Director: Johannes Roberts
Stars: Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju
A couple of years ago horror filmmaker Johannes Roberts took the po-faced brio of Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers and reconstituted it into the giddily enjoyable slasher throwback The Strangers: Prey at Night. Based on that gorgeous and bloody 90 minutes of nonsense, I’ll happily follow him anywhere. Now, washing up on UK shores via Netflix, he takes a similar approach to his own material. In 2017 he brought us the largely forgettable 47 Meters Down; a shark-peril movie that took itself a little too seriously. His remix – 47 Meters Down Uncaged – is like that movie on Spring Break. It’s wantonly silly and embraces B-movie gimmicks with open arms (that get chomped off). It is more memorable and far more enjoyable for it.
It also goes to show that ham-headed hardman Jason Statham isn’t the only one mad enough to dive back into the water to fight a shark…
Yucatán, Mexico. Meet Mia (Sophie Nélisse), a perfectly ordinary American teen who is picked on by a set of mean girls at the start of the movie because, well, because no reason. Girls can be shitty. Uncaged opens with its tongue firmly in cheek; Mia plunging into a swimming pool in slow motion after being pushed by said bitches at the (Matthew?) Modine International School for Girls. Perhaps her tormentors are jealous that her absentee daddy happens to be Steve Irwin-style underwater cave diver Ben (Davi Santos)?
Turning her nose up at an opportunity to take a glass-bottomed-boat tour of the local shark life, Mia instead goes on a joyride with her step-sister Sasha (Corinne Foxx) and pals Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Stallone). Going off grid, they decide to hangout at – hey! – a secluded water hole that leads, obviously, to a previously unexplored underwater Mayan city.
See, this is wonderful already.
“Don’t get eaten by a shark,” is what Mia’s dad says to her as he drops her off at the jetty. Naturally this group of untrained teenage girls decide to go diving among the ruins (“Oh my God this is so crazy!”), only to find themselves in shark infested waters. But these aren’t regular great whites; these are hyper-sensitive blind great whites. Trapped in an underwater maze and with their air supplies running out, Mia and her friends have what amounts to a particularly shitty day.
The ruins afford Roberts plenty of “boo!” potential for his pointy-faced fiends; lots of dark nooks for them to pop-out from, jaws’a’snapping. And, later, the use of a red beacon that emits a powerful shark-scaring frequency (yes!) also allows him an opportunity to mix up the colour palette and play now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t with his aquatic menaces. The ruins themselves are (naturally) set-up with a yellow-tinged lighting display, extending the film’s rainbow aura into a range of garish greens. If his former shark flick was going for mounting tension and the quasi-realism of survival paranoia, this latest is more of an unashamed fun factory, with little sympathy for its young heroines and their ambitious stupidity.
Granted, things do get a little murky in the mid-section, however the third act is deliriously bonkers, and might only have been improved upon if a potentially life-saving vessel of rescue had turned out to be steered itself by yet another shark. Regardless, Uncaged bows out on a high without getting the Bends as it races to the surface.
Along the way Roberts employs more slow-motion than the recent Baywatch movie remembered to, and shows a continuing affection for setting his saturated images to the tune of ’80s bangers. This is a director following in the footsteps of Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D, Crawl) and Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, The Shallows), gleefully serving up efficient, schlocky, kinda-indulgent genre fair that’s notable for technical proficiency as well as a penchant for fun.
His material is 100% disposable, but these low-stakes don’t come through in the craft. If he’s gonna make a ‘bad movie’, he’s gonna make it look great. He’s all-in and that makes for rather enjoyable work. There’s no real depth here, let alone 47 metres of it. But right now, in our present climate, bright and batty rides like this one make for some most-welcome escapism.
Seriously, I’ve watched this twice in one day, send help.