anything during that entire day? Their trip also occurred during the morning hours. Are you saying that this school doesn't take other people out during the day? That's bad business if this is a one-time-a-day sort of deal. Also, Susan and Daniel had some of the school's equipment. Does none of the instructors do any sort of inventory to see that everything is back where it should be? It's just lazy storytelling in my opinion because it's not convincing in the slightest. This school has probably been taking divers out to the very same spot for years, at least months. It just comes across as very unprofessional and forced. The school abandoned these characters because it has to happen for the story to work, not because it feels natural.

Also, some of the dialogue feels stilted and fake. I can't really point examples, but sometimes things are said because they need to be said for the film to move along. Plus if Susan asked Daniel if he was alright one more time, I probably would have dunked her into the water and kept her head down there myself.

Also, saying right from the start that it's based on a true story takes away the effectiveness of the ending. I'm sure you can figure out what happens even if you haven't seen OPEN WATER, but at least it could have been ambiguous. But the fact that I know what happened to the real couple makes me root for these characters less because it would be for vain. I know how the story will end and that takes away something emotionally. It's a horrible situation and I felt bad for these characters, but it would be nice to have some sort of optimism going into it. That's all I'm saying.

OPEN WATER has no special effects, since it's a low budget film entirely shock on digital video. The sharks used in the film were actually real sharks that lived in that spot of the ocean. I'm sure they were baby sharks, or sharks that were less dangerous than a Great White, but it does add to the realism of the film and increases the tension. I'm sure the actors were in safe hands the entire time, but I would never want to be in that position for whatever reason. Animals can be unpredictable at times, so I'm sure the actors themselves brought their own anxiety and used it for their characters.

The direction by Chris Kentis is well done for the most part. The film isn't stylish or anything like that, since it plays out like a documentary would. But Kentis, by focusing strictly on two characters and a horrible situation, manage to bring out a level of tension and suspense to the film even though we know how it'll end. I was truly gripped the entire time because the premise is psychologically damaging in a good way. It looks real, so it feels real. Kentis plays with the emotional drama very well and it just makes your mind work as if you were there with them. My only issue with the direction were the cutaways to the island where the two were vacationing at. I guess this editing was done to give the audience a breather, as well to contradict the horrible situation with the total opposite that was happening on the island. But I just found it a bit distracting and it kind of took me out of the film. But other than that, Kentis does a solid job.

The acting is the reason why OPEN WATER works. Although it's a bit stilted at the beginning, both Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan do an admirable job carrying the film on their shoulders. We watch them go through every emotion in the book, making us feel for them. They're happy, confused, upset, scared - every emotion connected to this experience is visibly and believably portrayed by both actors. If this part of the film failed, OPEN WATER would have failed. Thankfully, Travis and Ryan are up for the job and are truly captivating.

As for OPEN WATER 2: ADRIFT, it's also claimed to be based on a true story, although I couldn't tell you the source. Maybe the source is a short story called "Adrift" by Koji Suzuki. It's from a book called "Dark Water", which is also the basis of the film with the same name. If that's your true story, I would like to know where the fiction starts! Anyway, OPEN WATER 2 has nothing to do with the first one. As I mentioned earlier, the title was added to capitalize on OPEN WATER's success. That being said, OPEN WATER 2: ADRIFT isn't a horrible film. It's actually pretty engaging for how ridiculous the film really is.

Why is the film so ridiculous? Because there wouldn't be a film if it weren't for the characters forgetting to lower the yacht's ladder in order to climb back up. The fact that these people were stranded because of forgetfulness just makes them look like the stupidest characters ever put on paper. Is it plausible? I guess it could be. But it just takes away any sympathy we have for them. Besides Amy and her helpless infant, the other characters were dumb not to realize the first rule of jumping off of a yacht and swimming in the middle of the ocean: have an easy means to get back on board. Instead of wanting them to figure out a way back on the boat, I was hoping that something or someone would take them all out for being idiots. Not a great first impression.

Speaking of the characters, it's hard to find any one of them all that likeable as real people. They're okay as archetypes, but none of them come across as really convincing. For example, Amy must overcome her fear of water in order to survive so she can save herself and her friends. Dan, who's fault this all is anyway, needs to finally grow up and be the man he's supposed to be in order to live. Blah blah blah. Yadda yadda yadda. In fact, the characters and their situations come across as plot devices to make audiences care about what they're watching. This is no more evident than with the baby, who's all alone on the boat and needs someone to help her so she doesn't starve or overheat to death. Even though it's used as a cheap tactic, it does work in that you do feel sorry for the kid and hope someone out there manages to get on that boat and take care of her. So that's a positive. But it also makes Amy, her mother, no more sympathetic since she doesn't really try her damnedest to find a way to save her daughter. In fact, she just floats around and lets the others do the work while her baby is crying for her. I'm not a parent, but if I was and I was in this situation, I'd do everything in my power to find a way on that boat. Floating around and watching your friends argue about the right plan or see them fall apart panicking because they've given up isn't going to change the situation. I get that she was scared of water and didn't really know what to do, but instinct has to take over here. The fear of water isn't going to stop me from helping my baby. That's all I'm saying.

James, Amy's husband, is more sympathetic because he actually TRIES to find a way on to the boat. It ends up backfiring on him, but at least he tried. The other characters decide getting naked to use the clothes and tie them as some sort of rope would work [which is really an excuse for the audience to see some booty from both genders]. However, they decide to have the heaviest person climb it, causing it to *shockingly* snap. It would make more sense to have, I dunno, the tiniest woman climb it, but then again, I have a brain that works. One person with a knife figures they could make holes in it to climb up, but another one steps in and fatally stabs him. Yeah, that really solves things. And while I'm bitching about how dumb these people are, it's the reason why I bothered watching. It's like a car crash - it's terrible but you need to see what happens. OPEN WATER 2's screenplay is just like that. You know the perfect way to get on that boat, but watching the others have no clue and acting like morons in the process is oddly entertaining. I can forgive forgetting a ladder. I can forgive arguing and panicking over the situation. But not realizing that you piggy back someone that's light [instead of having the heaviest guy on your shoulders sink you down like these idiots did] so they can reach the top of the yacht is pretty stupid. Also, the yacht wasn't moving, meaning it was anchored from the bottom. You're telling me that there's no way to find the anchor and go through the port where it comes out of so you can enter the yacht from the bottom? Sigh...

I will say that I bought the dialogue between the characters as they argued and got more frantic about the situation. It sounded as realistic as the two characters in the first OPEN WATER - people who can't comprehend their mistake and will do anything to figure out how to make it to safety, even if they have to hurt each other in the process to do it. And even though the concept is pretty dumb, at least it's written well enough to keep me engaged and see how it'll end. Speaking of the ending, it's terrible. I can see what they were going for, but not only does it make one character really stupid, but it makes no sense at all with its ambiguity. Am I supposed to figure out what really happened to the survivors without any sort of hint? If these characters weren't behaving intelligently, why should I do the same for the film? The German version of the film explains what supposedly happened, but the English version doesn't. Um...dank?

OPEN WATER 2 also doesn't have sharks with fins [boo!], but it does have sharks in human form. The characters really take it out on each other due to greed, ego, and envy. One person gets stabbed because the other character wants the truth hidden [which gets revealed anyway after the stabbed guy dies]. One knocks himself loopy underneath the yacht's propellers, getting a skull fracture that kills due to it being not being treated. Others just drown after getting tired. It's not as tense as dealing with killer fish, but at least the interaction between the human characters within an element they're not familiar with keeps the film moving and watchable due to the high level of drama.

The direction by Hans Horn is pretty good. Horn knows how to build tension and suspense, surprisingly since these characters are dumb as rocks. But the anger and the jealousy amongst the characters is filmed in a way that makes a bad situation worse - meaning it's entertaining to watch. The editing and slow motion moments are okay, and the cinematography looks good. The film is very well paced as well, as it goes by pretty quickly. I loved how Horn used the baby's crying and even shots of the baby on the boat to remind us why someone had to get on the yacht. It creates a frantic tone that I liked. Even though the ending is horrible, it's a talent by Horn to keep the audience engaged by just the sheer stupidity of characters that don't deserve to star in a film or to be watched by a sane and smart public. So good job.

The acting is okay. Susan May Pratt did well as Amy. Out of the adults, she was the one with the backstory and was really the only victim since she was forced into the water by Dan. I think her fear of water should have vanished once she realized her baby was stranded on the yacht, but then we wouldn't have a film. She's the only one with a true story arc which Pratt handles well. Eric Dane, who is now famous for being on Grey's Anatomy, is pretty much the antagonist as Dan. He plays the smooth asshole very well, but he has some decent emotional moments as well. Not the greatest performance, but it works enough. Richard Speight Jr., Niklaus Lange, and Ali Hillis were all decent. But Cameron Richardson played the annoying girl as Michelle. All she did really was whine and bitch. I get that a character would behave like that, but it was a distraction. She'd be the first one to die in a slasher film, no doubt.


- Daniel and Susan took a vacation to get away from stress. If everyone did that, Facebook, Twitter, and every other social networking site would cease to exist.

- Some dude was willing to scuba dive without a mask, a map, or a buddy. Next time you eat Chicken of the Sea, it might be him.

- Susan was stung repeatedly by a jellyfish. And there goes a dogfish. Chased by a catfish. In flew a sea robin. Watch out for that piranha. There goes a narwhal. HERE COMES A BIKINI WHALE!!

- Susan and Daniel argued over the reasons they got stranded, as well as over the problems in their relationship. Even so, I think we can all agree that the sharks will find them both equally delicious.

- Dan span out of control to create something exciting on camera, hurting himself in the process. He's lucky it wasn't his wife, Rebecca Gayheart, hitting him with a car. She's deadly behind the wheel like she was with zits back in the 1990s.

- Amy has a fear of water. Her boy hygiene must be top notch... *holds nose*

- The adults got stranded because none of them pushed a button to lower the ladder on the side of the yacht to climb back up. At least they still had their chutes because they're all a bunch of stupid assholes!

- The survivors blamed Dan for the entire ordeal, especially after he revealed the truth about his real life. If I were in their position, I'd probably get McSteamy about it too.

OPEN WATER is a gripping thriller that isn't for everyone. And while the hype may have overrated it a bit, the film is still effective on a human level. OPEN WATER 2: ADRIFT is definitely an inferior product [with the stupidest characters to ever appear on film] next to OPEN WATER, but it still manages to be an above average and entertaining thriller. I think both are worth seeking out if you're into films that feed off your primal emotions. Flawed, but both are worth a single watch.


3 Howls Outta 4

2.5 Howls Outta 4

OPEN WATER (2003) Trailer

OPEN WATER 2: ADRIFT (2006) Trailer


  1. Awwww, gotta love Shark Week! I love movies like these, when this kind of thing can actually happen. That's why I'm a sucker for demonic possession movies. Great reviews! :D

  2. Funny, I've had Open Water 2, came with the bluray Open Water disk, but never had a desire to watch, after reading your rundown I think I will give a spin.

    Great points across the board on the original, I know exactly what you mean about the occasionally stilted dialogue between the 2 but they still do some fine work.

  3. @Jenny - The Power of Christ compels you! I mean, yeah realistic movies can work if executed right. OPEN WATER succeeds for the most part.

    @Daniel - I wouldn't rush out to see OW2, but it's a decent time waster. Just be prepared for really dumb characters that deserve to be chomped to bits by sharks. As for the original, I understand why the dialogue is the way it is. People do speak to each other like that. But it doesn't really work in a film if it's not entertaining. Sometimes I wished it would just get to the point instead of Susan asking if Daniel was alright every second.

  4. A cousin of mine frequently goes on these diving excursions and she told me either the school she dove with, or another had accidentally left somebody behind and they, too, were not found. Apparently this happens more often than you'd think. Personally, I don't see how somebody could be left behind like this, but obviously they are.

    OPEN WATER was great. I did find several scenes pretty scary such as the night time storm sequence, the brief bit where you see the shadow of the sharks gliding beneath the protagonists sleeping bodies and the finale where you see the sharks beneath the waves approaching the couple as the camera bobs in and out from the water.

    ADRIFT was a horrible movie, to me. I had to struggle to make it through to the finish line with this one.

    1. Wow, really? That's really messed up! Damn, now I'm scared to ever try this now. How can people be so careless?

      And yeah, the first film is really good for what it is. Very creepy as well. As for ADRIFT, I didn't mind it. I was entertained by it somewhat.

  5. That's what she told me and she had been a number of times before the movie had come out. I did look it up online and found a bunch of different times it happened. But you'd think this sort of thing wouldn't be that difficult to keep up with. Yeah, it makes me not wanna do it either. Apparently my cousin almost got left one time, or possibly could have been left. Said she got interested in exploring a particular spot and noticed nobody near her as everybody was swimming topside.

    1. That's truly foul. I couldn't imagine that feeling being all alone in open water like that.


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