Lionsgate // 2006 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 13th, 2006
Terror runs deep...
Five schmucks go sailing and die.
The latest Lionsgate thriller finds two young, nubile couples heading off to sea for a getaway filled with sunbathing, deep-sea fishing, campfire storytelling and...murder. Two swinging dudes, Tom and Lance and their girls Kate and Askley board the vessel skippered by the enigmatic captain (Edward Albert). The plans for fun and debauchery get hamstrung, however, when an uninvited guest is brought on board. His name is Derek, and no one knows who he is or what his purpose on the boat it. Cryptically, the captain dodges questions about what the party crasher is doing on his boat.
Well, a sun-soaked vacation soon takes a turn for the deadly, as passengers start to vanish, some even turning up dead. Worse, some one has made off with the navigation equipment, leaving the boat and its quickly-diminishing crew stranded in the middle of the ocean with a crazed killer on the prowl.
Sea of Fear had potential, but it squandered any kind of interesting build-up with a total lack of suspense and thrills, and, eventually, one the most drawn-out, poorly acted climactic sequence I've seen. That last part is the film's biggest drawback, as the reveal -- which a movie like this is dependent on -- lasts the entire third act and just screams "padding the runtime." Really, it's pretty horrible. The killer presents him (or her) self to the lone survivor and the two have a looooooonnnnnnggggg bout of expository dialogue with knives pointed at each other. Worse, it's some of the lamest line-reading I've suffered through in a while. It all spirals into a convoluted final five minutes (a final twist!) that completely lacks dramatic punch.
That's the things with these "psychological thrillers:" the entire enterprise rests on the potency of the climax. The prelude to that climax is pretty good, and the setting of a small sailboat in the middle of the sea is a fine setting for mayhem to go down, but the crescendo is wasted by the ending. Thus, I think it makes the film an overall disappointment.
This is a bummer, of course, because there was some decent stuff here. I like the idea of a small cast of players and the film is well shot. The aforementioned sailboat setting is a double-edged sword; it's a unique backdrop for the film, but the boat is so small -- almost laughably small -- director Andrew Schuth has limited himself narratively. They do get off the boat to hand out at a campfire in one sequence, but all the money sequences happen out at sea, which eventually become limiting. For example, there aren't many interesting ways to kill people on a little boat, and once you've had someone suffocated by a sail, I think you've crested.
Because Sea of Fear is a PG-13 film, it has an uphill battle before it, fighting for the straight-to-DVD fans. Whether it's a fair criticism or not, the exclusion of gore and profanity and T&A puts more weight on the story and the big twist at the end, and the bottom line is that the film doesn't deliver in those crucial categories.
Not be a complete downer, I will admit I dig the look of this film. It's presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen format, and despite what was surely a small budget, it's shot beautifully. The 2.0 stereo mix is adequate, but nothing noteworthy. No extras.
Don't bother leaving port for this one, matey.
The accused is keelhauled.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13