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Reviewed April 6th, 2002 by David Nusair


Owing a debt to Dead Calm (which itself owed quite a bit to Knife in the Water), Dead in the Water is the latest water-bound thriller.

As the movie opens, a young girl (Lolita’s Dominique Swain) is preparing for a weekend of reckless abandon aboard her father’s boat, along with her boyfriend (Scott Bairstow) and close pal (Henry Thomas). The trio is forced to take in a fourth, though, when her father insists that the son of a business associate join them. After some harmless frolicking and flirting, the plot thickens when Swain and the swarthy stranger are caught kissing by Bairstow – who promptly proceeds to toss the poor sap overboard. After much arguing and bickering – this is after they’ve sailed quite a distance from where the outsider hit the drink – the gang finally decides to head back and rescue the dude. But, not surprisingly, he’s long gone at that point, with only his life preserver providing evidence that he was ever there. This leads to even more arguing and bickering among the friends, as they try to figure out what happened to the guy and decide what to do next.

Dead in the Water is fairly predictable, but mostly entertaining. Once the flick hits a certain point, there’s absolutely no doubt which direction it’s heading. And by the time the end credits roll, the movie’s delivered exactly what you would’ve expected – with one twist which I won’t divulge. But to be fair, a lot of the twists that occur before the end – while not entirely unexpected – are fun, in a trashy sort of way. Let’s face it, most of the stuff that happens aboard this boat could only happen in a movie and hey, isn’t that the whole point of watching a flick like this?

The performances are fine, with Swain’s portrayal of a spoiled rich girl who hasn’t a thought for anyone except herself anchoring the story, and the direction is capable. There’s lots of nice scenery to be had here, and during some of the slower patches, you’ll be thankful for that.

Audio: Dead in the Water comes armed with a DD 5.1 soundtrack and it’s fairly lackluster. Though the dialogue is crisp and clear, the soundtrack never really blows you away – even in moments when it certainly should. Example: there’s a sequence in which a boat explodes. While it is impressively loud, it’s not very spatial.

Video: The transfer, on the other hand, is pretty darn nice. This 1.85:1 anamorphically enhanced transfer featuring some truly eye-popping vistas – which would have looked awful had the transfer not been up to snuff. The deep blues of the water are gorgeous, as is the vast sky. A nice transfer.

Extras: Dead in the Water comes with a decent amount of bonus material. First up is a commentary track, which – while not entirely boring – never really becomes anything worth recommending. Next up is something of a bizarre extra – a 25 minute short film by the director, along with commentary. It’s got something to do with a prisoner – but really, unless you know this dude personally, why bother? Next up is a short (around 2 and a half minute) featurette which is really just behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the movie. No cheesy narration here; just the actual sounds of the filming. A trailer rounds out the extras.

Conclusion: Dead in the Water is a passable thriller.


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