Lionsgate pairs up two oceanic thrillers, one good, one bad, and offers them up on a single Blu-ray disc with this double feature releases. Here's a look at what you'll get:
Open Water (2003):
Inspired by the true life events that occurred when two scuba divers lost their bearings in the ocean, the film follows Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) who decide to take a vacation and enjoy each other's company. They head out to the coast and decide to go scuba diving and soon wind up too far from land and completely alone in shark infested waters.
The plot for Open Water is deceptively simple and yet it manages to be quite a tense little film. Made for very little money, this film not only plays off of the fear of sharks that plagues many people but also another common fear, that of the ocean. Anyone who has ever been scuba diving or even swimming in the ocean knows that as fun as it can be, you need to be careful. Tides can come in and out, currents can move and change and waves can knock you around and, yes, sometimes there are sharks.
The film uses its set up fairly well and doesn't waste time getting to the meat of the story. Susan and Daniel are introduced and as we meet them we get to like them, they both seem like nice people and are obviously in love with one another. We know them just enough to care about them once they get stuck out in the sea and as such, we want them to get back to the shore alive and with all their limbs attached. The whole manner in which they wind up left alone in the sea could have been easily avoided if they or their charter had been more careful but the sad matter is that things like this can and do happen, which gives the film a sense of realism that works very well in its favor. People are lazy and make mistakes all the time without thinking about the ramifications that these mistakes can have on other people - hence Susan and Daniel's predicament.
As the film reaches its conclusion and our two characters realize that their chances of survival are incredibly slim, they still cling to that shred of hope and try to ensure one another that they're going to be okay. This gives a fairly chilling story a nice sense of pathos and drama that goes a long way towards humanizing the characters. The camera work employed is very effective in ramping up the tension and setting the mood and Open Water turns out to be a very well made thriller/horror picture that relies more on smarts, character development and tension than on gore or jump scares.
Open Water 2 - Adrift (2006):
This second film follows a different couple as they go through experiences similar to those scene in the first movie. When the picture beings, we're introduced to a woman named Amy (Susan May Platt), her husband James (Richard Speight Jr.) and their baby daughter Sarah as they decide to travel to Mexico in their yacht. Along for the ride are their friends Dan (Eric Dance), Michelle (Cameron Richardson), Zach (Niklaus Lange) and Lauren (Ali Hills).
Since it's Dan's birthday, they decide to celebrate a bit and as the drinks flow and the reminiscing begins, they slowly but surely start to drift off course. They eventually wind up out in the middle of nowhere when Michelle decides it'd be a good idea to go swimming - after all, the water looks great and there's no one around to bother them. Everyone jumps in except for Dan and Amy, though that doesn't last long when Dan pushes Amy overboard, this in spite of the fact that he knows she's scare of the water. This joke goes horribly wrong through when Dan falls in after her without putting the ladder down. Now the baby is all by herself on the boat, the adults have no way to get back onto the boat and there's no help around for miles and miles.
Where Open Water succeeded in giving us characters we could like and hope for, Open Water 2: Adrift is hurt by an ensemble cast of obnoxious characters who more or less do themselves in. It's hard to be too sympathetic when these fools bring it upon themselves and while it would certainly be horrifying to be stuck in that sort of situation, particularly with a baby on board the boat all by her lonesome, anyone with even a shred of common sense would take steps to ensure that this chain of events simply didn't happen. There are moments of tension that works and some nice camerawork helps things here and there but if you can't like the characters or invest yourself in the premise, it's not going to matter much. A sequel to the first picture in name only (it was written before it was named Open Water 2 and features none of the same characters or any of the same cast members), the film builds to a tacked on ambiguous ending that doesn't do much at all to redeem this tepid picture.
The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfers for these two films are nothing to get excited about at all. The first film, presented in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio, is incredibly soft looking and doesn't offer much of an upgrade at all. Some of this will have to do with how the movie was shot in the first place, it's not like it has the sort of super fancy cinematography that's going to floor you, rather it's fairly low-fi in how it's been put together, but detail doesn't pass standard definition quality very often and darker scenes are pretty murky. Black levels are very inconsistent and there's some blockiness and murkiness to much of the film that saps out a lot of the detail. The second film, presented in 2.35.1 widescreen, looks a little bit better but that's really not saying very much. Colors definitely look better here but the picture shows some of the same blockiness and doesn't handle grain very well - what should look film like is instead pretty messy looking. Detail is better than it is on the first picture but not by leaps and bounds. Don't expect much in the visuals department from this release because you're not going to get it.
While the video quality disappoints, the audio definitely fares considerably better. Both films on the disc get English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks with English and Spanish subtitles and English closed captioning. The dialogue is fairly plain, though it's always easy to understand and follow without any problems, but where the disc earns higher marks is with its placement of directional effects and background noise. In the first film, once our heroes are out in the water, there's some really impressive surround activity to listen for and some nice, detailed ambient noise. Bass response won't floor you for either film but things like boat motors and heavy waves do offer up a decent low end rumble here and there. Generally the levels are always well balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. These movies don't offer the same sort of hyper-aggressive surround activity of more epic blockbuster type films but they do sound pretty good on Blu-ray.
The first film contains a pretty solid selection of supplements starting with the first of two commentary tracks that comes courtesy of director Chris Kentis and his wife and the film's producer Laura Lau. These two discuss the inspiration for the film and the real life events that it was based on as well as some of the difficulties that arose during the production. The second track features actors Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis and it obviously gives a different look at the production and details what it was like working on this project from in front of the camera. Both tracks do suffer from periodic instances of dead air now and again but thankfully this is the exception and not the rule. After that, be sure to sift through the two featurettes, the first of which is Calm Before The Storm (15:51), a standard making of documentary that covers location shooting, dealing with the sharks used in the film, effects work, and setting up certain aspects of the production. The second featurette is The Indie Essentials (5:04), a short but interesting look at how aspiring independent filmmakers might want to pitch a project to Lionsgate.
Rounding out the extras for the first film are some deleted scenes (9:37), a very brief clip called Bonus On Location Footage (2:50) in which we see Chris Kentis swimming with some sharks, and a theatrical trailer.
The only extra for the second film is a Making Of Open Water 2 (20:08) documentary which features some decent behind the scenes clips and some cast and crew interviews. The disc also features menus and chapter stops. All of the extras on this disc are presented in standard definition.
The first Open Water is a well made and surprisingly tense thriller that plays its cards right and keeps you on the edge of your seat thanks to some clever camera work and likeable characters. The sequel, Open Water 2, never manages to hit its stride and is a bit of a mess. Lionsgate's Blu-ray offers very little in terms of an upgrade in the video department but does feature decent lossless audio and carry over the extras from the standard definition releases. It's unlikely that fans of the films are going to see the studio go back to the well on Blu-ray for these titles anytime soon, so if you fall into that category, you might want to pick this up but if you don't, this isn't an essential purchase and will instead make a fine rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.