Unlike last year’s fresh and visually gratifying The Shallows, this year’s shark indie takes place 47 Meters Down, and is very much the worse for it. Since our protagonists, young sisters-in-Mexico-but-now-in-trouble Kate (Claire Holt) and Lisa (Mandy Moore), are trapped in a shark cage 47 Meters Down, the atmosphere is underwater-gloomy, the sisters’ faces are obscured by their diving masks, and the dialogue – transmitted in the story’s reality through a radio system in those masks – is distorted, often unclear and has to fight against the unrelenting sound of bubbles – a problem most movies don’t face.
On paper, the elements for suspense – sharks, rapidly depleting oxygen, a cage, risk of the bends – are all there, but on screen they add up to a whole lot of visual blah. The Shallows and most of Jaws took place in sunny daylight, and Open Water (2003) spent time and script setting up its characters with depth and sincerity. The set-up to 47 Meters Down – a measly eight minutes or so – is a joke, cheesy, clumsily directed and acted, and lacking in any meaningful engagement – while the rest is dark and obscure in the literal sense. You just can’t really see or hear it, and that doesn’t make for a good film in anyone’s book.