Take a pinch of Alien, a dash of Creature From The Black Lagoon, a page or two from the Cthulhu story of your choice, and some vague references to humans destroying the environment, mix it all with an attractive cast and voila: Underwater.
It looks like the critical community is split almost exactly down the middle about whether Underwater is a hit or a herring, I suspect many viewers are going to end up squarely in the middle. I did.
I liked it, didn’t love it. It’s a good film, not a great one. It’s a solid B.
Kristen Stewart, sporting a lady crewcut and looking sexy in her underwear, does a fine job in the hero role, even helping drag an injured man to safety in a change of pace. She has a workout in the film, which is set seven miles below the waves in the Mariana Trench where an oil company is drilling.
The movie wastes no time getting to the action. One minute Stewart is saving a daddy longlegs insect from the sink while brushing her teeth, the next the undersea facility comes crashing inward, all in the first five minutes.
She spends the next 90 minutes running, crawling, swimming and grunting as she tries to get herself and a handful of survivors away from the crushed station across the ocean floor to another station where emergency escape pods await. Hopefully.
The ocean bottom trek would be hard enough for Stewart, the Captain (Vincent Cassel), the claustrophobic Emily (Jessica Henwick) and buddy Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie) but they also encounter some pretty scary sea creatures unlike anything you’ll find at Sea World.
Everyone is pretty good at expressing fear, shock and desperation, even T.J. Miller (“Silicon Valley)” who plays himself as he’s done in every movie he’s ever been in. Not a fan.
The cinematography by Bojan Bazelli is impressive, making the point that everything that far underwater is just murky soup with lots of weird stuff floating around – including monsters. That’s where Alien comes in; the creatures are well designed and the stuff of nightmares. There is a memorable scene with Stewart during a particularly horrible encounter with one of the creatures that I won’t spoil. You’ll know it when you see it; it’ll make you want to swear off seafood.
Director William Eubank (The Signal and Love) put all the money he saved by using a tiny cast into the special effects. That makes sense since he spent most of his career as a cinematographer. It does not explain why he would allow so many scenes to be so murky that it was hard to tell what was going on.
All said and done, Underwater is an entertaining flick worth and evening out. Just don’t eat a seafood dinner beforehand.
Michael Sangiacomo is a writer from South Amherst.