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SYDNEY — It’s testosterone ahoy as two inflated male egos jostle for control in the tidy little boat-bound thriller Caught Inside. This photogenic film from Australian commercials director Adam Blaiklock is hardly sailing in uncharted waters. To his credit though, Blaiklock takes his cues from that other Aussie nail-biter, Dead Calm, creating a slow-burn tension while avoiding the exploitative sleaze of a more lurid sea-faring slasher such as Britain’s Donkey Punch.
The director/co-writer makes the most of a modest budget and the claustrophobic confines of a chartered yacht ferrying a group of surf-mad vacationers, although the very absence of gore and shocks may disappoint hardcore genre fans.
Caught Inside, which premiered earlier this year at South by Southwest, has opened in Australia, where it should find a comfortable berth, before setting a steady course for ancillary markets and specialist festivals abroad.
An unusually lengthy set-up allows an ensemble of attractive Australian television actors to add some shading to their characters as they convene aboard luxury yacht the Hedonist, bound for a series of secret surf spots in the Maldives.
Mild-mannered Toobs (Simon Lyndon) immediately creates waves by bringing two girls along on this boys’ own adventure – his documentary-maker girlfriend Alex (Leeanna Walsman) and her flirty friend, Samantha (Daisy Betts). Sam’s bikini-clad presence sparks an increasingly heated sexual rivalry between the blandly handsome Rob (Sam Lyndon) and a hulking, rough-hewn surfer named Bull (Ben Oxenbould).
The tightly wound group dynamic detonates when Bull’s macho posturing grows malevolent after an incident on a secluded beach. The Big Kahuna turns violent sociopath and Bull’s shipmates are helpless before his volatile temper and thuggish physicality. Blaiklock and co-writers Joe Velikovsky andMatt Tomaszewskishrewdly keep the shipboard shenanigans rooted in reality – a scene in which Bull serves up his warped version of sashimi to his trapped victims is all the more nerve-wracking for their entirely believable reactions.
Betts handles the ambiguities of her character’s motives with aplomb, but it is Oxenbould’s film. His portrait of a colorfully moody brute grips like a vise from the outset and he rampages through the third act, sure-footed and intimidating.
Blaiklock has a good grasp of structure and pacing, but generally unfussy camera work undercuts the suspense of the climactic scenes. Beautifully lensed surf sequences have helped earn the film a slot at surf film festivals in the U.K. and New York.
Opened: October 6 in Australia
Production company: Flying Fish
Cast: Ben Oxenbould, Peter Phelps, Leeanna Walsman, Daisy Betts, Simon Lyndon, Harry Cook, Sam Lyndon
Director: Adam Blaiklock
Screenwriters: Joe Velikovsky, Matt Tomaszewski, Adam Blaiklock
Producers: Paul S. Friedman, Adam Blaiklock
Director of photography: Damian Wyvill
Production designer: Eli Faen
Music: Tom Schutzinger
Editor: Lou Kan
Sales: Darclight Films
No rating, 92 minutes
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