Dead Calm (1989)

dead calm poster 1989 movie nicole kidman
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Nice tense moments

Tacked on studio ending

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Dead Calm

Studio:  Kennedy Miller

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  April 7, 1989

MPAA Rating: Movie Rating


The race is on!

After the death of their young son in a tragic car accident, naval officer John Ingram (Sam Neill) and his wife Rae (Nicole Kidman) have decided to take a break by cruising the South Seas.  When they come upon a boat, an eager man named Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane) boards their ship with a tale of death and botulism.  When John, goes to check out the other ship, he discovers Hughie is a liar and a murderer.  Hughie has taken his boat and Rae, and the boat John’s on is rapidly sinking.  As Rae fights to stay alive with Hughie, John is in a race against time to catch up.


Dead kid and I have to sleep with a psycho…great year.

Directed by Phillip Noyce, Dead Calm is a thriller suspense film based on the 1963 novel by Charles Williams.  Previously Orson Welles tried to bring the film to the screen as The Deep, but the film was never finished.  The movie was rather well received by critics and was a moderate success at the box office.

Dead Calm had a great poster…the head of Nicole Kidman laying sideways and split lengthwise by the water.  It was plastered all over comic books at the time and made me want to see the horror film.  I can recall seeing the movie, and it was quite a thriller at the time it was released (in the age of other films like Fatal Attraction).  Having not seen it for years, the movie still holds up.


This isn’t a very good vacation…

The story takes a basic story and makes it pretty smart and decently crafted.  The movie was criticized a little for taking a lot of the original novel’s deeper content out of the story and turning it into a scare-fest.  The studios objected to the original ending and tacked on a final end for Hughie which does feel a little out of place (I highly doubt after everything that happened, that the rather smart characters wouldn’t have checked the ship).

Sam Neil is the “star” of Dead Calm, but the movie came to be known as one of the early films for Nicole Kidman who first made waves in BMX Bandits.  The movie also is an early role for Billy Zane who does play a good killer with his broad straight charming smaller.  With a small cast, it is important that they all hold their ground and the trio does do a good job.


Eat flare Hughie!

The movie is a stylish film.  I always find movies shot on water impressive due to the immense nature of the ocean.  Phillip Noyce utilizes this and the film has some nice editing of tense moments (minus the add-on ending which seems anticlimactic).

Dead Calm is kind of slipping into obscurity.  It was once a bit of a sleeper hit, but now seems rarely mentioned.  If you’ve never seen Dead Calm and you want a nice (short) tense thriller, check out Dead Calm…it’s a film that has held up well over the years.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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