Underwater sci-fi action horror films. How many can you name? There’s Leviathan 1989, Deep Blue Sea 1999, and Pandorum 2009.
Basically the 9th year of every decade Hollywood has to release an epic underwater sci fi horror adventure. It’s law.
And in 2019 we have Underwater.
Except Underwater was actually completed in 2017. And it was released at the beginning of 2020 (thank you Disney for your ongoing mission to buy up the world. If you don’t know what that means, just look it up).
Also Pandorum was more of a space epic (even though – spoiler alert – the ship was at the bottom of an ocean all along!) And before you say The Abyss was released in 1989 – that was epic in sci-finess, not so much horror.
Anyway, that’s enough connecting imaginary dots. Let’s talk about a film that has a lot of hardware, a whole lot of sea, and a lot of (another spoiler alert) sea monsters.
Underwater is a curious film in that its premise leaps right off the page as a textbook B-Grade Hollywood pitch. Ie: A group of deep-sea miners mine in the deep sea, and they mine too far and awake (dramatic pause) something… (hint, it’s sea monsters).
And that’s pretty much it. Sea monsters are pissed at a bunch of oxygen breathing aliens jack hammering the crap out of their neighbourhood, so they do something about it. And they are faster than the humans, stronger than the humans, and they like to eat the humans (because let’s face it, if they were weaker, slower and just wanted to lick us… that would make for a pretty awesome film actually).
Anyway, you just know that the humans – at severe disadvantage strength wise, oxygen wise, atmospheric pressure wise (the list goes on) are gonna go through an Alien-esque series of eliminations (ie: one-by-one) before we reach the end of the film.
Now it’s always been our stance at Surgeons of Horror that just because something has a B-Grade set up, doesn’t mean it has to be a B-grade movie experience.
There are more than a handful of films that fit this definition – Tremors, The Loved Ones, Alien Raiders (this is a list that goes on too) and there is no greater delight than watching a flick you think is going to be a switch-off event, but you come out of it thinking “holy crap that was surprisingly good”!
Misdirect – Underwater ISN’T that kind of film. BUT what it does have going for it is its budget – rumoured to be between $50 – $80 mill (probably closer to the higher end) and when you have an epic underwater disaster movie (as in disaster befalls the occupants IN the movie) the bigger and more visceral you can make it, the better.
And it is here where Underwater excels. Now I am a huge fan of what I call “hardware” movies, and from corridors that buckle and tear apart, to awesome mechanical wet suits that look like they’re straight out of Mecha; to the fact that the cast spend a lot of time walking underwater when in ACTUAL FACT they’re in a dry studio surrounded by convincing CG water – you can safely say every cent makes it on screen.
And Underwater is a BIG screen experience, as you want to literally feel the pressure of tons of sea water that can crush you in a second. It’s the rollercoaster/popcorn sensation you pay for when seeing this sort of movie.
Especially when you get to the end “reveal”. Because depending on the day, you’re either gonna say “oh that’s cool” or “that’s so stupid” because, as previously established, it’s has a B-grade movie premise.
So pro-tip, if you wanna enjoy it, go in with a “take me on an adventure” frame of mind.
The direction is solid (especially considering the director William Eubank is only 37) and Kirsten Stewart is half believable as a young mechanical engineer living and working on an underwater oil rig situated at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The other half of the time she plays stony and
stoic (compared to her other default acting style, which is stoic and stony) but on the other-other hand it sort of works; as most engineers, when faced with a crisis, tend to work the problem rather than squander energy by emoting too much.
T.J. Miller pretty much also plays T.J. Miller – a slob who wears hair clips firing off the best one-liners etc. Although they do give his character a security blanket in the form of a stuffed bunny. So that’s a little different I suppose.
Anyway, all up – from go-to-whoa – Underwater propels you along a wet ‘n’ wild marine ride that doesn’t let up. Also, there are no goofy credits, so feel free to get up and leave when they start to roll.
You won’t be damp by the end of it, but you just might feel refreshed!
– Antony Yee
I thought it was a bit crap actually.
– Sara Yee