Sharks!

47MD-Poster-Small

47 Meters Down is a British horror film set in Mexico that follows two sisters who go shark diving. Older sister Lisa (Mandy Moore) takes her sister Kate (Claire Holt) with her on vacation after Lisa’s boyfriend dumps her. On a whim, the two go ahead and follow some locals to a shark-diving boat and take the plunge. Things go awry as the cable snaps, and the cage (along with the wench) plummets to the ocean floor. The two must survive and find a way to escape with limited oxygen and sharks around every corner.

Shark films seem to come and go every few years ever since the legendary Jaws came to the big screen. Every shark film will inevitably be compared to Jaws it seems, and I am going to try to avoid doing that for this review. 47 Meters Down does some stuff right and some stuff in an oddly annoying fashion.

The bulk of the narrative’s problems come in the first fifteen minutes. The absent boyfriend could have just been a plot-point to get the sisters to Mexico (as though there could be no other plausible reason), but instead the boyfriend keeps coming up. Kate more or less bullies Lisa into going shark watching to show that “she isn’t boring” like the boyfriend had said. Romantic plot structures like this fit oddly into high-school dramas, and here it seemed even weirder. The audience’s link to the sisters is not created well enough for us to have a lot of investment in them in the first few scenes.

I have mentioned before that the opening segments of horror films are incredibly important, and this one doesn’t totally miss the mark. One thing I have to praise the film for is that they get into the water quickly. (When my wife and I entered the theater I had guessed it would take more than half of the film—I am glad I was wrong). The pre-disaster portion of the narrative serves its function (albeit imperfectly) of getting the characters to the moment of the disaster.

The movie thrives once it is just Kate and Lisa in the cage with the sharks. Before that, we have to deal with stilted plots and awkward (or completely unlikable) side characters. For example, why would someone who gets paid to show people sharks hire someone who is going to try to scare the customers? It was stupid.

Anyway, the sharks look good in the film, and they stay in the shadows most of the film. Keeping them less present makes the threat seem more frightening, and less predictable. Both Moore and Holt play their parts well, and the film offers some good popcorn fun.

Some reviews are noting that the film is unrealistic—shocking. Apparently, the timing of oxygen is inaccurate to the movie. Whether or not this is a deal breaker for you will depend on your adherence to realism. One thing I can say is that the film didn’t seem horribly unrealistic in the timing and events surrounding the oxygen and such.

It is hard for me to say whether or not this movie is scary. For me, it isn’t. I grew up in land-locked states, so the threat of sharks never resonated with me. I haven’t been to the ocean in twenty years or so. Yet, there were vocal shrieks in the audience. I found the film to be more of an adventure, but several folks were visibly shaken.

Coming into the theater with a fear of sharks is likely going to be a factor in whether or not one likes the film. A truly exceptional horror film will make everyone in the audience scared. While I don’t think this is an exceptional film it is certainly one that will satisfy a niche audience that has been ignored by big studios and subjected to crappy SyFy movies for a while at this point.

The film provides a couple decent jump scares, but unfortunately some of the surprises are telegraphed too obviously. For fans of this specific genre of horror there will be a lot to enjoy. For non-genre fans, it is a competent popcorn flick that lacks depth. 5/10

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