Sci-fi thrillers have a bad reputation when it comes to making money at the box office. They’re either extremely well made and praised by critics all over the globe, some also get totally crushed by the competition in the same opening weekend, others are just complete and utter trash. ‘Underwater‘, bringing absolutely nothing original to the table – although it thinks it does -, isn’t all bad.

A crew of aquatic researchers work together to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory. But the crew has more than the ocean seabed to fear. What has been sort of spoiled in tv-spots and other promotional videos, is that something is hunting these researchers. We follow mechanic Norah (Kristen Stewart), who’s survival skills are put to test, when these tremors and whatever lurks outside their “safe space” relentlessly keeps trying to kill what doesn’t belong belong this deep in the ocean. Six-point-something-miles-deep to be more specific. As many might or might not know, the bottom of Earth’s platform has so many secrets, and that’s exactly what ‘Underwater‘ uses to try and scare its audience.

Writers Brian Duffield (The Babysitter) and Adam Cozad (The Legend of Tarzan) have trouble bringing anything remotely interesting to the big screen. Clearly inspired by sci-fi classics like ‘Alien‘ and ‘The Abyss‘, Underwater doesn’t even try to stand out. The only standouts here are K-Stew and co-star Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) – who do a phenomenal job at showing fear while kicking ass. Another standout for the film is its cinematography. Bojan Bazelli (A Cure for Wellness) has an eye for angles and dives into that fear of claustrophobia with impressive closeups of the desperate crew’s facial expressions. Although the sets are quite limited, the costume design of the diving suits is something worth mentioning.

What’s so problematic with Underwater, is its build up to something exciting and thrilling, yet as soon as that tension is underway to get you covered in goosebumps and burst into a series of hot flashes, it cuts away to a black screen and time jumps to another location. This doesn’t only make it very confusing for the viewer to keep track with where our survivalists are at that given moment in time, but it also pulls you out of the story completely. For a 95-minute long film, Underwater feels much longer than it actually is and when the second half dives into a sea of CGI-creatures (and water – it never really looks like as if these actors are actually underwater), it turns into a total ‘Alien‘ rip off – subaquatic Ripley included.

Unfortunately Underwater is just a bit blasé. Loud screeching jump scares and an uninspired screenplay, turn William Eubank‘s $80 million sci-fi thriller into another genre-film forever stuck at the bottom of the bargain bin at your local Kmart. Director, cast and most of the crew will for sure get back to shore in given lifeboats, while yet another post-Fox-merge-title has been thrown to the sharks.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Review – ‘Underwater’

Reviewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, Jan. 17, 2020. Australian Classification: M. Running time: 95 MIN.

PRODUCTION: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture release of a 20th Century Fox presentation of a TSG Entertainment, Chernin Entertainment production. Producers: Peter Chernin, Tonia Davis, Jenno Topping. Executive producer: Kevin Halloran.  

CREW: Director: William Eubank. Screenplay: Brian Duffield, Adam Cozad. Camera (color, widescreen): Bojan Bazelli. Editors: Brian Berdan, Willliam Hoy, Todd E. Miller. Music: Marco Beltrami, Brandon Roberts.

WITH: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie, Gunner Wright.

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