Review by Sarah Williams
Ever want to see some of the most insufferable, empty people you will ever meet on a screen brutally killed by crocodiles? Well you’re in luck with Black Water: Abyss, as everyone is so unlikeable you’re not only rooting for the beast, but wanting to be it.
A sequel to the 2007 Australian sleeper hit, Abyss loses steam in any semblance of narrative or investment by refusing to develop its characters beyond pests to be exterminated. Eric (Luke Mitchell) and Yolanda (Amali Golden) lead the way, with Jennifer (Jessica McNamee) and Viktor (Benjamin Hoetjes) in tow, on an impromptu adventure into a subterranean cave Eric is intrigued by. The trip soon becomes the romantic getaway from hell as the four are trapped in the increasingly narrow cave tunnels by a storm, and a hungry reptile is ready to snack.
Admittedly, the cast of characters does play the game down there well, and no one makes dumb decisions, clear they know what they’re getting into. They aren’t whiny, don’t squabble unnecessarily, but everyone is so devoid of personality it's hard to care past the spectacle of the kill itself. They seem like bots at times, pre-programmed straw-men who make most of the right decisions, except for what kills them. These kills are well done, sparing much of the blood and gore for what we don’t see, a creature that rarely shows its face spare for a creeping sense of dread, the best case scenario for horror beyond the big-budget name brand flicks.
At times feeling like a reptilian knockoff of The Descent, it does get some solid scares in. If you’re unlike me and are able to be unsettled by a horror movie that doesn’t give you a tolerable audience surrogate, or at least someone to pity and be invested in, it’s a fun, if shallow ride at times. Whereas The Descent knows itself as high energy, shock driven, and gutsy, Black Water tries to ride on its scaly menace that does not quite provide the fear factor without an existing fear factor outside a few gimmicky jump scares. The scariest thing here is nature, and the tropical storm keeping the pair of couples down, rather than any beast that may come.
Black Water: Abyss almost works better as a disaster flick than anything else, but its lower budget and unmemorable performances keep it from going down with the greats in that genre. It’s mindless popcorn entertainment with a nice setting, the kind of late night ‘scary movie’ that starts to blend together with little difference outside the placement of jump scares. It’s not poorly made for a sequel this late in the game from the original, which does not share any characters, but it begins to blur together with the many similar films on the market, it's hard to find any stand-out element, or hook, for anything beyond the die-hard genre fan.
Black Water: Abyss is now available on VOD.