Runtime: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Horror
Release date: June 16, 2017
Director: Johannes Roberts
Starring: Mandy Moore as Lisa, Claire Holt as Kate and Matthew Modine as Captain Taylor
In the summer of 1975, a lone swimmer paddled through the waves on a New England beach. Sunset cast the water around her in jet black. Suddenly, she vanished.
Seconds dragged on, until her head reappeared above the water, screaming. She thrashed hysterically before being pulled under again. Seconds passed, then a minute. Waves lapped against a nearby buoy. There were no more screams.
Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” gave Hollywood its first shark attack. Neither film entertainment nor conservation would ever fully recover. This was a film that changed the world. It is therefore understood that successive shark-themed horror films will inevitably fall short of the first and best in the genre. Precisely how short they fall is a separate matter. “47 Meters Down” plummets even further than the title would lead one to expect.
Perhaps it is best to begin with the few things this film does well. There are a few genuinely ominous scenes. When sisters Lisa, played by Mandy Moore, and Kate, played by Claire Holt, find themselves trapped at the bottom of the ocean, viewers get a point of view that stares into watery black and blue oblivion. We sense the characters’ terror and share their disorientation. We join them as they swim through blinding flotsam, with no idea what may be lurking close by.
The sharks are entirely CGI. This is not always a bad thing, but it is here. The shark in 2016’s “The Shallows” is primarily computer generated and is depicted during the daytime, in crystal clear water. This is a visual choice that speaks to a studio’s confidence in their product. What little we see of the sharks in “47 Meters” is, perhaps thankfully, wrapped in darkness. Given their video game-like appearance, one wonders if the deep, dark sea environment was not chosen to mask an anemic visual effects budget.
The film is most compelling when Lisa and Kate search for new oxygen tanks. Losing air adds urgency, and drowning feels like a much scarier fate than being eaten by an Xbox shark.
Something needs to be said about the film’s most horrific aspect: its dialogue. Is this a teen slasher flick or a survival horror? Judging by the teeth-grindingly vapid script alone, you would never know the difference. Do yourself a favor and sit or swim this one out.
Should you see it? No
If you want a good shark movie this summer, skip “47 Meters” and fish “Deep Blue Sea” out of the archives. The film is from 1998, and still the sharks look convincing because they are a mix of animatronics and CGI. The plot is basically “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” if the antagonists were hyper-intelligent, 3-ton sharks instead of apes. Sounds promising, right?
Collegian reporter Ryan Greene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Ryangre75057034.