Digital Review: UNDERWATER

Apr 18, 2020 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

It’s 30 years in the future, and Tian Industries has dismissed the numerous rumors and stories of strange sightings and hazardous conditions at its deep water drilling operations nearly 7 miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Mechanical Engineer Norah (Kristen Stewart) is showering at the end of her shift when the Kepler Station lights start to flicker, the walls begin to creak and leak, and she senses something disastrous is about to happen. The station starts to crumble under the pressure of the water, and a power core meltdown is imminent. Norah and a few other surviving crew members make their way to the control room. The antenna to call for help has been destroyed, the escape pods are gone, and the station could blow at any moment. Their only hope of survival is the sister drilling station, Roebuck, which should still have some escape pods they can use to get to the surface. However, the station is a mile away, and the only way to get there is to walk through the pitch blackness and low temperatures of the ocean floor. No one has ever spent that much time outside of the station in a diving suit—would they have enough oxygen, and could the suits withstand the pressure for that long? There’s only one way to find out! And to make matters worse, this crew is about to discover that they are not alone—those rumors about strange creatures in the ocean are about to be proven true!

Underwater centers around Norah, a loner who finds comfort in her own cynicism. She’s had more of a glass-half-empty point of view ever since a devastating loss in her past. Norah is joined by nervous new guy Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie) who usually works the day shift, talkative wise-cracker Paul (T.J. Miller) who carries around his stuffed rabbit like it’s the most important crew member, sweethearts/co-workers Smith (John Gallagher Jr.) & Emily (Jessica Henwick), and their loyal Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel). The film initially kicks off in full action mode as the Kepler station crumbles, but then it turns into a more traditional horror film, slowly building the tension as some unseen enemy lurks in the darkness. The viewer is initially given just small glimpses of these creatures that are following the crew as they make their way to the Roebuck station, leaving it up to the imagination as to what this horror on the deep ocean floor actually is. There is also this sense of claustrophobia, making you feel like you are right there with Norah and the others as they struggle to breath inside their heavy, tight diving suits, and as they encounter each new danger while making their perilous journey. The threat becomes more and more evident as the crew are gruesomely eliminated one-by-one, and in the final act we finally discover the true extent to what this unlucky crew is up against, but is there any way to stop it?!

I first saw this film in the theater, and was a bit underwhelmed. However, I found myself enjoying it a lot more this second time around. I found the characters interesting, each with his or her own backstory and quirks, and the ensemble works well together. The first two acts of the film do a nice job of giving some really action-packed sequences while also doing the typical horror slow-burn, and providing some nice jump scares. The final act was the weakest for me, and I wasn’t really a fan of the ending—I actually preferred the alternate ending that is included in the bonus material. There was a lot of potential given the big reveal at the end of the film, and lots of places where this could have gone, or other franchises it could have pulled in, but this wasn’t fully realized. The ending felt a little bit anticlimactic, and rushed. This is a genre that has been done before, with films like The Abyss or Sphere, or even Alien. And some of those were a lot more successful. That said, I would still recommend checking this one out as it does provide pretty solid entertainment.

While the film is available digitally in 4K, it has only received a Blu-ray disc release as far as physical media. So the digital copy I was sent for review only redeemed in HD like the disc. However, I was quite impressed with the presentation. This is a very dark film, but I never really felt like I couldn’t see what was going on. The picture is quite beautiful and detailed, and I can’t imagine the 4K version looking that much better. Despite the fact that much of the film takes place underwater, these underwater scenes were filmed on a dry soundstage, with the glass visors of the dive suits and the flowing ocean water added later with effects. I never would have known this while watching the film—the effects are seamless and phenomenal, even down to the tiny bits of sand and algae floating in the water. The soundtrack is also extremely impressive—you feel like you are right there as the Kepler station is creaking, metal wires are snapping, and things are exploding and falling apart. And this immersive experience continues throughout the film, along with the booming, thudding of the bass to add to the tension and excitement.

The digital copy of the film appears to include all the same bonus material that can be found on the Blu-ray disc, as well as some digital-exclusive content. The supplemental material includes an audio commentary by the director and other crew members, over fifteen minutes of deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary, an alternate ending, a three-part hour-long making of featurette, and a montage of live bunny scenes that didn’t make it into the film.

What’s Included:

    Specs may vary by digital provider. Film is available for digital purchase in 4K, but digital code from Blu-ray only redeems in HD.

    Film: (1:34:59)

    • 1080p / Widescreen 2.40:1
    • Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
    • Subtitles: English SDH, French SDH, Spanish
    • Movies Anywhere compatible

    Availability of bonus material may vary by provider.

    • Extended/Deleted Scenes (14:48)
      Collection of six extended and one deleted scenes with optional commentary from director William Eubank, Jared Purrington, and Phil Gawthorne. Play All, or select from:

      • Crew Suit Up (Extended) (1:44)
        The crew gets geared up in the suit room.
      • Gantry Exit (Extended) (2:30)
        Norah and the Captain make their way across the gantry and down to the elevator.
      • Baby Clinger (Extended) (1:35)
        The crew examines the baby clinger.
      • Midway Station (Extended) (1:43)
        The crew arrives at the midway station.
      • Ocean Floor Walk (Extended) (5:25)
        The crew struggles to make their way through the rock garden and across the ocean floor, following the pylons.
      • Rock Garden (:49)
        The crew encounter glowing rocks as they cross the rock garden.
      • Smith Departure (Extended) (1:02)
        Longer goodbye speech from Smith.
    • Call the Mover (Extended Scene)* (1:30)
      The crew waits by the entrance to the transport to Midpoint Station while Norah tries to activate the people mover. This scene is exclusive to Movies Anywhere.
    • Alternate Ending* (2:55)
      Norah’s fate takes a different turn in this alternate ending for the film. Watch with optional commentary from director William Eubank, Jared Purrington, and Phil Gawthorne. This scene is exclusive to the digital copy.
    • Real Bunny Montage (3:26)
      Collection of scenes that were filmed using a real bunny that were ultimately replaced with Paul’s stuffed bunny in the film. Watch with optional commentary from director William Eubank, Jared Purrington, and Phil Gawthorne.
    • Making Underwater
      Three-part behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film.

      • Design (17:54)
        The cast and filmmakers talk about the designing this underwater world and bringing it to life. From shooting a quick proof-of-concept pitch, to designing and building the sets in an abandoned Lowe’s in New Orleans, and creating the suits and props. Includes concept artwork, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with director William Eubank, associate producer Jared Purrington, producer Tonia Davis, visual effects supervisor Axel Bonami, production designer Naaman Marshall, supervising art director Erik Osusky, mechanical department/legacy effects Richard Landon, art director Kelly Curley, and stars Kristen Stewart (“Norah Price”), Jessica Henwick (“Emily Haversham”), John Gallagher Jr. (“Liam Smith”), and T.J. Miller (“Paul Abel”).
      • Production (19:51)
        The cast and filmmakers talk about the technologies used to make it look like the characters are at the bottom of the ocean, shooting in chronological order, the challenges of working in the heavy suits, utilizing practical lighting, the stunts and action sequences, pretending to walk in water, working in wet and dry sets and tanks, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with director William Eubank, producer Tonia Davis, director of photography Bozan Bazelli, production designer Naaman Marshall, stunt coordinator Mark Rayner, special effects foreman Mark Byers, visual effects supervisor Blair Clark, and stars Kristen Stewart, Jessica Henwick, T.J. Miller, and John Gallagher Jr.
      • Creatures & Visual Effects (19:56)
        The cast and filmmakers talk about the horror themes, creating a claustrophobic feeling, adding the digital effects such as flowing water and glass to the helmets, designing and creating the creatures, and more. Includes concept artwork, previsualization and behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with director William Eubank, visual effects supervisor Axel Bonami, visual effects supervisor Blair Clark, associate producer Jared Purrington, director of photography Bozan Bazelli, and stars Jessica Henwick, and Kristen Stewart.
    • Audio Commentary (1:34:59)
      Director William Eubank, concept artist/associate producer Jared Purrington, and contributor Phil Gawthorne provide a fun an informative commentary for the film, sharing lots of behind-the-scenes stories about the production.
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:20)


Final Thoughts:

My Rating

Underwater is a pretty solid underwater thriller featuring an entertaining ensemble of characters and a strong performance by Kristen Stewart in the lead role. I don’t think it quite stuck the final act, but overall it did a nice job of providing some exciting action and tense horror moments. The film looks and sounds excellent, and the release includes a solid selection of bonus material that will surely please fans. This release is certainly work a look.