- Directed by William Eubank
- January 10, 2020
Disaster strikes an underwater drilling and research platform. Now the surviving crew must struggle to remain alive against an onslaught of strange creatures from the deep.
I have a soft spot for underwater creature features so despite having Kristen Stewart in the film I decided to give this a try. Deep Star Six, The Creature from The Black Lagoon, Leviathan, and a ton of others all appeal to the monster movie lover in me. Underwater follows in their tracks and it was pretty good. Much better than I expected.
Kristen Stewart is Norah Price who is nursing emotional wounds. It has something to do with a significant other but what those could be are not made clear until towards the end. I admit to not being a fan of Stewart. While I have not seen much of her work, what I have seen her in has not impressed me. She is unexpressive and is generally monotone in her delivery. While nothing explosive, she does a much better job here than expected and manages to get you to empathize with Norah.
The cast is relatively small in the story which helps keep things moving. Vincent Cassel plays Captain Lucien, Mamoudou Athie is drill worker Rodrigo Nagenda who Norah encounters but has never met before the events of the film, T.J. Miller is another drill worker named Paul Abel who is friends with Norah, John Gallagher Jr. is engineer Liam Smith, and Jessica Henwick is biological research assistant Emily Haversham. They do a good job of making the characters introduced well rounded and thus you are invested in their fate.
This helps in this in what is essentially a survival yarn. A lazy writer or director would create a few two-dimensional characters that you know will get offed before anybody important is put on the line but here each character is crafted well enough that you cannot pick out the winners from the losers and when the first death comes it is a bit of a surprise.
The story hits the ground running after a few minutes. There is some opening voiceover to establish Norah then disaster strikes, and the characters are left struggling to survive. Underwater looks like it should be scarier than it is but there is only one genuine scare in the entire movie. There are plenty of shocking moments but only one that made me jump and yell anyway.
The threat the cast of characters must face is a group of strange underwater creatures. You are pretty much told what they are going up against in the opening moments of the film with a newspaper montage. I wish they had not done that and instead sprinkled the idea in the course of the story. Underwater is loosely based on the Cthulhu Mythos and features Cthulhu and the Deep Ones as the antagonists. There is even a hint that Lucien or someone may have summoned the creatures when Norah finds a pentagram drawn on an old blueprint of the initial drilling site.
One thing they do very right is they do not show the creatures right away. In fact if you missed the opening of the film you would not even know they were necessarily going up against a group of strange creatures. As the film goes along they show more and more of the monsters until finally you get to see it all. That is one of the things that made movies like Predator or Alien or a bunch of other creature features so effective. They teased the title monster and gave you a little taste and you wanted more each time, and they eventually rewarded your wait in the story. That is how you create a good film and get the audience hooked. But we get a bonus reveal when they show Cthulhu tearing the place apart.
You can perhaps gleen an environmental message here about our energy consumption and its environmental effects. In this film in our search for energy we have gone into an area where humans were physically not meant to be and now disaster strikes. I think that would be a bit of a stretch, but I get the feeling that is what Eubank and the screenwriters might have been going for.
Underwater is a little over 90 minutes. There is not a great deal of fluff in this movie. The focus is on the story and keeping things at a quick pace. They do not give you too much time to think but rather keep you immersed in the action.
I have heard this called Aliens underwater. I am not sure if the comparison is quite apt. I can think of a dozen movies that this is similar to in broad strokes. If anything it is a better version of Deep Star Six or Leviathan. I enjoy both of those movies and both of those have underwater creatures but this one did a more effective job with the whole idea.
Underwater is enjoyable filmmaking. It is a cool monster story with good characters that focuses on the story and not fluff. This is a watch it!
2 thoughts on “Underwater”
Yeah, I really liked this too. Its tight and concise and plays fair with its audience- no knowing winks or mad plot-holes. I think it deserved a better reception than it got, and its a bit of a shame that its already largely forgotten (it didn’t even get a Blu-ray release here in the UK, I had to go the import route which is crazy for a film like this).
Its up there with Sphere for me, another film set underwater that seems largely forgotten now: but I’m always predisposed to enjoy these films set on the bottom of the ocean (I think its a Jaws thing, seeing that film as a kid in the cinema and getting scared witless).
I still cannot believe The Abyss hasn’t had a Blu-ray release, but the physical media market is going all sorts of batshit crazy these days- we’re getting a 4K of The Sword and the Sorcerer but not John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian? Madness.
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I had forgotten about Sphere until you mentioned it.
I thought I heard The Abyss was getting a Blu-ray release this year. At least in the US. Keep an eye out.