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June 2004 Vol. 19, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Lost at Sea: Coming to a Multiplex Near You

from the June, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

This August, a Hollywood thriller called "Open Water" arrives in theaters. The feature film is based on a January 1998 tragedy where Thomas and Eileen Lonergan from Baton Rouge, LA, disappeared after the day boat Outer Edge left the Great Barrier Reef for Cairns while the couple was still diving. As reported in Undercurrent, the couple was not missed for two days, when the boat crew found some of their gear aboard. Weeks after their disappearance, a fin, tank, BC, and wetsuit hood belonging to the wife were found washed up on the mainland. Then fishermen found a slate with the plea "Please help us. Find us soon before we die." Both signed the message.

Despite claims from the Aussie dive industry that the couple may have faked their own deaths, an inquest concluded that the divers had drowned or been killed by sharks. The skipper of the Outer Edge was formally charged with manslaughter but was eventually acquitted.

Although the film was previewed at Sundance, we didn't see it, and so we don't know how faithful the movie will be to the actual story (it was filmed in the Bahamas, for one thing). But it's fiction, so who cares? An early review calls it "a startlingly intense little thriller," predicting that people "will turn out in droves, much as they did for 'Blair Witch' only this time, most everyone with a heartbeat will be teased, haunted, jolted, and scared to the marrow. ... The movie drops you right into the ocean, along with a stranded pair of married scuba divers." According to the review, which can be seen at www.opemwatermovie.com along with a trailer for the film, writerdirector Chris Kentis, couldn't afford special effects (his budget was $130,000), so he used real sharks.

Reviewer Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly concludes, "I watched 'Open Water' with waves of anxiety rippling through my stomach. It casts a spell of suspense, in part because there isn't a moment in it that isn't frighteningly real."

Kentis' only previous directing credit is the 1997 film "Grind," starring Billy Crudup and Amanda Peet, before they surfaced as major actors. The stars in this film are Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis, who after this film will either sink or swim.

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