UNDERWATER
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Underwater sinks as a horror film

The underwater creature feature genre gets another spin in 20th Century Fox’s Underwater from director William Eubank. Norah Price (Kristen Stewart) is the mechanical engineer in a crew of underwater researchers led by a nameless captain (Vincent Cassel). The rest of the team includes Paul (TJ Miller),Emily (Jessica Henwick), Liam (John Gallagher Jr), Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie) and Lee (Gunner Wright).  

Given that the setting for Underwater takes place in the deep sea, it’s only natural there’s a disastrous incident to kick off our plot.  After an earthquake destroys their lab, Norah and the rest of the team must make their way to safety. What the team doesn’t know is that the quake has also awoken some creatures who aren’t too keen on having intruders in their ocean. Will Norah and her co-workers make it out alive, or will they become fish food? In hindsight, Underwater’s simple premise should’ve been more fun than it is. 

Let’s start with the casting, outside of Kristen Stewart’s Norah, who serves as our heroine.  A talented actress in her own right, Stewart is just going through the motions in Underwater. Watching the film, it’s clear that Stewart is only here for a paycheck and not for the art.  The rest of the cast is on autopilot, and there wasn’t one character that I had the desire to see make it out alive. The only time an audience should root for a killer is during a slasher film. Generally, in a horror film, you want to see one character, make it out alive. However, Underwater is the first film I can recall where I wanted the entire cast to bite the dust.

Initially, once Underwater began, I was hopeful that the film would fall into the category of either matinee worthy or rainy day view. Sadly the film never reaches the pinnacle of either, and its ninety-minute run felt like two hours.  Throughout the film there were numerous where my son and I both glanced at our watches waiting for the film to end. The potential is there, but the result is a rush job. Science fiction/horror films set in the deep sea are nothing new. As an eighties baby, I can remember seeing Leviathan and The Abyss on TV. 

The nineties had the shark feature Deep Blue Sea, while 2018 had The Meg.   That being said, director William Eubank and scriptwriters, Brian Duffield & Adam Cozad know the type of film they’ve made with Underwater.  Duffield wrote the vastly superior horror-comedy The Babysitter, while Adam Cozart did a decent job with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Given the talent between the two, I’m taken aback at the lazy approach to Underwater. The same sentiment holds for director William Eubank, who destroys any promise he showed in 2014’s The Signal.

At its core, Underwater is a big-budget B-movie that steals from much better films with the same concept, however, Underwater fails by taking itself too seriously and never giving the audience exactly what it paid for, which is tense moments.

 

Final Grade D-

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