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SXSW 2011: ‘Caught Inside’ – An Australian psychological thriller and horror film

Caught Inside

Directed by Adam Blaiklock

Written by Joe Velikovsky, Matt Tomaszewski, Adam Blaiklock

Australia, 2010

Caught Inside, an Australian film in the Narrative Feature category at SXSW this year is itself, caught somewhere between psychological thriller and horror flick, but it’s a sweet spot that director Adam Blaiklock exploits masterfully.

A group of twenty-somethings depart on a chartered boat in the gorgeous, sparkling Maldives for a surfing trip. Everything is marvelous, until one of the surfers who is both exceedingly sensitive and macho, goes berserk after an incident with one of the women on board. Out in the middle of the ocean, the isolation that was once the ideal quickly becomes the enemy and with no help for miles, the expeditioners find themselves pawns in one man’s terrifying and sad game of revenge.

Key to the thrill behind this film is its frightening plausibility. Every day we brush shoulders with people in enclosed public spaces: elevators, subways, airplanes. And the possibility of one of these people being a walking time bomb is very real. In most cases we rely heavily on invisible social norms to keep the person sitting next to us in check. Caught Inside explores the unraveling of a person’s inhibitions in a confined, isolated space with no emergency buttons to push or ropes to pull.

Blaikclock can trace the inspiration for his film back to a single incident from his experience:

I was once surfing off the coast of Indonesia; twelve hours by boat to any notion of safety. In the water near me was a pit bull of a man, he looked over to the boat he was traveling on and stared at a young girl happily flaunting herself to her captive male audience. This man turned to his mate and in a very matter of fact tone said, “Let’s just take her to the beach and do her.

The throbbing question here is who would stop them from acting on their sickening impulse? Could he? Blaikclock takes this seed and builds a fine film around it. He keeps his audience captive with a constant lingering threat, and while people get hurt, we are not watching a slasher film, with the state of affairs on the boat never declining into a psychotic bloodbath. The climax, instead, is more akin to one of the deranged meals in the film, The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover with people forced to do, say and eat things for the Thief’s pleasure.

Beyond the psychological complexities that occur on screen, the film’s exhilarating surfing shots are a treat, and they’re legit. During the Q&A at the film’s SXSW screening, Blaikclock admitted that part of the audition for the actors included a surfing outing with him. Incredibly, the task of finding individuals who could both act and surf proved to be successful with all of the acting in the film natural and convincing. Special note has to be given to Ben Oxenbould who plays the recalcitrant “Bull.” At the drop of a dime Oxenbould swings his character through a range of manic emotions and actions: sarcastic, childish, spiteful, proud, fatal and even vulnerable. He carries a large portion of the weight of the film’s success on his broad sun-kissed shoulders.

Caught Inside is well paced and even those obligatory shots of bikini-clad women sunbathing on the boat’s deck have meaning, contributing to the film’s mood and advancement of its plot. The audience is taken on a ride with little dips and hills before reaching the last suspenseful climb and drastic release. By the end of the film we feel different than we did at its beginning when we were met with the bright colors of the bustling fish market on land before the team launched off under sunny, open skies to the sound of a hopeful drumbeat.

– Alice Gray

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