Sometimes … like when my newly acquired pre-ordered copy of a brand new shark movie is defective … I must turn to sharksploitation-adjacent genres to quench my parched soul. Usually, this results in a viewing of croc movies. This was no exception. So allow me to present my almost scientifically flawless analysis of the Black Water movies. Shall we begin at the beginning with Black Water numero uno? Of course we shall.
Aussie director, Andrew Traucki, got my attention with The Reef, a fantastic and very lean film about a capsized boat and a Great White. He knows how to hide the monster, giving us just enough to horrify and yet just not enough to smack us in the face with bad special effects. His characters are complex and draw the viewer into their drama. This results in the viewer actually giving a shit if they live or get eviscerated by teeth attached to something nasty.
After I watched The Reef, I learned this guy also directed 2007’s Black Water. He uses the same successful techniques in this film, replacing the shark with a giant saltwater crocodile … a “Saltie”. Two sisters and a husband are on a holiday road trip. After a quick foreshadowing stop at the crocodile farm, they take a fishing trip into the mangrove swamps of Australia. We discover that the older sister, Grace, is pregnant but hasn’t yet told her husband, Adam. The fishing guide takes them into the heart of Saltie darkness and they promptly get attacked and stranded, the guide killed by a giant killer croc. The younger sis, Lee, is stuck on the capsized little metal boat and the croc waits in the murky opaque water. Already, the suspense is unbearable and I mean this in a good way.
Grace and Adam try to find a way to coax Lee off the boat and into the trees that provide at least some distance between the water and their dangling little piggies. Lee’s fear is palpable and a great example of how genuine the acting is in this movie. The group is reunited in the trees and so begins another movie version of The Floor is Lava. I also mean this in a good way. Don’t you touch that water! Crocs are drawn by vibrations. Oh and they can jump pretty good too. Traucki focuses in on long shots of the water surface, just teasing the tension out of the viewer like a bot fly larva out of a cat’s leg (pardon the oddly specific analogy but there’s a story behind it and I definitely teased that larva right the fuck out of that cat’s leg!).
Really horrific shit happens. There are a few scenes that just about wrench my heart out. Not to spoil it but let’s just say Adam doesn’t make it. Okay that might have spoiled it. Anyhoo, after he is killed, the croc makes a rare but powerful on-screen surface shot, stares right at the grieving widow and her screams echo throughout the swamp. In a night scene, Lee and Grace huddle in the trees in pitch blackness while occasional flashes of lightning illuminate the croc beginning to feed on Adam’s corpse. That croc is a dick.
More horrific shit happens. Now I really truly am not going to spoil the last quarter or so of the movie. It’s better if you go in blind. Just know that you won’t be disappointed by the acting or the Saltie. Damn, this is such a good movie.
Black Water is a master class of creating tension on a minimal budget. It cuts the fat that usually makes these movies too indulgent and over-the-top. I always have been a proponent of hiding the monster so the times we do see it, it means something! Bravo!
See ya next week for Part Two where we tackle the recent 2020 follow up (not really a sequel) called Black Water: Abyss.
Director: Andrew Traucki
Where to Watch: Tubi
Splatterpunk nominated author Susan Snyder’s debut chapbook of poetry.