Norah (Kristen Stewart) is onboard the world’s deepest sub-aqueous drill. After a sudden pressure breach kills most of the crew, she and five other survivors, Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel), Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie), Paul (T.J. Miller), Emily (Jessica Henwick), and Smith (John Gallagher Jr.) set out to hoof it through the ocean to the nearest vessel, the Roebuck drill. Unfortunately, the breech was caused by creatures lying in wait for them.
The movie opens with Norah brushing her teeth and waxing philosophical about how she’s an empty-glass kind of gal, then jumps right into action and stays fast-paced and intense. It’s generally a paint-by-numbers subgenre: creature picks off crew members one by one. However, in this film, most of the problems come from the characters’ damn malfunctioning pressure suits–the creatures don’t really come into play as major antagonists until 74 minutes into the runtime. Still, it’s refreshing to have characters dying off from situations beyond their control rather than sheer stupidity. And the deaths aren’t super predictable; against all odds, characters survive acts like saying “We’ll be right back,” and poking a baby monster with a pen in the name of science.
I started out debating whether to watch the movie. I have a weird aversion to films that take place on the water, and this one has no scenes on land, not even for exposition. I wasn’t even sure it was strictly horror. But then I read that the creatures are basically supposed to be Cthulhus, so I gave in. It’s very reminiscent of Alien, from the drab color scheme to the characters. Norah is definitely almost as cool as Ripley. She’s the sensible one who says stuff like, “Dude, don’t check it out. Just come back.” She’s also tech smart, and she can defend herself; at one point, she straight-up pummels a sizable monster that’s trying to eat her.
The environmental bent to the script is obvious. Deepwater drilling isn’t great for the ecosystem. In case the opening, flashing newspaper clippings about how the drill’s shady-ass company keeps going even after weird sightings and crew disappearances doesn’t make it clear that underwater mining is dangerous and unethical in the point of view of the filmmakers, Emily blatantly points out, “We took too much. And now she’s [referring to Mother Earth] taking back. We’re not supposed to be down here. No one is.”
Circling back to the characters–they’re pretty likable. I didn’t wish any of them any specific harm, except maybe for Paul. He’s meant to be the source of comic relief, but I found him extremely annoying, particularly his habit of carrying around a stuffed rabbit named Lil Paul. I appreciated the more subtle humor, like when Norah ends up by herself on a shuttle, and the camera pans across a poster that states, “Working alone is against company policy.” Or my favorite, the ever-present robot voice extolling the virtues of the company playing over a shot of the creatures swimming outside: “Tian Industries. We’ve got big things in store for you.” Big things, indeed.
Overall, I was glad I’d watched it. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for sci-fi with a helping of eldritch horror.