Last year The Shallows proved that Hollywood can still make a quality killer shark movie without the added guff of tornados, exorcists, or the Syfy Channel. The no nonsense, yet thrillingly fun flick was even given the simultaneously dubious yet glittering title of “second best shark movie ever made” (long live Jaws, forever shall it reign). Making a bid for this title this year is Mandy Moore chomp-bait scarer, 47 Meters Down.
Combining The Shallows’ shark-seige-in-a-swimsuit with a more stripped back feel of Open Water (By my reckoning the 5th greatest shark movie ever made) 47 Meters is simplicity itself. Two sisters are on holiday, one has been dumped by her doushe-bag boyfriend and so in order to cheer her up the other suggests they take an unlicensed cage dive (as you do). Undeterred by the fact that the shark dive is being run by Matthew Modine (surely your first big clue to get the fuck back to the hotel and order yourself a mai thai) the sisters clamber on in and shit promptly hits the fan.
As the cage snaps and plummets 47 Meters Down (Hey! Just like in the title!) to the sea bed the girls have to contend with a short supply of oxygen, the bends and numerous huge great whites cruising the area who fancy a nibble of white girl a-la carte. Thus begins a battle of wits as the girls have limited time to sort out the various tasks (more air, getting within range of a radio signal, keeping all their limbs) and get to safety.
As these survival horror movies, go it’s all fairly standard stuff. 20 minutes of insipid holiday stuff, a fuck ton of foreboding (red wine spilt in a swimming pool, very nice) and then it’s off to the races and the fact that the vast majority of the film’s brief run time is spend on the ocean floor is an original touch, lending the rather ludicrous premise a vague coat of reality.
This comes with a price, of course. Having the balls to film your two principal leads under water in full visor diving masks may add to the overall “Oh Shit” feel to the situation but the film makers overplay the dialogue to almost comedic on-the-nose levels. The characters literally explain exactly what they’re going to to do before they do it and then do it while explaining what they’re doing. It grates a little and having characters wheeze “I’m so scared!” out loud at regular intervals is simply unnecessary. Your concept is sound, believe in it and so shall we.
While this film is hardly an exercise in subtle restraint like The Witch or The Babadook and goes for the more easy route of scaring the shit out of the audience periodically by having a huge fucking mouth lunge out of the dark, thankfully it does it pretty damn well and has some priceless popcorn spilling moments that are nastily effective (a shot ripped clean out of Pitch Black involving a flare that reveals what is exactly lurking in the darkness is fantastic).
Yes, 47 Meters Down is vehemently a 3 star movie (and barely at that), but is one that wears it with pride which still has some rather grim surprises in it’s tail before the end credits roll. Maybe not worth paying top dollar for but worth a giggle if your armed with a Cineworld or Odeon card.