Cast: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick
Director: William Eubank
If Underwater is the best horror movie we’re going to get in January, then we’re in for a long month ahead. Underwater isn’t a bad movie and has a few moments of brilliance scattered throughout, but it really feels like Disney dumped this movie off in January to finally rid itself of all things 20th Century Fox. Given Eubank’s history as a cinematographer it’s no surprise that these elements are strong in Underwater and I’m pleased that the movie attempted to give characters personal content, but it isn’t enough to overcome the general mediocrity and predictability over the course of 95 minutes.
The film follows a group of technicians who work at the bottom of the ocean doing various engineering and drilling jobs. When their base undergoes major damage due to its existence at the bottom of the ocean, people with very little familiarity with one another must band together to survive and get back to the surface. While they originally thought the damage was caused by earthquakes, they soon realize it was done by something far scarier than they can imagine. In a sense you almost need to judge Underwater with a “January factor” viewpoint, because if this movie came out in October I don’t know if I would’ve liked it as much as I did. In a month littered with Oscar rollovers and movies that studios are basically condemning to financial ruin, it’s a miracle that we get something even serviceable from a movie like this. A generic-looking monster movie that doesn’t look to push the boundaries may not break any financial records, but there are a few moments that almost take this movie into that next tier and turn it into something serviceable. Between the characters having real traits and backstories that make them memorable and action scenes that for the most part you can understand and make sense of, Underwater has a few moments that it can grip to preventing from ending up as one of the worst movies of the year. That being said, it still has moments that weigh it down and keep it in that middle range of mediocrity. Whether this is a generic monster that lives at the bottom of the Earth and can’t be stopped or the fact that the darkness of the ocean floor makes this movie almost impossible to see sometimes, Underwater rides a weird line where it’s almost a good movie while simultaneously being almost a bad movie. It’s tough to make anything concrete out of this, but through a steady stream of action, depth, and comedy, Underwater seems to do more things right than wrong. If all movies released in January had this level of quality, then realistically the month wouldn’t have the stigma attached to it that does. Maybe it’s because of the names attached to this project, but Underwater does enough things right to make it a solid movie to stream and ends up not being a complete disappointment even if it didn’t make the money that it was hoping to.
Overall, Underwater was set up for failure by Disney, but even though the studio execs didn’t believe in it doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. If you’re looking for a quick burst of action with strong characters and a sense of urgency, then at this part of the year there won’t be too many better options than Underwater. With that in mind, Underwater isn’t perfect, but in a season usually surrounded by garbage getting anything outside of that is a pleasant surprise and that’s exactly where Underwater ends up when it’s all said and done.
Overall Score: 5/10