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Red Water (Rental)
Columbia Pictures/Columbia Pictures . R4 . COLOR . 89 mins . MA15+ . PAL


With the slow fizzling out of thrills experienced by the decaying Jaws franchise, one would think no-one would bother with the shark film anymore. However, everything old becomes new once more as soon as the present technology exceeds anything done before. Such was the case with Deep Blue Sea and such is the case with Red Water. (And Finding Nemo but that was actually good).

A freshwater shark – correct that, a saltwater shark that can adapt to freshwater - cruises up the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana for no apparent reason. After a couple of attacks, the river is closed and a bounty of $50,000 lures every redneck hillbilly out of their log cabins and away from their stills to collect. Around this time, a dude who can’t make ends meet with his fishing business (I didn’t catch his name but he’s played by Lou Diamond Phillips) lands a contract to go up river with a mining company to drill for natural gas on the river. The fact that it’s a wildlife preserve doesn’t matter too much, explains Lou’s ex-wife as she gets aboard. She is also the mining company’s stooge and played by Kristy Swanson, still kicking herself for not taking the Buffy role in the television series of the same name.

To make matters worse, their paths cross with a criminal fresh from the pen and Coolio playing a gangsta mofo with some serious clichéd attitude. Being granted special permission by a lax local authority, the boat heads upstream and into the lair of the shark that is hungry for more humans to eat. Or something.

Personally, I think this kind of thing is bloody dreadful. First there’s the unlikely event that the shark would head into freshwater anyway, but then there’s the stupid part of the story where people have to get into the shark’s environment for the horror to be properly played out. Watching them come up with reasons to get in the water is funny, but the joke quickly passes into drollery as we watch Diamond Phillips emoting his way through a bad breakup with the ex-wife and trying to win her heart again.

While he and Swanson do have some experience in acting, the majority of the cast looks like locals they’ve dredged up from the bayou to fill roles. There are some truly stilted deliveries and poor naturalism going on in this film, not to mention dodgy premises to get things exploding or crashing or bloody. There’s also what looks like the remains of Baywatch patrolling the lake/river. I’ve never seen lifeguards inland anywhere. These guys even carry those handle things on a rope tied to their leg (so they don’t get them mixed up with the other lifeguards’ ones) and walk through the shallows looking all moody and buffed and waxed. With their trademark red shorts and all. And of course, there’s also a healthy smattering of bikini girls thrown in too.


Picture quality is about par with a rental quality of a rush job. This is an American movie made for cable TV, so the aspect ratio is only 4:3. More than three-quarters of the film suffers some degree of film grain, while the night shots deteriorate into grey-blacks and minimal shadow detail. Any scene that hasn’t been shot in broad daylight, actually, looks pretty crap. Colours are fairly bright and evenly saturated, but the true winner here is in the pissy computer animation of the shark. They even gave it a scar crossing one eye, like it’s some sort of sea-pirate. Yee-argh Sharky!

Dialogue is well spilled if not well penned with plenty of grisly screams cut short by crunching flesh and bone noises. The rest of the sound effects seem okay, but some of the dialogue dubbing earlier in the film doesn’t quite match the action on screen. This isn’t a lip-synch issue, but a post-production dubbing problem on the visuals.

The music here is naturally horror orientated, but nothing too exhilarating. It supports ably enough, but there are one too many metallic crescendos when the shark bumps a boat or person or flailing scriptwriter.

As far as extras go, there are four trailers for other pissy horror vehicles in Anaconda, Bats, Infested and the absolute horror of La Bamba. Actually, that wasn’t so bad, but it has Lou Diamond Phillips in it, so I guess that’s the link.

Overall, be thankful there aren’t any sharks in our Australian freshwater tributaries or waterways or they might make a local version. The acting is average, the story laughable and the transfer just below average, but if you’re looking for something a little crap, this will do it for you. Just try not to take it seriously, as so many of the cast have.

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