02nd Nov2020

‘Black Water: Abyss’ DVD Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Luke Mitchell, Jessica McNamee, Amali Golden, Benjamin Hoetjes, Anthony J. Sharpe | Written by John Ridley, Sarah Smith | Directed by Andrew Traucki

Director Andrew Traucki returns to croc-infested waters for Black Water: Abyss, a stand-alone sequel to his 2007 crocky horror Black Water. As crocsploitation pictures go, it’s a largely toothless affair, but it does have a couple of snappy moments.

Set in Northern Australia, the plot centres on thrill-seeker Eric (Luke Mitchell), who sets out to explore an uncharted cave system and persuades his girlfriend Jennifer (Jessica McNamee) and their friends Yolanda (Amali Golden) and Viktor (Benjamin Hoetjes) to join him. They’re accompanied by bearded, up-for-anything Cash (Anthony J. Sharpe), who acts as their guide. However, once underground, they’re cut off by a flash flood and find themselves trapped alongside a large underground pool, with the waters rising. To make matters worse, they soon discover that they’re not alone – a massive crocodile is trapped in there with them and he’s feeling peckish.

Traucki’s 2007 Black Water movie used real crocodiles to mostly impressive effect and he attempts a similar trick here, with some shots that are very clearly an actual creature, swimming about. The problem is that this time round, the film’s effects budget clearly isn’t up to the task when it comes to animal and human interaction, so the few shots that do involve a croc attack are either obvious CGI or choppily edited, carefully framed shots of an actor thrashing about with a rubber crocodile in the hopes the audience won’t notice. Black Water: Abyss’s budget constraints also extend to the locations, which are at best unconvincing (the cave exteriors) and at worst very cheap-looking (the central underground pool is clearly a dressed-up studio). Also, they could clearly only afford seven actors (two are needed for a toothy prologue), though at least this helps streamline the story a bit.

The film’s biggest problem (other than the fact that there’s no abyss) is a general lack of tension, with Traucki resorting to a lot of padding (and indeed, paddling) to beef up the running time. It’s also fair to say that, considering this is a creature feature, the crocodile just isn’t hungry enough. He pops up for a half-hearted attempt at a light snack every so often, but he’s not really trying that hard. Moreover, aside from deploying one or two effective jump scares, Traucki never manages to establish an atmosphere of actual fear.

As for the performances, the actors do what they can, but there’s so little to the characters that you start to wonder if you’re meant to be rooting for the crocodile. Amusingly, Traucki repeats the cheap audience sympathy trick he used in the first film, throwing in a pregnancy subplot, but this time spicing it up a bit with some surprise revelations. (It doesn’t work).

In fairness, there are a couple of good moments and the film gains bonus points for its borderline hilarious excuse for a final croc-based climax. Indeed, if the film had embraced the ridiculousness of that sequence a little more in the rest of the film, it could have been a lot more enjoyable. Black Water: Abyss also falls down when it comes to Michael Lira’s score, which is perfunctory at best and completely fails to ramp up tension. The weird thing is that there’s a great piece of Bernard Hermann-esque music in the end credits that would have been perfect in the actual movie – why it was left out is a mystery.

Black Water: Abyss is released on DVD today, courtesy of Altitude Film Distribution.


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