Magic in the Water (1995)


Canada. 1995.


Director – Rick Stevenson, Screenplay – Rick Stevenson & Icel Dobell Massey, Story – Icel Dobell Massey, Rick Stevenson & Ninian Dunnett, Producers – Matthew O’Connor & William Stevenson, Photography – Thomas Burstyn, Underwater Photography – Pauline H. Heaton, Music – David Schwartz, Visual Effects – Fantasy II (Supervisor – Gene Warren Jr), Special Effects Supervisors – Rory Cutler & Randy Shymklw, Orky Created by Make-Up Effects Unlimited (Supervisor – Bart J. Mixon), Creature Design – Errol Clyde Klotz & Rick Stevenson, Production Design – Klotz. Production Company – Oxford Film Co/Pacific Motion Pictures


Sarah Wayne (Ashley Black), Mark Harmon (Dr Jack Black), Joshua Jackson (Joshua Black), Harley Jane Kozak (Dr Wanda Bell), Frank Sotonoma Salsedo (Uncle Kipper), Willie Nark-Orn (Hiro), Morris Panych (Mack Miller)


Ashley and Joshua Black leave Seattle and head on holiday up to Lake Glenorky in Canada with their father. However, their father is too wrapped up in his job as a radio psychologist to spend time with them. Ashley finds that icing on cookies that she leaves out is being eaten by Orky, the mythical monster that is supposed to live in the lake. Their father falls into the lake and comes out changed – much more playful, making sandcastles with them and demonstrating the ability to make clouds move in the sky with his mind. The children realise that Orky is a shapeshifter and has possessed their father to warn them that it’s life is in danger from toxic waste dumping.

This is an amiable and unpretentious Canadian-made children’s film. Despite being visually flat, many scenes, in particular those with Mark Harmon being transformed following contact with Orky, are conducted with a certain subtlety. There is at least one modestly magical scene with the children lying on their backs on the beach while Mark Harmon makes clouds dance overhead. The sea monster effects are only so-so and it is at this point that Magic in the Water becomes a more traditional and routine Loch Ness Monster-styled drama.

As with many modern children’s films, Magic in the Water pushes an underlying eco-conscious message about the monster as protected species, the dangers of toxic waste dumping etc. This does tend to give rise to odd clunkily obvious liners such as when Harley Jane Kozak tells the children: “Why don’t you come down to the kitchen? I’ll make you some grapefruit and free-range eggs?”

American producer-director Rick Stevenson made his directorial debut here. He has gone onto tv and documentary work, as well as a handful of other films. Of genre interest are Anthrax (2001) about an anthrax outbreak and Expiration Date (2006) about a Native American who believes he is cursed. In a similar vein to Magic in the Water, Stevenson also made the non-genre The Dinosaur Hunter (2000) about children finding a dinosaur skeleton.

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