Black Water: Abyss Image

Seriously, how shoddily were these poor souls written? “Things have been bad for us,” Jennifer (Jessica McNamee) confides about Eric (Luke Mitchell) early on. “Sometimes, I feel like he’s keeping his options open.” That’s literally all the character development we get before our heroes embark on their treacherous journey. It’s surprising how little attention screenwriters John Ridley and Sarah Smith paid to such basics, considering both of them come from quite a robust TV writing background.

Jessica McNamee battled a giant shark in The Meg, and hillbilly locusts in Locusts, so she’s no stranger to expressing fear when threatened by CGI/puppet/human monsters. “Does anyone have service?” her character asks in the deep jungle, hundreds of feet underground. “Those painkillers should kick in soon, all right?” she tells her chewed-the-f*ck-up comrade later. When presented with lines like this, who can blame her for struggling? Meryl Streep couldn’t pull this off (okay, maybe Meryl could). The rest of the cast fares even worse.

“…resorts to shock jolts, quick cutaways, and setting most of his film in the dark.”

The shark flick Open Water was most likely shot for much less than this, and it’s about fifty times more effective – mainly because writer-directed Chris Kentis crafted characters we cared for and had a firm grasp of plot structure, squeezing every bit of tension out of his limited setting. Traucki resorts to shock jolts, quick cutaways, and setting most of his film in the dark. There are endless, prolonged stretches of characters trudging through grimy water or shouting out each other’s names, rendering the film’s 97-minute running time unendurable.

From its unimaginative opening, involving a dumb tourist falling to her death to the anticlimactic day-lit finale (if you get this far, you deserve some sort of Steve Irwin award), Black Water: Abyss will make you want to Crawl back into Lake Placid. To reiterate: if you’ve come for the croc, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you’ve come for anything else… well, why did you come at all?

Black Water: Abyss (2020)

Directed: Andrew Traucki

Written: John Ridley, Sarah Smith

Starring: Jessica McNamee, Luke Mitchell, Amali Golden, Anthony J. Sharpe, etc.

Movie score: 3/10

Black Water: Abyss Image

"…if you've come for the croc, you'll be sorely disappointed."

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