Underwater is a sci-fi horror set deep deep down, in the depths of the Mariana Trench. The action starts more or less immediately and rarely takes its foot off the accelerator. There’s barely any time to process what’s going on. With the half baked screenplay borrowing a little from Alien and Lovecraft it’s probably for the best there aren’t many moments to consider what is actually happening.
Kristen Stewart is the highlight of the adrenaline affair, spending half her time in a deep pressure outfit and the other half in her underwear. It’’s not much of a stretch to imagine she thought she might end up playing the next Ripley when she took this on. Though she must have stopped reading the script somewhere around the middle.
Speaking of Alien, there are plenty of aquatic facehugger-esque creatures to contend with in this deep sea thriller. Though it is definitely missing the the well crafted scares and doesn’t capture the terror of isolation anywhere near as well. To call it B-grade Alien would be flattering the film, slightly. While we’re talking ripping movies off it also manages to conjure up The Descent vibes with its at times terrifying claustrophobic moments. There’s strong hints of The Abyss, even a little of The Meg is thrown in. Luckily Disney owns everything now so there’s no risk of copyright infringement. The only thing that does feel wholly original is the end, which is coincidentally the weakest part of the story.
Stewart is joined by a ragtag group of would be survivors after an implosion cripples the gigantic rig she is stationed in. We have the annoying smart-arse in T.J. Miller, and Vincent Cassel plays their stoic French leader referred to only as ‘Cap’. There’s also the token black guy and an engaged couple to really pull on our heartstrings when it’s time to play ‘Who isn’t going to make it here?’
As popcorn disaster trash this is nearly unmissable. The more it tries to take itself seriously it inversely gets worse. This culminates in some forced, awkward climate change metaphors and a not so subtle criticism on capitalism and mining.
The film closes on credits optimistically hinting at a sequel. I’m all for it. If it can tinker with the formula a little, lose a bit of the schlock or go all the way there’s a great film somewhere. The Lovecraftian creature/s is/are the best part of the film (except maybe for Stewart’s moxie). It’d be a shame not to see him/her used in a more appropriate way.
Underwater is in cinemas from 23rd January through 20th Century Fox.