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‘Underwater’ Is A Film That Falls Victim to Old, Familiar Tropes

One of 2020’s first major feature film releases is Underwater. The film is focused on an underwater drill site, where a sudden disaster cripples the main building, forcing the survivors to band together and try to find another way to escape the depths of the Pacific Ocean, and whatever caused the building’s collapse. However, what the team first believes to be an earthquake is something entirely more sinister. 

*Please be aware that there are minor spoilers below for Underwater*

Kristen Stewart as Norah Price in Underwater (Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

Norah Price (Kristen Stewart) is a researcher on a subterranean lab who’s in the middle of her morning routine when the very building around her begins to quake. Believing the situation to be an underwater earthquake,  Norah runs and does her best to alert the others of the lab’s breach and despite her best efforts, only she and Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie) make it to the safest part of the lab. The pair try to figure out the best course of action and begin what they believe is the journey to safety, climbing through all the debris from the partially collapsed building and the water that seeped into the lab’s interior. On their way, they encounter other surviving members of the crew, including Captain (Vincent Cassell), Paul (T.J. Miller), Liam (John Gallagher Jr.) and Emily (Jessica Henwick). 

As the Captain had planned on going down with the lab, it was a surprise for him to be discovered by Norah and Rodrigo.With the escape pods all damaged, the crew has to make a trek to another of the research station to check the pods there. While it is a long distance from their current location to the next station, it is also their best chance of survival despite the unknown of what might lie beyond the crumbling walls of the underwater lair. With this their only choice aside from throwing in the towel, the crew hesitantly head out into dark treacherous waters and meet something even more frightening than they ever imagined. 

John Gallagher Jr. as Liam Smith and Jessica Henwick as Emily in Underwater (Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

Directed by William Eubank (The Signal), Underwater is the latest in the sci-fi/horror genre that deals with ravenous creatures found in the depths of the ocean. Much like most stories in the same vein, Underwater doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table. The story is formulaic and is similar to other movie’s one might have seen in the past (Alien, Sea Fever, The Abyss) that deal with an encounter of strange creatures in an environment that’s generally new to humankind. This is not to say that Underwater is a bad film; it’s just nothing new and it unfortunately falls victim to some of the tropes we’ve seen too often in this horror sub-genre. For example, it’s 2020 and we are still sitting through films which choose to kill the people of colour first. Granted, Underwater does this in a way that is unconventional given that the people in these films usually get attacked and/or eaten by creatures. However, it still happened and it didn’t need to happen in the way that it did.

That being said, the film is still a decent watch. There are some very palpable moments of suspense, moments that have you rooting for most of the crew members (sorry, not you, Paul) and there were a few genuine jump scares. All-in-all, Underwater was a decent viewing experience but it was nothing special and I’d say that the similar stories (mentioned above) were done in a much better way. However, don’t let this stop you from seeing the film and making your own decisions – but you might want to wait for your local theater to have its cheap day.

Underwater hits theaters on January 10.

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