The inky depths are home to some peculiar entities: sunken wrecks, those fish with lanterns on their heads and now ‘Underwater’, a watery horror movie that seems hellbent on reminding you of other, better films through its admittedly bracing runtime. The plot is ‘The Abyss’-lite, the horror beats feel cadged from ‘Alien’ and the seafood-looking CG monsters appear to have been liberated from a bin outside a branch of Iceland.
It’s a shame, because ‘Underwater’ starts promisingly. Without any preamble at all, a massive drilling station seven miles down in the Mariana Trench is hit by an odd seismic event and Kristen Stewart’s engineer is fleeing through disintegrating corridors, picking up a few survivors along the way. Soon, Vincent Cassel’s injured captain is providing grizzled leadership, TJ Miller is dispensing wisecracks and there’s a half-arsed crew romance to distract everyone from the weird tentacled creatures that just dragged off one of their number. With a particularly grisly death involving a cracked diving helmet, it’s the kind of breakneck opening that has you strapping yourself in for a visceral hour or so of thrills and spills. Sadly, it never materialises.
As the panicked crew navigate their escape across the seabed, the lack of time spent establishing the characters catches up with the movie. This bunch have fewer dimensions than a box of dover sole, with only Stewart able to bring any depth to her gritty, Ellen Ripley-like mechanical engineer. More damagingly, director William Eubank (‘The Signal’) can’t decide if ‘Underwater’ is a disaster flick or a monster movie. It ends up sinking between the two stalls: too unfocused for the former; not scary enough for the latter. All that early promise vanishes into the murk.