Good question you might have about Underwater could be that why was this released in January? Well, after the purchase of 20th Century Fox it was one of those movies that Disney simply had lying around but had no interest in. Personally I had zero clue what the movie was about or even what genre it was since there were no ads anywhere and I didn’t know about the trailer. For a January movie my expectations were low and lowered more when I realised it was sci-fi horror but I came out enjoying my time with it.
One of the better things about Underwater was that it was genuinely a thrilling watch. Much helped by personal fears of the ocean and the fact that you can’t see anything when you’re deep down. It’s dark, unexplored territory and the film uses that very effectively to have you on the edge of your seat. While no one is spectacularly amazing, the cast with the likes of Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel and Jessica Henwick is solid and committed which leads the story to be able to breathe. No one in the cast is required to shine since the main star is the sound design which keeps you right in it with the people, along with the well-executed sound mixing. It mixes great practical sets with VFX where its needed to fill out the space, very much to its advantage. It perfectly lasts just 90 minutes and director William Eubank uses some nice in-the-helmet shots to double down on the claustrophobia.
Now I’m quite aware that what I’m about to say could be a flaw only to me but the moment that we see the oddities and creatures, the momentum takes a dip. The movie loses some of its uneasiness because the creatures are way less scary than the deafening silence or sudden thumps. Also some of the character’s fates and therefore the ending could feel unsatisfactory because it’s ultimately a story about surviving so one of the characters ending up on solid ground feels too good for its themes. It takes the easy way out when you could’ve said that sometimes running away leads to new appreciation of yourself (this is hard to write without spoiling). There are few scene transitions that repeat themselves which could’ve used more creativity but overall Underwater doesn’t really falter under pressure.
Smileys: Sound mixing, production design, atmosphere
Frowneys: Character design, ending
Note to film industry: if you dump good movies in January, at least put some marketing behind them.