Starring: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick
Director: William Eubank
Running Time: 95 mins
Underwater is an American film about a group of scientists working on an undersea mining operation at the bottom of the ocean who encounter a group of creatures, leaving their work and their lives in peril.
Little more than just another version of Alien but this time at the bottom of the ocean, Underwater is a predictable, generic and generally lifeless watch. Lacking the atmosphere necessary to provide real thrills, and missing the mark with its bold underwater cinematography, it’s a painfully disappointing watch, and far from the eerie sci-fi horror it aims to be.
Now, there have been countless remakes and rip-offs and reimaginings of the Alien brand. Styled as the ‘sci-fi haunted house’ subgenre, these films blend the spectacle of space and science fiction with the claustrophobic thrills of a haunted house movie. But Underwater, for all its ambition, fails to do that on a number of counts.
Although it does occasionally entertain with the odd jumpscare, the film is painfully lacking in atmosphere throughout. As a result, rather than an eerie, claustrophobic thriller that sees a group of humans cornered by ferocious undersea monsters, Underwater comes off as a fairly lifeless and inconsequential thriller.
From its fairly unthreatening and unimaginative creatures to underwhelming production design, the film never instils a great sense of fear or peril, let alone unnerving eeriness and excitement.
As a creature feature, it has its moments, but as a sci-fi haunted house in the same vein as Alien, it’s a real mishit. Its ensemble cast and modern special effects make it a little more reminiscent of Life and The Cloverfield Paradox, although its plot is far too superficial to rival either of those films.
Another reason that the film is never as scary or tense as it aims to be is because its characters are so dull. Even without powerful atmosphere, having engaging characters allow you to form a strong enough emotional connection to fear for their lives in the face of danger.
Here, however, you have a collection of boring, expendable characters with no depth and barely any backstory. The performances are fine from the likes of Kristen Stewart and Jessica Henwick, although T.J. Miller is a real sore throughout, providing unnecessary and annoying comic relief at the most inopportune moments.
As a result, neither does this film work on a level of fear nor emotional depth. That makes it a disappointingly superficial and frustratingly lifeless watch throughout, never grabbing you by the neck as it clearly aims to.
And finally, the film’s visuals are misguided and frankly ugly throughout. While it boldly attempts to replicate the space station atmosphere at the bottom of the ocean, Underwater’s lifeless atmosphere is replicated in its style, from that unimaginative production design to inefficient and try-hard special effects.
It’s far too CGI-heavy throughout, and there are few times when it really feels like the characters are at the bottom of one of the ocean’s deepest trenches, isolated from all help and contact.
And while I understand its use of CGI to make the water they wade through as murky and dark as possible, it really makes it hard to tell what’s actually going on.
With so much debris floating about in depths of the ocean, the screen is always too dark and too crowded. And as it’s so hard to see, the action, horror and sometimes even drama is almost impossible to follow, or at least attempt to engross yourself in.
The movie also disappoints with its seemingly wanton use of time and physical space, while it feels like it forgets the story is set at the bottom of the ocean rather than a space station. In short, Underwater is a messy film through and through, and misses the mark on almost all counts.
It does admittedly provide some thrills and entertainment in the form of jumpscares, but otherwise, this is a dull, lifeless and generic thriller that doesn’t hold a candle to Alien and the other genre films it aims to replicate. From boring characters to ugly visuals and everything in between, there’s little to rave about with Underwater, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.0 overall.