Spoilers might need to get some air.
I’ll first say this. There is no need to create any terror out in the open ocean or its very deep. Being in the open ocean or worse, diving into the water can be scary enough for some of us. Now this film has been released after a long time, and for some reason it’s been set free in the dark waters of January, where anything rarely spawns. Yes, it’s a horror film in January. However, it’s not a complete sinker.
Underwater is directed by William Eubank with a screenplay by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad, based on a story by Duffield. It is set in the very depths of the sea, where a drill is in operation. Our story starts when Norah (Kristen Stewart) notices the underwater station seems to be shaking moments before all hell breaks loose. Up front, this is a good thing. We jump right into the action. The movie does not feel the need for exposition except for newspaper clips detailing the operation and not-so-subtle hints at corporate greed.
Norah will eventually join with the rest of surviving crew, including Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel). All the performances are adequate with Stewart and Cassel ahead for just an inch. Stewart plays her part rather well, she’s competent but human and relies on the rest of the team as if they had been working together for a while. She might outshine the rest because she’s the most time on camera.
The production is rather decent. The technology seems functional without being over the top. Of course we do get our dramatic alerts and beeps and oxygen depletion warnings to up the tension. The material is highly familiar territory, but it does sidestep some usual trappings. It does reveal itself as a monster film eventually, which I was hoping it wasn’t. I did think that the horror of dying of underwater pressure was enough, but we do get some monster reveal at some point and that is where the Alien comparisons start and end. The monsters are at their scariest when not seen, obviously.
It’s not perfect. You could even say it may be far from it, but it’s not all a loss. There are some things it does rather well and I’d say it brings the film above water. The tension is amped for most of the movie and at no point does the film punishes fear or greed with a kill. The team remains a team throughout the process. That being said, some beats are predictable and the action is not always clean to follow. We do get a moment in which we reveal a larger threat which I believe was unnecessary and over the top.
Lightly recommended as a half-decent horror/sci-fi movie. I think it does what it intends to do rather well, despite some flaws and the familiarity of the story material. It is not completely derivative and does not feel the need to pull every trope out of the box, but it’s scarce on original elements. Although it is technically a star vehicle for Stewart it does humanize its main character and creates a believable team of characters that resemble the behaviour of a crew. All in all, unless you really feel the need to watch that other sci-fi film that is still in theatres, at least this one will provide a consistent storyline.
That will do for now.