The dictionary describes deja vu as “a feeling of having already experienced the present situation” and that perfectly describes the feeling you’ll have watching Underwater. The film, in essence, is about a ragtag group of survivors banding together to try and survive the elements and the threat of a monster looming in the shadows ready to pick them off one by one. Alien, of course, perfected this genre back in the 70s and since then there’s been plenty of films that have followed suit and tried to rekindle Ridley Scott’s magical, claustrophobic horror.
The most recent pretender that tried and failed is probably 2017’s Life. It’s important to remember that too because Underwater takes a lot of inspiration from that film and meshes it in with elements of Alien and several other influences without ever expanding or doing anything original with those concepts.
To be fair to Underwater, the plot wastes absolutely no time getting right to the heart of the issue. Deep underwater a group of aquatic researchers are thrust into a nightmarish situation as their underwater base is rocked by a monstrous earthquake. At the heart of this drama lies Norah, a confident woman that finds herself leading a group on a perilous journey to safety. From here, the rest of the film take a pretty formulaic approach, with an unfortunate lack of actual terror in favour of more action-driven sequences and jump scares.
With a lot of the film set underwater, the sound design of the film is suitably muffled for much of the run-time and there’s a few nicely implemented segments late on that use this perfectly. While the actual set pieces feel pretty run-of-the-mill, the audio in this film makes the most of the water and this only heightens the tension that grips large parts of the middle act. On the same topic however, the end-credits song feels completely ill-placed and tonally jarring, almost undermining the final moments of the film that do well to shine light on a bigger social commentary that’s thankfully kept to the backseat for much of the run-time.
The aesthetic of Underwater is suitably muted for a lot of the film too, thanks in part to the murky depths of the sea-bed. Underwater isn’t shy about its influences to Alien either, with plenty of computers, escape pods and torch-lit exterior shots that feel very reminisce of that film. To be fair to the film, during the third act there are some nice shots that take full advantage of the lighting but personally I actually feel the second act is where this one is at its strongest.
Underwater isn’t a bad film and if you’re looking for a fun, predictable thriller you can’t really go wrong with this one. The film understandably leaves little to the imagination and aside from a surprisingly fast-paced opening, this action-horror quickly reveals its empty ocean of originality to a void of rehashed ideas and concepts that do little to stand out. This isn’t the worst film of the year but it’s not a particularly great one either. It’s simply a very average, forgettable thriller that’s fun for 90 minutes but unlikely to be one you’ll return to again anytime soon.