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Home Entertainment: ‘Dave Not Coming Back’ Digital Review

An engrossing and haunting story that will keep you gripped.

In 2004, two high-level scuba divers and long-term friends, Don Shirley and Dave Shaw, broke a world record for depth in South Africa’s Boesmansgat cave system. During their dive, Dave discovered the body of another diver, Deon Dreyer, who had gone missing ten years earlier. Once back on dry land, Dave determined that they would come back, dive again, and retrieve Deon’s body for his grieving family. In 2005 this expedition became a reality; the intricate salvage mission required help from several other divers and an extensive amount of planning. Sadly, all the organising in the world couldn’t stop further tragedy from unfolding as Dave did not survive the historic dive. 

Dave Not Coming Back is a documentary film directed by Jonah Malak that revisits this haunting real-life misadventure. Told through a mixture of interviews with those involved in the dive, footage from the original endeavour, and some re-staged moments, Malak offers an in-depth and highly personal vantage to the unfortunate incident. You can see the pain, even all these years later, from those that were there as they recount their version of events. After all this time, the wounds have still yet to fully heal for many, which makes Dave Not Coming Back an uncomfortable watch at several points. 

We, the audience, know early on (and from the title) that the story ends in tragedy, and that knowledge warps our perception as the film unfolds, bathing everything with melancholy as we wait for the inevitable to happen. I imagine that there were talks about whether to leave his death as a reveal later on, but skirting an opportunity for a cheap shock, and approaching the subject matter with a more mature approach, certainly pays off.

The cinematography in Dave Not Coming Back is breathtaking. The use of drone photography captures Boesmansgat beautifully, highlighting its strangeness, the place appearing as a giant hole in the middle of the Earth. The underwater sequences are simply stunning, demonstrating the alien nature of the water with these shots encapsulating the dark and vast dangers lurking below the surface. There is a clear difference in video quality between Malak’s filming and the footage from the original dive, but that doesn’t detract from the film as it is the compelling narrative that drives it forward. 

Dave Not Coming Back is the kind of story that, were it fiction, one would question how realistic and likely it would be for a team of people to take on such a huge risk to so many lives, to retrieve a corpse. It’s yet another example of how life is often stranger than fiction, and the story is made all the more chilling because it actually happened.  The real-life stakes serve to send the blood pressure sky-high and, despite knowing how the tale ends, you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat. 

Dave Not Coming Back is available on Digital HD now. 

Dave Not Coming Back

Kat Hughes

Dave Not Coming Back


A respectfully recounted tale of a real-life tragedy, Dave Not Coming Back is an engrossing and haunting story that will keep you gripped. 


Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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