Movie of the Week: Dead Calm (1989)

Philip Noyce directs Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill and Billy Zane in this three-hander thriller where a yachting couple almost instantly regret picking up a castaway from a sinking ship.

One of the most beautiful films ever made is also one of the most gleefully intense. Mad Max 2’s cinematographer Dean Semler captures the glory of the ocean – whether choppy, stormy, placid, on fire or completely deserted. You get every variation and each is more brooding yet magnificent than the next. There are three very different acting style from the leads which somehow gels and amps up the unpredictable dynamics. The movie picks away at two nightmares simultaneously; what if you were alone and stuck in close proximity to a psycho and what would you do if trapped on a sinking ship. Then there’s the ahead of its time midway switcheroo. The traditional male hero, Neill, though resourceful and striving, goes from being the man of action to needing urgent help himself. Kidman ups her agency when she is left with no one else to deal with her Billy Zane problems and a tight clock to get back to her doomed hubby. Graeme Revell’s score is all desperate breaths, ghostly wails and relentless percussion. And there’s a top final kill. A lot of people would put this on the yuppie in peril shelf but the lead couple are too fixed on reuniting and banishing evil for us to ever enjoy seeing them put through such a crushing wringer. Perfect.


Perfect Double Bill: Knife In The Water (1962)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here


  1. Sam Simon · January 23, 2022

    It’s been ages since I saw this one, it needs a rewatch, apparently… Thanks!


  2. Pingback: My Top 100 Movies of My Youth (1979-1999) | Bobby Carroll's Movie Diary

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