Fango heard from Australian filmmaker Andrew Traucki, who sent the poster from BLACK WATER, the killer-crocodile opus he wrote and directed with David Nerlich. Just completed and headed off to the Cannes Film Festival, the movie is set in a mangrove swamp where three young people and their guide are attacked by a huge, marauding croc. The guide is killed and the surviving trio are left stranded in the flooded swamp, trying to figure out how to elude the beast, recover their overturned boat and escape alive.
If this simple, stark scenario sounds familiar from another recent indie centering on aquatic predators, Traucki tells Fango that’s not an accident. David and I had another feature doing the rounds, but because we were first-timers and the budget kept getting larger, we weren’t having much luck getting it up,” he explains. “I wanted to keep on writing, and was inspired by OPEN WATER, a good film done on a low budget. The thing is, that was [based on] an Australian story, so I thought, ‘Hmmm—what other big predator do we have in this country?’ I remembered two real stories about crocodiles, and one involved a couple of teenagers being stuck up a tree in a flooded river, because a crocodile that had killed their friend came back and kept circling the base of the tree, and that became the idea.”
The final script got producer Michael Robertson on board, and he used his connections in the advertising world to secure an experienced crew for BLACK WATER. A long audition process delivered what Traucki describes as “a great cast,” headed by Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody (“a real find—it’s her first feature, but she’s one of those actresses the camera really loves”) and Andy Rodoreda as the terrorized trio. And when it came to their reptilian co-star, Traucki once again took inspiration from OPEN WATER.
“From the start, we knew we wanted to use real crocs,” he says. “While researching BLACK WATER, I watched a lot of croc films, and most of them start hemorrhaging when it comes to the monster—bad models, bad CGI, effects that really suck. If your croc doesn’t rock, there goes the ball game, and we figured the best one would be a real one. In the north of Australia there are crocodile farms where they breed them for meat and skins, so we spent a week in Darwin getting close and personal with some large crocs. The old adage about never working with kids and animals came true; among other things, we ended up having to escape from a 12-footer—luckily on land. Trying to wrangle a small boat on a croc-infested lagoon…that didn’t work, and once we were in the water with a 14-footer; luckily, it was sedated. And a big mean 15-foot male called Stumpy got our camera in its jaws; luckily it was in a housing, so while that was screwed, the camera was OK. It was difficult, but we believe it has given our film an edge, and I’m extremely happy we decided to go with the real deal.”
That verisimilitude is what Traucki believes gives his film an advantage over its reptilian forebears and current competition, including Dimension’s similarly themed ROGUE. “I wanted BLACK WATER to be as realistic as possible,” he says. “It’s based on a true story, and I’ve always believed that truth is both stranger and stronger than fiction. I love contemplating what I would do in an extreme situation—a life-and-death puzzle, the ultimate test. So what sets BLACK WATER apart is that rather than being heavily theatrical, it has been made to be as realistic as possible, sticking to its simple and raw premise without being burdened with artificial themes. We want the audience to feel the reality of this event. We want them to think, ‘Imagine if this happened to me—what would I do?’ So it stands out because of its lack of artifice, because it’s raw and real, and we got great performances from both our actors and our real crocs.” You can check out the movie’s official website, with a trailer, notes and photos, here.
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