In the Deep. 2016. Directed by Johannes Roberts. Screenplay by Roberts & Ernest Riera.
Starring Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine, Santiago Segura, Yani Gellman, Chris J. Johnson, & Axel Mansilla.
The See/Dimension Films/Flexibon Films/Fyzz Facility.
Not Rated. 87 minutes.
Most of us love a good horror about what really scares us. You can see all the possession movies, all the ghosts, the slashers, but what often gets to the majority of viewers is something plausible. Or at least something you’ve dreamed of, terrorised yourself over. For some it’s clowns. For me, it’s sharks.
Ever since I saw the Spielberg landmark classic, the shark picture which, single-handed, created the summer blockbuster, well let’s just say I’ve not seen the water the same since. Honestly, it changed me. I used to love the sea as a boy. Now I loathe it. Because of people like Spielberg, whose wonderful movie scarred me. After that film people tried to replicate its terror, though none really have. Other than a couple decent ones, the cinematic sea is filled with stinkers.
In the Deep, also known under the title 47 Metres Down, is a surprising little gem. Although its premise isn’t overly original, the execution is spectacularly unsettling. Instead of going the same way as other similarly themed films there’s a slightly more creepy element to this setup, which sees two sisters stuck on the ocean floor after getting into a shark cage on a slightly rusty boat. This is sort of scarier. Whereas characters in certain other shark flicks are left in the open ocean, they can go anywhere. Yet these women are stuck for a large part of their story, caged at the bottom of the ocean, and surrounded by great white sharks. Director Johannes Roberts makes the most of that scenario, bringing the viewer’s heart rate to a maximum while focusing more on suspense and tension than bodies getting torn apart. As a lover of horror, I’m never against seeing some blood. To make a scary flick without resorting to much of the physical horror? That’s special.
I’m always happy to see Matthew Modine. He is charismatic in the most nonchalant sense that it’s near ridiculousness. He’s awesome. Not that he’s a central character, he plays a minor supporting role, but he’s around enough to be enjoyable. Best of all, he’s natural as the hippie-ish boat captain cum shark adventure entrepreneur.
Both Mandy Moore and Claire Holt are solid. They are, obviously, the crux of the film, as they play the two lead characters put into the terrifying situation with which we’re dealing. Plunged into an emotional, physical headspace, the two women really bring the audience to a visceral place. I’m not even a huge fan of Moore, but she does the job. She is truly convincing, and her fear is powerful. Also, there’s a nice little arc to her character. Rather than stay the typical scared person, her character evolves slightly within a short amount of time. She almost becomes fearless by the end, though not completely. Most of all, these two feel like sisters. Their bond, the way they talk and act with each other, all these little pieces make the characters feel real. And that’s sort of missing in a lot of these shark movies. We often get stuck with a married couple, happy or otherwise, and it becomes about their marriage, how the breakdown happens under stress. In opposition, our characters here pull together, they strengthen. It’s an atypical plot development between characters in contrast to movies like The Reef and Open Water (both of which I did happen to enjoy, by the way). Furthermore, to have just two characters really stuck in that situation is much more efficient. When you have more, they become fodder for shark kills. Yes, we do see another character get chomped. But the actual deaths are kept minimal. What lays the teeth into us here is the acting combined with all the tension created through the direction, the editing, plus great music and sound design all around.
Lots of good ocean cinematography, nice underwater camerawork all around. Particularly love the claustrophobic way we’re drawn into the situation of these women. Initially when the cage goes to the ocean floor, there’s a frantic few shots with Lisa (Moore) struggling, hyperventilating, Kate (Holt) trying to help her; you feel a part of the panic, your breath catches witnessing the frenzy. Along with those shots Roberts mixes in this great little view of the blood in one of their masks escaping slightly, staining the water red. So much to take in right after this intense moment of watching them sink all the way down. The pacing, the intensity, it’s all spot on. Never lets up, really. Once they begin their descent you’re plunged – literally – into this pulse pounding scenario that only seems to get worse.
This brings me to another aspect I love: the sound. First off, you have the sound design. We get to feel the actual pounding of the pulse – not ours, but often Lisa, whose first time scuba diving isn’t going nearly as fun as planned. In addition, the impressive musical sounds of tomandandy make for an exciting one-two punch. While we hear the sounds of the ocean, or the lack of sound, the heartbeats, the air in the helmets and the bubbles rushing out, tomandandy provide us with a further dose of psychological dread by suffocating you with a sonic wall of electronics. Each one of these aspects is accomplished well enough to hook you. Together, they make the movie a nice thrill ride that horrifies without having to go the nasty, bloody route other shark features try to execute.
I’ve got to give this a 4 star rating. In the Deep is full of excitement. There were times I jumped, once or twice I felt revolted by the little blood and physical horror that were actually onscreen (super effective). Holt and Moore got to me as the sisters, their whole plot kept me glued to the screen. Their final ascent to try and make it out of the sea alive is the craziest sequence and I absolutely dropped my jaw at one specific shot – you’ll know it when they try to light a flare, very gorgeous, horrifically (in the best way possible) framed to the fullest extent.
Above all else, the whole movie completely subverted my expectations, one plot point to the next. Not something I usually expect from one of these types of movies. Right up to the end it challenged my perceptions of what I thought might happen. At the very least you’ll appreciate the effort of the writing to stay fresh. Not a huge fan of much else Roberts has done as director. Although I do hope that now, with this veritable success, he’ll start to do some better, more exciting pictures. This is a lot of fun, in that scare the shit out of you way that the good shark adventures get your adrenaline flowing hard.