Review: ‘Underwater’ lacks direction and structure

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Courtesy of 20th Century Studios
TRL’s Riley O’Donnell said about William Eubank’s film, “Despite [some] positives, the movie is far from perfect… the characters, save for Stewart’s lead character, were forgettable.”

While the new sci-fi horror film Underwater meets expectations, the plot’s predictability leaves viewers wanting more. The entire movie takes place at a deep-sea drilling station in the Mariana Trench, about seven miles below the surface, and follows a small crew of workers attempting to escape the imploding station while facing down terrifying deep-sea monsters. 

Directed by William Eubank (The Signal, Love) and starring Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, John Gallagher Jr. and T.J. Miller Underwater is not quite the most original premise you’ll see this year. It strongly resembles monster movies in the vein of Alien, the Cloverfield series, and pretty much every other space-related horror film since 1980. 

However, something that I actually appreciated was that the movie doesn’t pretend to be super original or innovative. Anyone who watches the trailer or glances at the poster outside the theater will pretty much know what to expect. Underwater knows exactly what it wants to be from the opening scene and pulls it off in a fairly entertaining way.

About three minutes into the movie, the main character Norah, played by Kristen Stewart of Twilight, is casually brushing her teeth when the station starts violently collapsing and filling with water. This forward opening couldn’t be more appropriate. The movie rarely slows down to breathe, which played largely to its benefit.

One make-or-break aspect of any horror/thriller movie is how the writers kill off characters, and Underwater did so pretty well. Unlike many horror films, there were some genuinely surprising character deaths. For a movie holding on to a PG-13 rating, the action scenes were pretty unsettling and chilling. In fact, the movie often seemed like it was a little held back by its rating, and the viewer might wonder what the director could have done with a R-rated version of this movie.

The last big positive this movie had to offer was the atmosphere. Through the sound design and cinematography, Underwater really did capture the feeling of being trapped deep in the ocean. For example, during scenes in which the crew is walking across the ocean floor, all the viewer can see is darkness beyond small flashlights, and all they can hear is the breathing of the crew and the rushing of water. Scenes like this almost felt minimalistic, taking a break from jumpscares and action without dropping any tension. 

Despite these positives, the movie is far from perfect. The movie’s plot lacked direction and cohesive structure. During some scenes in the film, the crew would try to reach a certain area of the rig without ever explaining their purpose. Due to this, the plot itself seemed like a secondary device to generate more scares and tension, even if it didn’t make logical sense. 

Additionally, the characters, save for Stewart’s lead character, were forgettable. The script hinted at more interesting dynamics between the characters, but it never explored them in meaningful ways.

Anyone who likes a good horror/monster movie will have an enjoyable time with Underwater. It is fast paced, entertaining, and has plenty of exciting, suspenseful scenes. However, the plot wasn’t cohesive or original enough to justify a great score, and it ultimately wasn’t an especially memorable movie.

C+