Let’s go cave exploring.
Black Water: Abyss is another creature feature where five idiots get trapped in a cave with a dangerous crocodile.
I loved Crawl when it came out and had hoped this one would aim for the same level of brutality and surprising intelligence that film had to offer. Unfortunately, this one falters a bit.
Our characters fit into fairly traditional horror movie typology. We have two couples and a tag-along friend (guess who dies first?) to give us our corporate approved group of five. We also get the annoying and endless trend of their being interpersonal problems with the group. I don’t want to give spoilers (even though it is obvious), but the entire drama between friends could have been lifted out of the film. In the end, it all amounts to nothing.
Why stories spend so long on making sure we don’t like the characters is something I will never understand. One couple is strained due to a lack of adventure (I guess) and the other couple is strained due to questions of loyalty. No scene, let alone the narrative, is illuminated by these additions.
However, the movie gets to the point quick enough. As our group goes into an unexplored cave with the intention of somehow making money of the discovery, they ignore the potential dangers of a storm. So, of course, the cave floods once they are in it and discover they have wandered into a crocodile’s territory. To the film’s credit, we get to the tension quickly.
The cave itself makes for an interesting setting. The film embraces the almost singular location of the story and does a lot of things right. The tense moments have some appropriate build-up and we are left waiting for the next strike. While there are a couple cheap jumpscares the bulk of the middle act works well.
Despite some odd logical (or illogical) choices that will make you want to scream “Stop going into the water!” the characters do a good job being proactive. They plan and try new avenues of escape quickly. I liked that there is not a lot of handwringing throughout in deciding what to do next.
I knew this film has gotten middling to negative reviews and was honestly a little confused by this as the film went. Sure, it isn’t going to be the best of the year, but it proved an effective creature feature.
Then the final act began.
The movie falls apart in the last twenty or so minutes as our characters go from making critical decisions to making completely idiotic ones. (Sure, some of the earlier decisions weren’t smart but there was an inherent logic to follow). Once our party number dwindles it seems like we have to race towards the end.
The crocodile also changes from being a territorial creature to an almost Jason-esque monster hunting them. Further, it is so obvious that these final scenes were tacked on as a last-minute attempt to ramp up tension that it feels almost absurdly fake. While the earlier narrative is not perfect it also isn’t completely ridiculous.
I think part of the issue is that the film seems to want to transcend a people versus nature to a people versus monster in the final act. It simply doesn’t work, and while this was likely done to appease audience desires, the odd tonal shift doesn’t appear to have paid off for many.
A weak intro and a poor ending leave this one feeling a bit below par. It isn’t a disaster—granted, the ending will annoy you. However, the actors mostly do a good job (though are oddly bad at crying) and there is ample tension. I can’t suggest this one unless you’re a super fan of crocodile or shark movies. For folks who aren’t sure, I think Crawl is a significantly better entry point to this subgenre of horror.
I wanted to mention this earlier. The film does a great job keeping the crocodile in shadows—he looks good. I’m sure they lacked the uber budget of other films, so the team is smart to keep things underwater. The problem is for everything this one does right there is something done wrong.
In the end, it feels like a film that simply got away from the narrative foundations. A simpler story with a more logical ending would have been better.