The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (Jay Russell, 2007)

Free Nessie!

What are the resemblances between Water Horse and What Lies Beneath (2000), a thriller/ horror movie directed by Robert Zemeckis? The answer is….. they have a similar movie poster! See below, a white colour background? check! A same P.O.V. of bathtub? check! A main character is shown in the bathtub? Check! The said character’s hand / pectoral fins are holding the edge of bathtub? Check please! I suppose the tagline for Water Horse - “Every Big Secret Starts Small” can be applied on What Lies Beneath but sadly not vice versa.

There have been other movies and documentaries on the subject of Loch Ness Monster. For instance, there is a family-oriented flick starring Ted Danson aptly but dully named Loch Ness. Also I can recall in an episode of season 3 The X-Files TV series, where Agent Mulder and Scully try to track down a pre-historic creature in a U.S. lake town, after a several reported cases of death and disappearance.

The creature in Water Horse: LOTD is based on one of the most famous subjects in cryptozoology – i.e. Loch Ness Monster or affectionately called Nessie. The movie open with present day’s small Scottish village in Loch Ness, whereby a tourist couple discover a vintage framed photo on the wall of a pub, well known as “The Surgeon’s Photograph” (see left). An old man (played by Brian Cox) told them that the making of that photo is a prank, but there is indeed a plesiosaur-like creature living in Loch Ness. And there begin his story told on how a young boy, Angus stumbling upon an egg with the size of an ostrich’s egg near the shore. It was no ordinary egg of course; instead a cute slippery baby Water Horse named Crusoe (named after the famous namesake) was hatched and subsequently nurtured by Angus.

Angus has been in the state of lonely and somber due to his father being enlisted in the Royal Navy to fight in World War II. Angus spent vast amount of time alone by himself, counting the days of his father’s return from national service. We are shown several tender flashback scenes involving Angus and his father. His mum (Emily Watson) hired Lewis, a handyman (Ben Chaplin) with a mysterious past, to help out household work in their huge mansion. In the meantime, a troop of British troop led by Captain Hamilton (played by David Morrisey, somehow I cannot shake off his masochism expression from Basic Instinct 2) came and set up their defense base against a possible invasion from the German’s submarines.

Lewis eventually became a temporary father figured to Angus, helping him to hide his aquatic pet from his mother and the military troops. Bigger problem ensured when the bathtub is no longer able to contain Crusoe. It grew into a gargantuan creature and has to be set free into the nearby loch. Hostility erupted when Crusoe almost accidentally kill a soldier, in return, they retaliated with artillery weapons. Although in the end, the movie reaches a pleasing full circle, it perhaps paves the way for another adventure i.e. a sequel.

What I like about The Water Horse: LotD is the breathtaking scenery, the picturesque landscape, apart from actual Loch Ness, it was in fact, largely filmed in Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand. The setting of WW2 era in this movie is admirably fitted in this movie. Bizarrely, this family oriented movie (adapted from a children’s novel) sometimes can be unusually scary for small children’s viewing, namely, there is a time where the grown Water Horse - minus the cuteness, react uncontrollable, with full of violent anger after it was attacked with cannon bombardment, not to mention, it ate a British Bulldog!

The narration does not fully allow the boy to convincingly develop an affectionate relationship with the Water Horse. From the egg hatching moment to the effort of hiding the creature; from an adorable slippery baby transforming to a huge grunting beast. It should be a platform for the two of them to express their inseparable bonding, just like Jesse and Keiko the killer whale in Free Willy (1993), a movie with the same premise as this one, which managed to pose an aching catch-22 situation for audience: do we want them to be together, although the beast may have to forgo its freedom (or perhaps its life)? Or, hoping the beast to leap to its freedom, but abandon its friend?

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List