Director: William Eubank
Writer(s): Brian Duffield, Adam Cozad
Cast: Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller, John Gallagher Jr.
Synopsis: A drilling crew gets trapped underwater as they are being attacked by a hidden creature.
This is my first review of the 2020 Film Year.
Underwater takes a talented group of individuals into a desolate place that is constantly pressurizing. And at its very core, you can feel that pressure continues to build not only in the film but in your own head as well. As someone who loves anxious thrillers, I was looking forward to this film. The trailers seemed eerie enough, and Kristen Stewart, coming off her actress of the decade award by the Hollywood Critics’ Association, became a huge draw for me. She has been *almost* on the same path as Robert Pattinson over the years doing smaller projects to regain not only her status in Hollywood but her confidence as well. However, unlike Robert Pattinson, she has not been as strong when it comes to choosing projects to work on. This is another dud for her, and one that was so egregious I almost left (three people did).
This movie proved to be one of the most incohesive films I have seen in a long time. Characters come in and leave out of nowhere, and the sheer lack of characterization refuses to let the audience get to know any of them aside from the surface level. Even when we begin to hear about one of the crew members’ families, he doesn’t even seem to remember the age of his daughter. Maybe this is done in some stylistic way to showcase how he has been down in the water for so long that he can’t even remember personal things, but for me, it created a separation between the characters and the actors that I just could not get past.
The film does not just peel back on attempting to create any sort of character on screen, but they physically strip down some of the female characters and puts them in situations that make no sense for them to have on what they do. For an entire chunk of this film, Kristen Stewart is seen in nothing but her bra and panties, but the rest of the crew can have shirts on? It was moments like this, and the fact that T.J. Miller’s character called her a “flat-chested elf” as she was trying to remove rubble from him in a dire situation. There were times where the characters did not feel like they were worried about the situation, so as an audience member, why would I be worried.
And that brings me to the biggest issue I had with this film in total, is that I just did not care. I did not care for these characters or even for this situation they are in, because we have absolutely no take on who or what is going on. The incohesive nature of this film does not allow for anyone to become invested with the story as they are attempting to catch up for the hour and a half runtime. This film jumps from place to place and people to people so much, that I was having to play catch-up for most of the film. There is a time in this film where Kristen Stewart finds a station and goes in and decides to wash off in the shower, while people are outside in the water with little oxygen. It made me wonder, and hope, that we were seeing this through flashbacks, but then we find out that this is all done in time.
The only thing that held this film from not being worst of the worst was the *somewhat* decent visuals and the score, even though it was overdone, was perfectly fine. Other than that, I cannot find one redeeming quality in this film. The direction was stylish, but it was style over substance in such a way that the film became a chore to watch. It was dwindled down to a strict horror/slasher/sci-fi film, and even when it seems to be stripped to the bare bones it still does not even accomplish that. The scares are predictable, the thrills are boring, and the adventure seems to get further from their destination. Quite literally, a ticker in the bottom right corner shows their distance, and each time it pops up they have gone further from where they need to go.
What sucks even more so than anything, is the fact that this could have been a good movie. 2017’s Life had the same basic structure, crew on a ship in a deadly environment have to escape organisms that will kill them. Everything was right there in front of them, but what Life did well that this film did not was to make the monster so simple that it could remain terrifying throughout the film. In Underwater the monsters we see get bigger and bigger to the point where it almost seems like a joker where we have ended up. There was something there, but I should not have expected more than a January film.
Final: From the characters to the visuals, Underwater lacks in any sort of redeeming quality. The use of women is profane and the direction is either too much or too little, with no leeway in between. I don’t know what I was expecting for my first 2020 film, but I was not expecting something of this poor stature.
Oscar Chances: None
Current Tomato Score: 53%
Current Metacritic: 48
Current IMDb: 6.8/10
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.