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New Release Review [Cinema] - BLACK WATER: ABYSS

black water abyss review
Five cave explorers become trapped underground with a hungry crocodile.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Andrew Traucki

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

black water abyss poster


Following in the tradition of Jaws 3D, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Andrew Traucki's sequel to his 2007 thriller Black Water is another man/woman vs nature movie that's a sequel in name only. It makes sense for such sequels to introduce us to entirely new sets of characters, along with fresh animal antagonists, as the idea of people getting stuck in the same unlikely scenario involving creatures attempting to make mince meat out of them is a little far-fetched. Even more preposterous is the notion that the animals might return for revenge, though that didn't stop the writers of Jaws IV: The Revenge, in which a relative of the original movie's Great White laughably hunts down the surviving relatives of Chief Brody.

black water abyss review


Black Water: Abyss does however repeat the central premise of its predecessor. i.e. stranding a group of people in a confined, watery setting with a croc on the loose. In a prologue, we watch as a pair of Japanese tourists fall down a sinkhole into an underground cave system, where they are quickly munched on by a waiting croc. A member of the ensuing search party, stoner Cash (Anthony J. Sharpe), stumbles upon the sinkhole and promptly contacts his cave explorer mate Eric (Luke Mitchell), seeing it as an opportunity to make some tourism dollars.

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Eric ropes in his girlfriend Jennifer (Jessica McNamee, who has experience in this field, having starred in giant shark thriller The Meg), their pregnant friend Yolanda (Amali Golden) and her cancer survivor boyfriend Viktor (Benjamin Hoetjes) for an expedition to check out the caves. Once below ground the friends are enchanted by their find, but when a nearby levee breaks, the cave network quickly becomes flooded, leaving them trapped. As if that wasn't trouble enough, they also happen to be sharing the space with the croc responsible for polishing off the Japanese tourists.

black water abyss review


We've essentially seen this premise play out already this year in shark sequel 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, and Black Water: Abyss follows roughly the same narrative threads. What makes Traucki's film marginally more successful is that unlike 47MD:U, we can actually see what's happening here. His film's rival shark thriller made us squint and mess around with our TV's contrast settings just to get a handle on what we were seeing, as its cast negotiated murky waters and pitch black tunnels. Thankfully the protagonists of Black Water: Abyss have remembered to pack torches.

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Traucki nods to another shark thriller, 2016's The Shallows, with the added element of the waterline slowly rising, adding a ticking clock to his heroes' race to escape the cave in one piece. However, he struggles to convey this visually, and had his characters not mentioned it several times in dialogue, I wouldn't have been aware that this was even a problem.

black water abyss review


Black Water: Abyss fails to craft any memorable set-pieces for most of its narrative; it's too reliant on repeating the same sequence of someone attempting to outswim the oncoming croc as they try to get from point A to point B. It does make us sit up in its final moments when, just as we think the credits are about to roll, Traucki pulls one last surprise out of his limited bag of tricks and delivers the movie's highlight late on. Had the preceding 85 minutes been as tense as its closing segment, Black Water: Abyss might have gone down as a classic of Ozploitation to rival the 1987 killer croc classic Dark Age, or even its own 2007 predecessor. As it is, it's a middling addition to the sub-genre, but there's enough to keep devotees of Animal Attacks cinema mildly amused.

Black Water: Abyss is in UK/ROI cinemas from July 10th.




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