*minor spoilers for the film can be found below
I was aware I was taking a risk when I chose Underwater to be my first theater visit of 2020. As I’ve mentioned many times before, horror films are not something I choose to see very often. But after the success of going to see Midsommar last summer, I was feeling brave, and the trailer for Underwater got me so curious…that I decided I had to see it.
Underwater is a science-fiction horror film, apparently set in the near future, when humans have built a seven-mile deep drill that stretches all the way to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Nora (Kristen Stewart), a mechanical engineer, along with other survivors, is forced to fight for her life when something mysterious begins to destroy the drill.
First things first, I can definitely state that Underwater is a scary film. The jump scares are the kind that kept my hands plastered in front of my face for a decent chunk of the movie. Another thing is that the film wastes very little time in getting started with the action (though given it only has a 95 minute run time that’s understandable). But by far the most important thing I took away from Underwater is that it appears to be heavily inspired, if not derived from, Ridley Scott’s Alien.
The numerous similarities are uncanny. The diving suits are quite similar to the Alien spacesuits. The location (bottom of the Mariana Trench) is so remote and hostile it might as well be outer space. There’s a pan shot of a seemingly empty station that reminded me of the opening shot of the inside of the Nostromo. There’s even a brief examination of a mysterious creature that reminded me of Ash examining the facehugger (though thankfully there is no chestburster scene in this film). If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the pitch for this film ran along the lines of “It’s Alien, but at the bottom of the ocean.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Alien is such an iconic story it’s understandable that people would want to imitate it even 41 years later. However, at the same time, Alien is so good, each similarity I saw in Underwater reminded me that Alien did it first.
Still, if you like scary movies where the protagonists are chased by barely-glimpsed sea monsters, then you will probably like Underwater, though your mileage will definitely vary when you reach the film’s climax. That’s where the film got weird for me. In the last 10-15 minutes, something is introduced that…I’m still not sure how to describe. This thing looked like it came out of a completely different film. If I’m really honest, my first thought on glimpsing “it” (I won’t fully describe it because you really need to see it for yourself) was “is this secretly a film about Cthulhu?” I can’t say it ruined the film, because it held my attention every time “it” appeared, but it is definitely an out of left field moment given everything that happened up until that point. What I’m trying to say is, up until this point in Underwater, the story felt reasonably believable: the drill has undoubtedly opened up a place where a previously unknown form of sea life dwelt and they are royally pissed off at having their space invaded. Then this thing appears and, like I said, it got weird.
For the most part, I liked the film’s cast. Kristen Stewart especially stood out to me, I really liked her work as Nora. The thing with Vincent Cassel being in the film is, all I could see was The Night Fox from Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen. That’s not a ding on Cassel, but it’s what I kept thinking of any time his character appeared. And on a random note: I love that the rabbit survived.
Ultimately, though I was terrified for most of it, I don’t regret going to see Underwater. It’s frightening, a lot of it is scarily plausible, and that last bit at the end makes me super curious to see if there are any follow-ups in the future. If they made another film in the same universe, I would be okay with it (mostly because I want to know what the frack that thing was).
Let me know what you think about Underwater in the comments below and have a great day!
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