Split Decision: Don’t Go in the Water

Welcome back to Split Decision! Each week, we pose a question to our staff of knowledgable and passionate film geeks and share the responses! We may never know if it is legal to park in the center of Broad Street, but we’ll answer movie questions all day long. Chime in on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below!

This week’s question:

In honor of The Meg, what movie makes you afraid to go in the water?

I laugh at sharks, well, I laugh at Land Shark from Saturday Night Live back in the day. I do think the Open Water films are amusing because the characters are so stupid. (The sequel especially, with the baby alone on the boat while all the adults are treading water–hilarious!) Thrillers on the ocean like Dead Calm, can be pretty effective, but that’s because that boat was claustrophobic, and Billy Zane was such a charming, handsome sociopath.

No what made me absolutely white-knuckled about being in the water was this obscure Cuban film called Una Noche, in which three youths spend the whole movie trying to get off the island and onto a raft to float 90 miles to America. Once they finally hit the water, they end up in seriously dire straights. It’s completely unnerving.

(To be clear, I don’t want to go swimming with sharks, but I would love to have gone Into the Blue with Paul Walker.) —Gary Kramer

It’s Jaws, right? The answer is Jaws, which made me afraid to swim in the deep end of the local pool, and this was after I had seen it in the seventh grade. The two big challenges of that year were coping with puberty and Jaws.

Before that, though, it was a thing I’ve only just found out is called the Sando Aqua Monster. In Star Wars Episode I, when our heroes are leaving Naboo, a big fish bites their ship. Scary! And then a giant Lovecraft thing with jacked arms swoops in out of nowhere and bites that thing. Psychically scarring! I was in the fifth grade, already a little too immersed in the movie because the ocean scenes are so dark and hazy that it was difficult to figure out where the screen ended and the rest of the room began, and I was terrified. Rewatching the scene now, for the first time since video, I imagine the haze is there to soften the 1999 CGI, but in the moment it just made everything seem that more real.–Alex Rudolph

The ocean never scares me that much because it’s so big- with the waves and everything, I also assume that whatever is underneath it is moving around and has plenty of places to go where they don’t have to bother humans. What scares me is still water! Like a like, or a lazy river. Where it is muddy, and green, and dank, full of creepy crawly things. The movie Frogs scared me more than Jaws probably ever did- a 1972 low budget horror film set in the Florida swamps, and starring a young Sam Elliot. Basically, every single reptile in the swamp becomes enraged at humans and goes after them, trying to kill them and eat them. Something related to pesticides…almost like The Happening. I don’t really know. All I know is it made me seriously afraid of inland bodies of water for a very long time.–Andy Elijah

My distaste for the beach and general fear of the ocean is well documented (the water literally pushes you out of it!), but much like what Andy said, still water can be even more terrifying. The ocean is a constantly changing beast, at least in the areas where we humans commonly swim, but a lake has been stagnant for its entire life. Who knows what adaptive horrors have made it their home?? Case in point: the segment of Creepshow 2 titled The Raft. In it, a group of young campers find themselves trapped on a wooden raft fixture in the middle of a lake. Just a few feet from where they stand floats a mysterious oil slick which appears to be absorbing and dissolving anything in its path. One by one, the campers attempt to swim ashore, trying to outrun the slick only to be painfully consumed by its mysterious method of digestion. “It hurts! It huuuuuurts!” exclaims one camper as their flesh is gruesomely dissolved.

Creepshow 2 is a mixed bag, as are most anthology horror flicks, but The Raft is one of the finest horror shorts ever made. I have never not thought of it anytime I’ve found myself in a lake. Chilling! Dan Scully

Okay, this is a little bit of a stretch because I, too, am not afraid of the water. But I am terrified of the Amazon rainforest which to me exists in my mind as a moist hellscape filled with insects the size of your face. Not only that, but the Amazon River filled with piranha and God knows what else. So when I sat through Anaconda, the film only reinforced my desire to never go there unless I’m in a hermectically sealed bubble. And even then, no, probably not.

I realize the odds of me being eaten by a snake are next to impossible but just the idea of being slowly digested whole freaks me out more than any shark attack. I don’t remember much about this movie besides that feeling, Jennifer Lopez, and the locale, but the most important takeaway is found in the tagline: If you can’t breathe, you can’t scream. Truer words. —Jill Malcolm

This is a weird answer, but as some others have mentioned, I have never quite been scared of the ocean. This is mostly because I never venture very far out, so it would obviously be a different story if I were lost at sea or something. I also unfortunately waited until I was a little too old to be really scared when I saw Jaws. So, my answer is actually going to be The River Wild (1994). I saw that movie when I was extremely young and impressionable and it legitimately terrified me. I’ve maybe gone white river rafting only once in my life because of that movie, and as easy as the rapids were, I hated every second of it. Something about the concept of having zero control in the water always really stuck with me. Not to mention I also had a fear of being kidnapped when I was young, so The River Wild was really the total package for scaring the hell out of me as a 5 or 6 year old.–Catherine Haas

I’m not really afraid of the water and haven’t been able to come up with a good answer for this – so I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you all about Deep Blue Sea 2, which came out earlier this year. It features my favorite line of dialogue in any movie this year – “We are taking on water, we’re without power, and WE. ARE. ON. FIRE!” It’s a shame this movie wasn’t made in 1992, because not only does it look like it’s from 1992, but that line of dialogue would be the perfect start to any warehouse rave. Also, are you aware that the plot of this movie is barely about sharks? It’s about a researcher who fears the coming singularity, when artificial intelligence becomes sentient and grows smarter than humans, so in order to ensure humanity’s dominance over machines he uses shark DNA to enhance human brain power. Yes, you did read that correctly. It does feature a pretty awesome death scene where a shark leaps out of the water and bites a guy’s head clean off his shoulders, so I mean, pretty worthwhile if you ask me.—Garrett Smith

The ocean is fine, sharks are awesome. What really freaks me out are tentacled-beasties in still water. And two of the best examples are in non-horror films. The first is in the original Star Wars (we too often forget about all the fun creatures in the film) in the trash compactor scene. The dianoga is a creature we never see in full, but it is big enough to have a creep periscope eye and pull Luke under the water that’s roughly knee-high. Adding to the terror in my mind is the fact that the only other life forms we see on the Death Star are humans (and Chewie). The Death Star is brand new, also. How did it get there? Why does it live in the garbage? Where does it go? This sense of mystery makes it a terrifying scene.

But the granddaddy of them all is the creature simply known as “The Watcher in the Water” in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Caught between a cool pool of water and a locked door, this beastie is awakened and utterly terrifying. Moreso than any trolls or orcs. Heck, a Balrog isn’t much different from a T. rex in how it can’t really sneak up on you. But this thing just hangs out in the shallows, waiting to grab you when you least expect it.–Ryan Silberstein

I love the ocean more than I care to admit, lest I become “that girl.” I grew up near creeks and swamps and that stuff makes me wanna barf. There’s so many creepy crawlies that just LIVE in stagnant water. My cinematic fear of that shit started with the leech scene in Stand By Me.

Also attributed to the one time I saw an alligator, in real life, in a Florida swamp and somebody told me it ate a neighborhood dog and I didn’t like that one bit.—Jenna Kuerzi

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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