47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED, the follow-up to 2017’s 47 Meters Down, is the latest film from director Johannes Roberts, co-written by Roberts and Ernest Riera, and centers on a group of teenage girls who encounter a slew of deadly sharks while cave diving. The film stars Sistine Stallone, in her film debut, Corinne Foxx (Sweet/Vicious), Brianne Tju (Light as a Feather), Sophie Nelisse (The Book Thief), Brec Bassinger (The Goldbergs), John Corbett (Sex and the City) and Nia Long (NCIS: Los Angeles).
To best describe the film, I’ll turn to the official synopsis: “The film follows the diving adventure of four teenage girls (Corinne Foxx, Sistine Stallone, Sophie Nelisse, and Brianne Tju) expolring a submerged Mayan City. Once inside, their rush of excitement turns into a jolt of terror as they discover the sunken ruins are a hunting ground for deadly Great White Sharks. With their air supply steadily dwindling, the friends must navigate the underwater labyrinth of claustrophobic caves and eerie tunnels in search of a way out of their watery hell.”
I love aquatic horror – there is something inherently terrifying about the ocean and the unknown creatures that dwell miles and miles beneath the water’s surface. When I first watched 47 Meters Down (review here), I was impressed with how Johannes Roberts was able to not only terrify me with the sharks but also in building up an intense feeling of dread and unease due to the claustrophobic nature of the unfolding events. Though this follow-up sequel didn’t hit me the same as the first film did, it still managed to build that same sense of suffocating claustrophobia that made the original so impactful.
Luckily for those who haven’t seen the first film (though you definitely should), you can go into UNCAGED with no prior knowledge of the previous events that transpired. In UNCAGED, we meet outsider Mia (Sophie Nelisse) and her popular step-sister Sasha (Corinne Foxx), living in Mexico with their parents (played by John Corbett and Nia Long) and experiencing very little in common with one another. Mia’s father is an archaeologist working on an underwater mine and though he had plans to take her and Sasha out for the weekend, he, unfortunately, has to cancel to tackle preparation for an underwater dig. After being dropped off to go on a boat ride to see sharks, Sasha’s friends (played by Sistine Stallone and Brianne Tju) convince them to go hang out by a lake – the same area in which Mia’s dad is doing his archaeological dig. Upon arriving, they find scuba gear unused, and since the girls have varying levels of experience diving, decide to go check out just the entrance to this mysterious underwater ruin. However, this is a horror film and things don’t go as planned as the girls quickly find themselves trapped underwater while being hunted by Great White sharks.
By far, the strongest attribute of this film were the moments that felt enclosed and narrow. When talking to Johannes, he mentioned that the set we see underwater is actually all practical which meant our actors were swimming through these tight spaces while being chased by (CGI) sharks. Even without the threat of real sharks, these moments that featured those dark and cramped passageways were enough to make me feel on edge, reminding me of the same way I felt the first time I watched The Descent. Furthermore, Johannes is a master at creating striking visuals (did you not see The Strangers: Prey at Night? That film is beautiful to look at it!), which definitely came into play during the reveal of the sharks. I also appreciate the color palette that he used which ranged from bright red to a muted green with a range of blues thrown in for good measure. If there is one thing I’ve learned when it comes to Johannes’ films, it’s that he’s really intuned with capturing that visual aesthetic that is both beautiful and fear-inducing.
My only real gripe with the film was in regards to the performances. I’m not sure if this had to do with the writing or they hadn’t had a lot of experience, but the performances felt flat throughout the film which, at times, worked against the mounting terror they were experiencing. I know this isn’t a film that relies on strong character development, per say, but I wanted to feel some type of emotion other than annoyance towards the four of them. In 47 Meters Down, I felt like I was going along for the terrifying ride that Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) were experiencing. Their arc was done so well that I had an honest concern in if they were going to survive. However, in UNCAGED, I never really felt that same sense of fear for our characters. What definitely helped in offsetting the performances were when the sharks appeared as well as the moments when our characters found themselves trapped between a literal rock and a shark’s mouth. There are also a few great jump scares sprinkled throughout, one of which was very reminiscent of Samuel L. Jackson’s demise in Deep Blue Sea.
All in all, 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED is still a treat for those of us who have a massive love for aquatic horror. It may not pack quite the same punch as the first film but it’ll still make you question ever going into any body of water again. All that said, I hope Johannes Roberts continues his trend of water-based horror films because he’s truly doing God’s (or Poseidon’s) work. Make sure to check out 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED when it hits theaters August 16, 2019.