Adrift reminds me of Hannah. Stay with me for a minute.
I went out with Hannah during my formulative teenage years, when I was just discovering the aesthetic pleasures of the female form (I liked boobies). There was no real attraction between us, and the entire relationship was dull enough that I cannot honestly recall one outstanding memory of us together, good or bad. Now don’t get me wrong, she was a nice enough girl, but my feelings about her can be summarized in one succinct statement: Bleh.
Adrift is very Hannah, very bleh. There are no memorable moments, no outstanding sequences, and no extraordinary performances. It’s a nice enough film; there are no particularly awful components contributing towards the whole, just a collection of mundane, uninspired ones.
The premise to Adrift is that a group of friends meet for a weekend cruise on a luxury yacht. Upon all jumping into the sweet, welcoming bosom of the… cold, dark, shark-infested ocean water, they realise no one has lowered the ladder for them to climb back aboard. Who’s a silly bugger then?
Adrift’s presentation is very cinema verite. This documentary-style is intended to strip down the mediation between viewer and film, to make the experience more immediate and raw. This attempt at ‘fictional-realism’ is then further grounded by the increasingly regular ‘based on true events’ moniker that seems to precipitate any horror film that doesn’t place itself firmly within the crowded car park of the supernatural/fantasy sub-genres.
The problem with that damned verisimilitude is, if you try and convince your audience that everything they watch is true, then you’d damn well better make sure this sense of authenticity permeates every aspect of the production; from mise-en-scene to sound to plot. It is the latter of these where Adrift falters miserably.
If watching a ‘based on true events’ horror where the virgin dies first, the girl falls and twists her ankle running from the killer, and the psychotic murderer seems impervious to bullets and massive jolts of electricity, the audience’s suspension of disbelief may break.
In Adrift, when they decide on typically moronic ways of getting back on the boat, when they then execute these already idiotic manoeuvres in an even more stupid manner, and when the majority of scenes contain the generic ‘I’M FREAKING OUT WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION!?’ character, you’d be forgiven for allowing the audience a chuckle, cackle, or a shake of the head at certain moments. In Adrift, the frequency of such moments is dishearteningly high.
The key to any good horror movie is in establishing an empathetic link between audience and protagonist, so that the audience feel the tension when death seems inevitable or care when someone is hurt. It is then, not intended by the director that after the tenth time of wanting to scream out ‘WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU NUMPTIES!’ you begin to lose sympathy and instead begin to pray for the violent death of certain characters (not mentioning any names but the ‘FREAK OUT’ character is obviously high on the list).
There are some good things about Adrift; Bernhard Jasper adds some much needed eye-candy to proceedings with a keen eye for a beautiful shot, and Susan May Pratt (who plays the central protagonist ‘Amy’) asserts a confident screen-presence with disarming charm and emotional depth. Sadly, none of the other actors seem to raise their game in response, Eric Dane’s attempt at communicating Dan’s inner-turmoil through expressive grimaces and winces actually elicited laughter from those present at my viewing. Oh, did I also mention Amy has a baby onboard the ship the entire time? I forgot to mention it until now since the entire idea is equally underused and forgettable within the context of the film.
Well, it’s like Hannah isn’t it. If you don’t know what that means, go up and read from the top you lazy git.