The Viewer: Dark Tide

Image via cinemablend.

An irrational fear of a mysterious beast that dwells alone in the darkness, is rarely seen, but whose sinister, unnerving presence is constantly felt.

The Viewer feels a peculiar kinship with the great white shark. And rats.

Until the making of Jaws, sharks in movies were trained using simple reasoning and Cheez Doodle snacks. Image via theidiotspeaketh.

Jaws wasn’t the monster movie genre defining cinematic watershed it was because Steven Spielberg planned it that way, y’know. As movie folklore breathlessly recounts to anyone who’s listening, Spielberg’s commission of three pneumatic ‘prop’ sharks (named Bruce) in pre-production was an unmitigated disaster, and the use of visual and musical cues to alert the viewer to the predator’s presence was essentially a damage limitation exercise.

Luckily for Spielberg, people loved it and the movie made history.

The lessons learned by Spielberg and his damp, pissed off crew don’t really apply anymore. CGI sharks have proved to be significantly more co-operative than their plywood counterparts, less inclined to sink and enabled their handlers to stretch the myth of the killer shark so far, they no longer have to confine the action to the ocean. The supermarket will do.

Dark Tide is one of the exceptions. Like ‘The Reef‘ and ‘Open Water‘, it prefers to blow it’s budget on actual shark footage, using the famed Shark Alley in South Africa as it’s backdrop, although plenty was reportedly filmed off Mexico’s Isla Guadalupe. Unfortunately (and unlike the aforementioned titles), the remaining balance was spent on the cast and not on the narrative, which is as wooden, predictable and stilted as ole Bruce himself.

Given that The Viewer only committed to watching this film because she hoped the principal cast would be eaten, the scenes in which Kate Mathieson (Berry) wrestles with the dilemma of getting back into the water for a much needed cash boost after a close friend’s hideous death, were tortuous. Fortunately for everyone, fiduciary reward proved far more compelling for Mathieson than her estranged husband Jeff’s (Martinez) romantic overtures, which is how we end up back in the water, where it turns out that we are much safer.

The underwater footage in ‘Dark Tide’  is visually stunning. If footage of sharks in their natural environment, swimming with free divers and exhibiting a far wider range of behavioural traits than their land based counterparts is your thing, you’re unlikely to see anything this good outside of Shark Week. Director John Stockwell successfully combines implied threat with creature contact, simultaneously frustrating and thrilling The Viewer, who simply cannot understand why he is unable to coax similarly convincing performances from his human cast.

Watch this, but prepare for long stretches of gazing into the middle distance from Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez’ execrable trudge through method moody Frenchman to pepper your enjoyment of the film. The Viewer suggests a book or magazine to minimise your trauma and make the boat rides tolerable.

Enter at your own risk though. Always.

Dark Tide. Out on DVD 22nd October 2012

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