Review: Underwater (2020)

Director: William Eubank | 95 minutes | action, horror | Actors: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Kassel, Mamoudou Athie, TJ Miller, John Gallagher Jr., Jessica Henwick, Gunner Wright, Fiona Rene, Amanda Troop

Deep below the ocean surface, a large-scale mining operation is hit by a mysterious earthquake. Mechanic Norah Price (Kristen Stewart) narrowly escapes death. Together with a small group of survivors, she desperately tries to find a way out before the entire structure collapses. A nearby drilling station may offer rescue; only it requires a dangerous journey in heavy suits across the ocean floor. But it’s not only the dangerous conditions of the underwater world that give them trouble; a huge deep-sea monster has also awakened from its sleep …

‘Underwater’ starts out with hope. Norah’s escape creates tension in the first minutes of the film. The stuffy setting works well and as a viewer you are presented with all kinds of questions. After this, unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that the film does not have much more to offer. In fact, ‘Underwater’ turns out to be a not too successful mix between Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ (1979) and Neil Marshall’s ‘The Descent’ (2005). Sometimes it seems as if director William Eubank is copying exact aspects from these films – certain references, some iconic moments, signature set pieces – it all looks a lot like it. They borrow generously from better films, while their own originality is almost completely absent.

The characters of ‘Underwater’ are also a problem. These characters are simply not interesting. This is partly due to the absence of an introduction that would normally introduce us to them. The film dives right into the action and as a consequence we learn nothing about the central characters and their normal daily lives. Moreover, they have hardly any perceptible personality, so that as a viewer it does little to you if someone is in danger again. Kristen Stewart generally looks confused in her role, and actor TJ Miller is almost excruciating as the joker on board. Miller desperately tries to be witty, holding on to a plush bunny throughout the movie.

‘Underwater’ might still be worth watching if you’re a die-hard horror fan, but the average viewer will probably not enjoy this film. This is regrettable and could easily have been avoided. For anyone who still needs a similar viewing experience, the aforementioned ‘Alien’ and ‘The Descent’ are excellent alternatives. For the simple reason that those films are many times more original.

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