What is Underwater?
Kristen Stewart stars in this electrifying sci-fi thriller as a mechanical engineer who must try to save her fellow crew members following the destruction of their mining rig seven miles beneath the ocean surface. Five thousand miles from land, their only hope for survival is to walk across the ocean floor to an abandoned vessel. But their already dangerous journey becomes even more treacherous as a mysterious new threat appears at the ocean’s depths!
UNDERWATER is a 2020 American horror movie starring Kristen Stewart, Jessica Henwick, TJ Miller, and a few other notable stars. It is a disaster movie as much as anything else, starting off with a crew of scientists working at the bottom of an unexplored part of the ocean when there’s a leak that kills the majority of the crew in the opening scene. The survivors proceed to try to figure out a way to get out of there as things get progressively worse.
The thing about this movie is that it’s extremely hard to review it without giving away the primary spoiler in a Sixth Sense sort of way. If you share that element then you risk ruining what was one of the rare genuine surprises that you’re likely to get out of a film. At least, for me, I hadn’t expected the surprise and was really enjoying the fact I was. So, if you want to be surprised by it then you should stop reading this review and instead go watch the movie cold.
Okay, then let the reader beware of SPOILERS. However, if you’ve already watched the movie or simply don’t care then I’ll reveal the big secret: there’s not only a monster at the bottom of the ocean but the monster is Cthulhu himself. Yes, Cthulhu and a bunch of what I presume to be Deep Ones are very upset at having their resting place disturbed by a bunch of oil-drilling scientists and are doing their very best to make them all dead.
This particular revelation is extremely entertaining and I’m very glad about it but I also feel like the movie doesn’t go nearly as far as they could with it. It’s always nice to see the Big C on screen but he’s treated more or less as an underwater kaiju rather than his cosmic horror self. We don’t see any signs of a dreadful city underwater, madness just by looking at him, or cultists that might be working to further his return. Okay, there’s some hints at such being the case with the Tian corporation (for “LovecrafTIAN”) but that isn’t developed nearly as well as it could be.
I’m sorry to say this is more or less a generic sci-fi horror movie with the premise of finding something alien that starts killing you. It’s just got the thin veneer of Cthulhu added onto it in order to please depraved horror fans like myself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I like most generic scifi horror movies and it’s certainly a well-made one. I also think the addition of a thin veneer of Cthulhu did enhance my enjoyment of the film, however slight.
Unfortunately, it also tells me this movie could have been so much-much better. It could have been the Prometheus movie we deserved. Prometheus was ruined by Ridley Scott making everyone act like morons but these characters are all likable as well as intelligent. How much better would the film have been if a competent crew was forced to go down-down deeper into the dark abyss as they gradually discovered the terrifying secrets within? Things related to the origin of mankind and its imminent destruction?
Kristen Stewart proves she actually is a serviceable action heroine as Norah Price. Norah is desperately trying to step up to save as many people as possible but thwarted at every turn by circumstances seemingly designed to make such heroism fruitless. Jessica Henwick’s Emily is a very likable heroine who, unfortunately, has a romance tacked on with TJ Miller’s Paul Abel. If they’d been together from the beginning, it might have been believable but this is not the circumstances to start a new relationship.
There’s a lot of good scenes, tense encounters, and excellent use of lighting throughout the film. I was a big fan of Epcot Center’s Sea Base Alpha (that I was fooled for 30 years into thinking was actually underwater). Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t attempt to do anything particularly deep or noticeable with this so it comes off as a bit generic. Everyone does their best with the material, though, and the handling is always competent. As such, I’m going to say Underwater is an above-average horror film and certainly competent.