Underwater (2020)

Playing like an effective combination of “Sphere” and “The Descent,” “Underwater” is the type of movie that would have done extremely well in the ’90s, but disappeared from the radar almost entirely upon its release in 2020. It’s a damn shame too, because this is really, really good stuff: Director William Eubank gets things going just about immediately after the retro-’90s credits (the type that encapsulates the context leading up to the narrative via some well-selected newspaper headlines), jumping into the story with breathless abandon and leaving the character work to the actors. It’s a really good approach too, because it lets the actors and their respective chemistry establish their dynamics while the plot moves forward fast and furious, while Eubank is free to heighten the tension via the use of sound and jarring imagery. Kristen Stewart is totally believable as lead Norah Price, alternately conveying both her panic and resolve through effective body language and to-the-point dialogue delivery that inform the audience on her emotional state at all times without getting lost in the type of long-winded emotional diversions that can often damage the flow of these types of survivalist horror entries. The supporting characters all register to an impressive degree throughout the narrative, so much so that each new death feels like a blow both to the characters and the audience because we actually care about them, and it gives the movie a participatory atmosphere: It’s a movie that’s aware of its audience’s expectations, and knows how to play with them without distracting from its central plot.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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