This movie’s premise is incredibly simple. There’s an underwater drilling base in one of the deepest places in the ocean. There is a minimal crew there, when an accident starts to break the complex open and flood it. We follow Nora (Kristen Stewart) as she attempts to find and rescue other crew (including Jessica Henwick, T.J. Miller, Vincent Cassel, John Gallagher Jr., and Mamoudou Athie). They soon realize this catastrophe is not man made, but rather some subterranean threat.
If you’re a fan of this genre, you should have a decent time here. By ‘this genre,’ I mean the types of films that focus on a small cast who must somehow survive some external threat (see Alien, Predator, Pitch Black). The threat here is actually two-fold, so we get plenty of jump scares involving this deadly monsters, but the water itself is incredibly deadly, giving us a sense of claustrophobia as the water surrounds the cast. The premise is interesting and luckily the mystery isn’t answered too quickly.
The cast does their job. No one flexes any new muscles, but Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller, and Jessica Henwick all manage to make the most of it.
What doesn’t work?
The director William Eubank is a relative unknown, with only a few minor films released, that I’ve never heard of. Under his direction here, something went awry.
There’s a problem that this movie never manages to answer. “How do you shoot horror sequences underwater?” There is an inherent claustrophobia and terror caused by the darkness, but this darkness doesn’t really translate well to the screen. So the moments that I thought were ripe for tension instead felt confusing. You easily lose track of characters and they all look the same in their giant underwater suits. There were multiple times when I got so turned around, I couldn’t figure out which character was just dragged away or which one was just killed.
Likewise, there was a problem shooting the horror involving our subterranean monsters. Every time they’d attack, it’d be a jump scare, accompanied with this high pitch scream to try to scare us. And then it would immediately disappear, again leaving me confused as to what just happened. BAM, there’s a monster, it does something! Where’d it go? Rinse and repeat. The horror is all artificial, forced on you by these jump scares.
Underwater had an interesting premise and decent performances, but the movie devolves into a mess of unrealized potential. The action is messy and sloppy and the ‘horror’ elements are artificial and misused. I spent most of the movie trying to figure out what was happening, as opposed to being invested in the journey.