It’s hard to screw up a premise as simple as that of 47 Meters Down: a pair of vacationing sisters (Mandy Moore and Claire Holt) are taking a dip in a shark cage when a malfunction severs the cage from its boat. The cage plummets to the ocean floor, leaving the pair to contend with a limited air supply, hungry sharks and a lack of relevant experience in a desperate, nearly-real-time bid for survival.
The 400-Word Review: 47 Meters Down
By Sean Collier
June 19, 2017
And yet, this is a pretty bad movie.
The biggest problem is a stilted, full-of-itself script by director/writer Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera, which considers clichéd twists delicious and impossibly broad character-building compelling. (One sister has had a recent breakup, after a boyfriend left because she’s “boring,” so the other advocates for bad behavior and needless risks in the name of making the ex jealous via Instagram.)
Roberts comes from the late-night-cable school of horror filmmaking, with few ideas about building tension or suspense that don’t involve jump scares and century-old misdirection tactics. Relying on those old standbys is one thing when dealing with a supernatural or stealthy foe, but briefly consider the mechanics of orchestrating sudden scares with sharks: In 47 Meters Down, fish pop out of nowhere like Jason Voorhees hiding in a shower stall, often requiring us to accept that a 20-foot killing machine was invisible until the moment it appeared on camera.
Moore, despite an endless supply of likability and charm, is out of her depth here. (Please note that the preceding ocean pun, while awful, was infinitely wittier than any dialogue contained in the film.) Holt isn’t too much better; Matthew Modine, here on what was definitely a one-day shoot, simply looks eager to return to the set of “Stranger Things.”
So why did this happen? Well, see, because of “This is Us,” in my estimation. Quite early in the production process, 47 Meters Down was earmarked for a streaming-and-DVD release, relegated to the bottomless pit of curiosity viewings and notable only to horror diehards. But at some point, Dimension Films sold the project to something called Entertainment Studios (which, as far as I can tell, has not released a feature). Around the time Moore’s stock rose due to “This is Us,” the film was bumped up to a theatrical release.
In other words, if you loved “This is Us,” it’s your fault I had to watch this.
My Rating: 2/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark