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Underwater (2020)

January 15th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 6 Comments

Once upon a time when I was a little kid living in sunny California, an older neighbor dude kindly offered to teach my two older brothers and me how to use a scuba tank in our pool! Obviously it was the most exciting proposition human ears had ever heard. Firstly though, the neighbor insisted on giving us a few safety tips. He then went on to explain that if a person were to come out of the water too quickly an air bubble would get in their brain and they’d die instantly. Say what now? My two older brothers were unmoved by this information and gamely tried the scuba tank out but when it came to my turn I was way too terrified to proceed. If mistakes were possible then I would certainly be the one to make them and I didn’t want to die in my own pool. In retrospect, I doubt I could have met my demise under so much supervision in the great depths of a merely six-foot deep pool but the guy had freaked me out so badly that there was no way I was going to take any chances. All this to say that UNDERWATER sorta hit me where I live from the get-go. I felt like I was holding my breath for two hours and I even worried that I am now at the age when a heart attack is a very real possibility.

UNDERWATER is a legitimately awesome mash-up of horror, sci-fi and disaster flick that really deserves a better title (I’ve come up with PRESSURE, BREATHE and THE DEPTHS OF HELL). It has already been completely dismissed by critics and audiences alike but that only puts it in the same company as THE THING, BLADE RUNNER and (yay) DEEP RISING (to name but a few). I guess I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the nation because I absolutely dug it from ocean floor to ceiling. Besides being a non-stop thrill ride, it played me like a fiddle when it came to addressing issues like getting over a loved one’s death and the simple human art of always moving forward no matter how bleak things appear. There were also some nice nods to ALICE IN WONDERLAND (drowning in tears, “we’re all mad here” graffiti and a plush white toy rabbit) that I greatly approved of. Plus it’s got a sense of wonder and it’s often difficult to determine whether what you are beholding is hideous or beautiful. That’s a space I can’t resist.

UNDERWATER is the type of movie that had me physically straining my eyes to SEE more. There are all these murky depths and grainy textures and things flow in and out of frame in a magical way. The brightest bursts of fluorescent color occur in fields of gray-grunge and I thought it was all very painterly for an action dispenser. Without ruining anything, I simply was not prepared for the colossal scope the movie is ultimately capable of delivering. I found the climax to be pretty much breathtaking. The cast is uniformly excellent too with KRISTEN STEWART delivering a strangely calming resolve, the great VINCENT CASSEL as a deeper than you’d think captain and T.J. MILLER as the requisite sarcastic comic relief (props to JESSICA HENWICK, JOHN GALLAGHER JR. and poor, poor MAMOUDOU ATHIE as well). Don’t listen to anybody who carps about the characters being slight. I think if you actually listen to them and hear their backstories and motivations, they’re built about as well as they can be considering the time restraints. I’m sure they’ll only strengthen and gel further with multiple viewings.

UNDERWATER is way more original than it will ever be given credit for. Sure, it’s impossible to ignore its debt to ALIEN but geez, I’m fine with that. ALIEN owes IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958) several beers and we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Bring on a dozen more movies with such noble aspirations! I’m all on board. I proudly go on record saying that I adored UNDERWATER not as “schlocky fun” or a “guilty pleasure” but as a well-made survival adventure film (and perhaps the very first undersea creature feature that’s not stingy with its monster(s)). It’s a heart-pounding dive that doesn’t mind contemplating humanity’s arrogant need to elbow its way into spaces that we don’t belong and it doesn’t shirk away from the emotional ramifications of death. This is colossal, Lovecraftian-sized spellbinding horror. Trust me, you’re going to be sorry if you miss it while it’s playing on the big screen.

Tags: General Horror

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 kathryngraceNo Gravatar // Jan 15, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    I’m planning on going to see this one next week. I’m super excited about it!

  • 2 Luki8701No Gravatar // Jan 16, 2020 at 1:26 am

    Loved it. It *almost* lost me at that horrible voice over monologue at the start but it was top notch underwater horror movie and the last 15 minutes were awe-inspiring and terrifying at equal measures.

    I would also add The Descent as a major inspiration for this movie, since it plays around with similiar fears and imagery, right down to the monsters being revealed in full on a night vision camera, “standing” behind the protagonists.

  • 3 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jan 16, 2020 at 10:42 am

    Can’t wait to hear what you think! This is exactly the type of movie that is worth seeing on the big screen!

    Glad you felt the same! The ending blew me a way too and I was riveted throughout! Very good call on THE DESCENT! That’s probably the last movie that really stoked my anxieties in such a way! And yes, those first fleeting glimpses of the monsters is handled so well in both!

  • 4 kathryngraceNo Gravatar // Jan 30, 2020 at 10:25 pm

    Holy crap. That was amazing. I’m so glad I saw it on the big screen.

  • 5 kathryngraceNo Gravatar // Jan 31, 2020 at 2:54 am

    I particularly loved the characters. Each one was so well done; I was legitimately sad with every death. Also the monsters themselves were incredibly well done.

  • 6 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jan 31, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Yay! I’m so glad you saw it! It really deserves to be seen on the big screen, there’s so much going on visually, it’s a lot to take in. I keep thinking about seeing it again but I might save my $ so I can buy it when it’s released on DVD/BR. I really loved the characters as well, thought they were so well done and really cared about their fates.

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