Sharks In The Open Water

Throughout filming sharks were fed tuna so that the lead actors wouldn't be attacked. Luckily, it worked.

Feature by Xavier Toby | 13 Sep 2006
Cinemas are currently littered with slasher and thriller flicks, so apparently we like to be frightened. And, since sharks scare the crap out of us, it's only ever a matter of time before the next 'Jaws' imitation comes along. In 2003 low-budget American film 'Open Water' did surprisingly well, and while it was a simple, intelligently plotted thriller, it was so successful because it had sharks. Real sharks too - throughout filming they were fed tuna so that the lead actors wouldn't be attacked. Luckily, it worked.

Now in 2006 we have 'Open Water 2'. Well, sort of. Details are sketchy but it appears that nobody involved in the original is on-board for the "sequel", the main give-away being that it's being made in Germany, and is being released as 'Adrift'. Like any follow up to a low-budget surprise hit thriller, the plot is almost identical – people get stuck in the water and there are sharks – but they've upped the stakes, this time there are more people.

It is still yet to be confirmed that there are actually any sharks in this film even though it's due for release in September, as all the press releases are in German. There better be, otherwise what would be the point? Surely the producers of this film must realise that if they want success, they need sharks. Regardless of the reviews, if there is even just a fin on the poster people will flock to it; same rule applies to films about weddings. And wars. And Tom Hanks.

You can guarantee a shark is going to appear in every film that involves anyone spending an extended amount of time on anything smaller than a yacht, and it makes sense. Sharks raise tension and since it's the ocean you don't have to explain where the shark came from, where it has gone and when or if it will come back. For a film based on land struggling for a dramatic moment you can't just have a tiger or polar bear appear from nowhere (except if you're David Lynch or working on Lost). The sharks and situations depicted in these films, however, are usually just as whimsically imagined as the villains of any thriller, and in reality sharks are nowhere near as deadly as the media would have us believe.

This fear is reinforced by films like 'Jaws' that invent sharks for the big screen with exaggerated size and behaviour, but unlike the purely fictional creations of other films, there are consequences. The hysteria created by this and similar media has been singled out as the main cause for our apathy towards the decimation of the shark population. In the year 2000, ten people were killed by shark attacks worldwide, while in the same year humans were responsible for the death of well over 200 hundred million sharks. Every year about 100 hundred million sharks are killed for food, and fishing nets drown another 100 million.

Sharks draw so many people to the cinema because they evoke "real fear" - the villain in most horror or suspense films can usually be written off as fictional, while every time we step into the ocean there is the risk of a shark attack. Although we are thirty times more likely to be hit by lightening, and poorly wired Christmas trees kill more people each year than sharks, no-one can guarantee that a shark won't get you.
Dir: Hans Horn
Stars: Susan May Pratt, Richard Speight Jr, Niklaus Lange
Release Date: September 1st
Cert: 15