Underwater

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Ok… stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
A disperate group of people have to survive an assault of monsters when… oh, wow. That was quick…
Well, I guess that’s the problem you face when you make a movie that skews so close to Alien, Ridley Scott’s seminal masterpiece in sci-fi terror. Alien ripoffs aren’t new and neither are underwater Alien ripoffs either because if no one can hear you scream, the deep blue sea is just as good a substitute as the crushing cold of space any way you shake it.
Having waded through more than my fair share of this submerged sub-sub genre, I looked at the oncoming release of Kirsten Stewart’s latest movie, Underwater with a little trepidation as the vast majority of these kinds of movies you could ironically rate as being below the C- level (geddit!?) and yet despite it’s more derivative aspects (flashing lights, warning sirens, tiny underwear) I found myself warming to this unassuming movie that has no problem ripping off other, better movies (besides Alien) to make up it’s suprisingly interesting, yet impressively short runtime.
Complicated, glum, elven Stewart plays Price, a complicated, glum, elven engineer on a massive undersea drilling rig that’s plundering the bottom of the Mariana Trench in search of resources. After a massive earthquake damages the rig and then tags out so critical explosive decompression can spectacularly finish the job, Price finds herself one of the few survivors of the hundreds of people stationed at the bottom of the sea who now find themselves inconveniently crushed to the size of a penny.
Collecting a handful of fellow, battered crewmates on the way that includes T.J. Miller’s typically trash mouthed Paul, the group manage to stay ahead of the bowel clenching aftershocks that continue rattle their leaking surroundings and rendezvous with Vincent Cassel’s mournful Captain, Jessica Henwick’s nervous intern biologist and her engineer boyfriend. Devising a dangerous plan, the six aim to take the elevator to the sea bed and casually stroll their way miles in the pitch blackness to a neighbouring installation in order to access the life of that hopefully still function.
If everything that’s happened to them isn’t bad enough, an aggressive new form of marine life targets the group as a mobile meal and launch repeated and brutal attacks on anyone not already dispersed throughout the ocean thanks to a faulty diving suit. As the small band desperately try to get to something even remotely resembling safety (somewhat of a tall order when you’re wandering 7 miles from the surface) revelations arise about where these glowy eyes, incredibly strong creatures may have come from but will it be any use in this desperate escape attempt from earth tremors, sea creatures and the very ocean itself where death can come from literally any direction?

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Anyone out there frankly sickened by the thought of yet ANOTHER sci-fi horror movie that borrows openly from the play books of established classics can console themselves by knocking off a couple of stars from my rating and move on with their lives and no one (least of all me) would blame them in the slightest. However, taking into all this into account, Underwater is actually well made, with the production values, effects and acting all above par compared to the usual drippy dress that’s tried to copy Ridley Scott’s homework, and with some subtle alterations here and there, actually has quite an interesting, mournful tone that owes much more to Gravity (it even has it’s own “let go” moment) and gives adds a bit of much needed depth.
Stewart fits the mold of her insular character well, briefly exploring (much like Sandra Bullock did) what kind of person would voluntarily choose to work in such an inhospitable place and is backed up nicely by Cassell and Henwick who also give their seemingly damaged and brittle characters a much needed extra dimension.
What also helps is that the murky sea-bastards who lurk just on the outskirts of the billowing clouds of brine are actually more of a hindrance than the main threat (at least at first) with the traumatic collapse of the underwater facility and the treacherous surroundings being far more dangerous than some watery creatures who’s seen The Descent one to many times…
Oh, yes… the monsters…
“I’ve never seen sea life like this!” stutters a Henwick’s biologist at one point. Really Jess, I fucking have. In virtually every other monster movie made since 2008 – you know the ones, the gangly limbed, fang faced creature design that seemed to pop up everywhere after the film Cloverfield came out. In fact these creations (and the subsequent twist involving their origin which I won’t divulge here) are SO reminiscent of Bad Robot’s first-person monster mash, the film could quite easily play as a Cloverfield spin off.
Stunningly derivative (it’s only original concept is to merge Alien with Gravity and then dump it in the ocean) it’s still actually a far better watch than other recent(ish) outings involving creepy monster shit happening to scientists/engineers like The Cloverfield Paradox, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.

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As original as an evening spent watching repeats on UK Gold – yet as oddly reassuring – Underwater deserves credit for being one of the far better do-overs of a very tired genre and adding some much needed gravitas to a type of movie that’s usually throwaway or silly (beats the crap out of Deep Star Six and Leviathan at any rate) but be warned: the risk of drowning in the sheer undertow of deja vu is pretty high…
🌟🌟🌟🌟

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