Machismo sets sail to navigate the treacherous waters between genre filmmaking and political correctness in effective low-budget thriller “Caught Inside.” Filmed mostly in the Maldives, adman Adam Blaiklock’s feature bow has a slick appeal that recalls “Knife in the Water” and “Dead Calm.” Yarn hits a few rocks with fuzzy logic and technical flaws, but overall maintains its taut narrative course. Local release, set for later this year, will reel in a niche crowd of Oz genre fans. In international waters, pic will appeal to genre fests and ancillary distribs.
A group of vacationing Aussie males join expat Bull (Ben Oxenbould) for a surfing/fishing boat trip in the Maldives. The “men only” rule is broken when Toobs (Simon Lyndon) turns up with his filmmaker g.f., Alex (Leeana Walsman), and her sultry best buddy, Sam (Daisy Betts), in tow. Despite ruffled feathers, the men and women set sail for Bull’s secret island hideaway; meanwhile, Bull and regular guy Rob (Sam Lyndon) begin to vie for Sam’s attention, with the less-polished Bull coming off second best to Rob’s urban charm.
Unaccustomed to losing, Bull swings between bouts of sullenness and outbursts of sexist bravado as the others try to enjoy the cruise and Rob enjoys Sam. Bull’s lusty interest in Sam increases, to the point where he initiates a sexual incident with Sam that polarizes the ship’s occupants. Furious that his friends would accept the word of an unknown woman over his own, Bull flies into a homicidal rage, and the yarn settles into a groove in which a boat at sea is terrorized by a vengeful madman.
Oxenbould gives a formidable, seamless performance as the scorned surfing thug; Betts also convinces as Sam, but her part is written with less conviction. Other perfs are mixed, and Sam Lyndon’s important role as the handsome suitor is the least believable.
Blaiklock’s helming has a pro veneer but also, at times, an obvious lack of coverage, which undermines editor Louise Kan’s efforts to maintain suspense. Story suffers from too many characters, which not only impedes the setup but also diffuses the climactic tension. Like some kind of “Disclosure” on the waves, the script makes a last-ditch effort to create ambiguity about the characters’ sexual motives, but a smug machismo tone keeps the film from realizing its higher ambitions.
HD lensing is often slick, but pic doesn’t entirely master the visual complications of working on the ocean (such as reflected glare). Muffled dialogue and muddy sound will make key plot points difficult for non-Aussie viewers to understand.