Underwater follows a crew of survivors on a drilling station at the bottom of the Mariana Trench following a devastating earthquake. As the station begins to implode and oxygen runs out, the crew must work together to find the remaining escape pods. But the fear of implosion and suffocation gives way to a foreboding presence outside of the station, where sinister creatures appear to be lurking in the black abyss.
Okay, now I want a StarCraft movie...But, you know...good. And since that isn't likely to happen, I'll take these suits from Underwater as the next best thing.
This film was far better than I expected, especially considering the initial reviews were largely scathing. I'll admit I didn't have high expectations for a film led by Kristen Stewart and a relatively disgraced TJ Miller, nor a plot that felt like a retread of several scifi/horror films of the past. But Underwater manages to do everything very well to be a very entertaining scifi/horror romp.
Make no mistake, Underwater is everything but original. The plot, characters, atmosphere and creatures all feel reminiscent of films like Alien, Sunshine, The Abyss, and The Descent (of course to a much milder degree). Yet, it never gets in its own way in pursuit of its homage to these other fantastic movies. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in execution.
Just like the aforementioned films, half of the character of Underwater is in the sets and the suits. The claustrophobia hits you hard when they're in the station and equally as hard when they step into the dark ocean. But I seriously can't get over the intricate detail in the suits. They have texture and weight that exceeds the quality of the rest of the film, giving a corporeal life to these suits that I have a hard time considering a rival.
Of course, a suit does not a film make, but the rest of the movie has plenty of quality to go around. Stewart is beyond serviceable as the lead with Vincent Cassel and TJ Miller filling their roles perfectly. The creatures are used sparingly enough to give them necessary mystique and dread while the crew is merely trying to survive the onslaught of unfortunate circumstances. The CG is a bit weak and the creatures offer little in terms of unique jump scares or significant creativity in design, but they fill a fun role in a film that would be just a little bit dull without them.
But frankly, I care for the characters, even if the script was a little on-the-nose with their personalities. That connection I quickly build with them makes the rest of the movie matter more, even if it regularly feels familiar. I could definitely have done without the attempt at pretentious monologues from Stewart to open and close the film, but it also managed not to ruin in otherwise enjoyable film.
I'm truly sad that the film didn't perform well at the box office. I feel like it was deserving of more attention and was a victim of several circumstances, one being that it had to compete with an admittedly superior film in 1917. Many patrons that I know went to see Underwater really liked it, so hopefully word of mouth will help it survive a few more weeks and recoup some money for the studio that took a chance on it. This is the kind of movie that I think will show its worth in disc and digital formats, hopefully, and therefore not discourage studios from pursuing similar films in the future.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10 Horror Quality: 6/10 Film Quality: 7/10