“We drilled to the bottom of the ocean, and we don’t know what came out.”

From the deepest depths of January horror come “Underwater,” the newest film from 20th Century Fox that looks to take advantage of all those afraid of what might be lurking on the bottom of the ocean fear.

While the initial trailer for the film impressed me, its release date put a large indicator of the film’s potential quality. January has always been the dumping ground for cinema, with terrible horror films marking the beginning of each new year. “Underwater” seemed like it might be different, however.

And, in terms of overall quality, it was much better than most films released in early January. This necessarily doesn't mean it was good, just better than what I expected.

“Underwater” sees a group of underwater miners deal with a calamitous event that destroys most of their base. As they struggle to get to escape pods that can safely deliver them to the surface, they begin to realize that there may be more to the destruction than they originally thought.

“Underwater” wastes no time getting into the action; the mining station is blowing up within the first three minutes of the film. While this could be seen as a positive, wasting none of the audience’s time with set up, it hurt the overall experience.

Characters are introduced in the heat of the action, giving little to no time to get to know them. This makes the entire film feel just a little less important, with character deaths and big moments not hitting the way that they should. It feels as if the film had taken 10-20 extra minutes to introduce characters and delve into their backstories and motivations, it would’ve gone a long way.

For the most part, the characters are likeable. With what little time is given to get to know them, they all seem like there is something interesting motivating them; I just wish I knew what it was.

“Underwater” features mostly fantastic performances, with Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel and Jessica Henwick being the standouts. The only performance in the film that didn’t sit right for me was that of T.J. Miller. Miller is one of those actors that plays the same character in every movie; he seemingly can’t go one sentence without cracking a joke. Seeing as how the rest of the film is incredibly serious and dour, his comedy feels completely out of place and rarely lands.

The best thing that “Underwater” does is build tension. The film constantly bombards you with stressful events; I found myself jumping more than once due to effective jump scares.

Sadly, the film doesn’t hold this tension throughout the whole film, with the last third being incredibly disappointing. It makes a large reveal which simply didn’t work for me and lessened the intimidation of the monsters hunting the crew for most of the film.

If “Underwater” was released 50 years ago, it would’ve been seen as groundbreaking. Today, however, the story of a small crew being hunted in an isolated environment is something that we’ve seen time and time again. While the film does try and put a new spin on it, it doesn’t fully succeed and feels like something that I’ve seen before just done worse.

With a little more work, “Underwater” could’ve become a much better film. It lies on the precipice of greatness, with good performances and a compelling premise. Sadly, with little in character development and originality, the film will most likely be forgotten not long after it leaves theaters.

2.5/5 Stars

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