By Chris Campo
I own a Virtual Reality system. I can handle the games where you are thrown into a haunted house, chased by zombies or are being harassed by clowns. What I always have trouble with in VR is those games where you are submerged into the ocean, stuck in a cage as a great white shark stalks you. Sharks, and the ocean surrounding them, scare the shit out of me. You would think that a horror film where characters are in the exact situation I can barley handle in a video game would scare me, right? That's what I hoped, at least.
47 Meters Down picks up with two sisters on vacation in Mexico. Lisa (Mandy Moore) invited her younger sister Kate (Claire Holt) on this vacation after being dumped by her boyfriend back home, who claimed Lisa was "too boring". Lisa came to Mexico to prove her boyfriend wrong, thinking that if she shows her adventurous side, he will want her back. This leads the sisters to go cage diving with great white sharks. When their line snaps, they are trapped 47 meters down, at the bottom of the ocean, being circled by multiple sharks. With limited contact to the surface and limited oxygen, the two sisters must work together to survive long enough to be rescued.
Shortly after you get done laughing at the name, and logo, of the distribution company who released this film, Entertainment Studios (I mean, come on) we are introduced to the two leading ladies. I wasn't terribly familiar with either actress, so I didn't know what type of performances to expect. Unfortunately, I was not too impressed. Both leads are remarkably one note. These characters are just plain awful. A lot of the characterization problems can be pinned on the screenplay, so there's that. Their motivation for going underwater with sharks is literally just to impress a man, making it quite eye-roll inducing.
In case you didn't know, this film was initially produced to be straight to home release, so on digital retailers and Blu-Ray. Thanks to the success of the relatively small budgeted (and MUCH better) film, The Shallows, it got a theatrical release. This explains how nontheatrical the look of the film is. It feels like a YouTube video on the big screen. I've seen films by actual YouTubers in theatres that looked better than this film. Sure, the movie is currently making money, but still, this film should have stayed out of theatres. The cinematography is rather stale and the atmosphere of the film feels very fake. The shots of the cage slamming against the ocean floor look especially bad.
The film does have some shots of a practical shark, at least. There's a pretty cool behind the scenes shot of Mandy Moore hugging one of the fake sharks. However, the thick of the shark shots, and there's surprisingly a lot, are CGI. Much to my surprise, the sharks look fine, especially since they're mostly seen in low light. Sadly, they are also never scary. I am terrified of sharks, this film should have made me squirm, but no. Scares are telegraphed, often with characters quite literally yelling "the shark's right behind you!" right before the shark jumps at the camera with a loud boom sound effect accompanying it. There's one scare where a group of sharks are revealed by a character lighting a flare, which could have been effective, but it's so oddly edited that I ended up laughing to myself instead.
To be fair, this film has some cool ideas. For one, the film sort of got me when characters were either short of oxygen and are about to suffocate, or are swimming in total darkness, unaware of their surroundings, including above and below. These scenes can get genuinely tense, until a character starts spewing dialogue. These are the only moments in which I had any enjoyment while sitting in the theatre. But hey, the couple in front of me was cheering and gasping throughout the film, so to each their own. I must also say that the film is very short. It's lean and it gets right into things within at least ten minutes. It's ninety minutes, but felt seventy-five at most.
By far, the most infuriating aspect of the film is the ending. Now, I wont spoil it, but it needs to be mentioned. So there's a bit of a twist very late in the third act, and I sort of dug it. I felt the cut-to-black coming, and I was fully prepared for the film to end on the grim note it just set up. However, the film never cut to black. It didn't have the balls to end on a sour note and shock the audience. It played for another 3 minutes or so and we got a semi-happy ending. I was sitting in the cinema fuming at how poorly done it was.
If you are craving to sink your teeth into a shark movie this summer, just watch The Shallows. Wait, what am I talking about? Jaws. WATCH JAWS! That film is forty years old and it has yet to meet its match. This isn't a Jaws review, but still, go watch Jaws. 47 Meters Down will more than likely be on my worst of the year list come December. At least is wasn't nearly as bad as The Book of Henry, which I saw a few days ago. Before I mention any other film in this 47 Meters Down review, I'll just end it. Don't see this film.
1 1/2 Stars
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