[Movie Review] BLACK WATER: ABYSS
Courtesy of Screen Media
I ask you, is there anything that says “Summer” like a good creature feature? Creature features are the beach reads of the film world. Simple, exciting, and perfect for idle consumption on a hot summer day. As far as summer creature features go, BLACK WATER: ABYSS is as good as it gets. A perfect example of its genre wrapped up in a simple, easily digestible watch.

BLACK WATER: ABYSS is directed by Andrew Traucki (The Reef) and is a follow-up to his 2007 crocodile horror Black Water. Black Water was loosely based on the real-life encounter of a saltwater crocodile attacking three tourists, enjoying a day trip in Australia’s Northern Territory, killing one, and stalking two survivors hiding in a tree. Black Water became an underground genre favorite, following its release.

In BLACK WATER: ABYSS, a group of friends explore a remote and partially submerged cave system deep in the forests of Northern Australia. When a tropical storm hits and causes floodwaters to rise in the cavern system, the group is trapped beneath the surface… in the territory of aggressive crocodiles. The film stars Jessica McNamee (The Meg), Luke Mitchell (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Amali Golden, Benjamin Hoetjes, and Anthony J. Sharpe.

As I mentioned at the outset, BLACK WATER: ABYSS is a textbook example of the creature feature subgenre. It hits all the right notes and delivers the familiar beats that devoted fans know and love. It has got the core group of semi-horny youths. It has exciting jump scares and a fantastic monster to rally behind. BLACK WATER: ABYSS is not pretentious, nor particularly innovative but is rooted in its identity and content to be the best crocodile feature it can be.

2020, for better or for worse, has delivered a lot of slow-burn horror. An effective trend, but exhausting. BLACK WATER: ABYSS instantly hits a refreshing note by not dragging out the terror. The film starts on an energetic note and introduces its killer crocs right off the bat. It knows what we’re all here for! The film shares a producer with the shark horror 47 Meters Down and a touch of that influence can be seen onscreen. There are some truly fantastic shots of the crocs that are compelling enough to really stick in the mind. Well done.

BLACK WATER: ABYSS has its flaws, despite being a ton of fun. The film has a few inconsistencies that become frustrating to the viewer as the story continues. Starting out, the film is appealing because it’s grounded in a certain level of realism. Instead of taking a freakish, monstrous approach to its killer crocs, the film recognizes crocodiles as the living dinosaurs that they are, not in need of enhancement. This gives the entire film credibility, anchoring it in a realistic and, therefore, more terrifying horror.

As the film progresses, it appears that BLACK WATER: ABYSS loses some of its confidence in presenting the crocodiles. At one point, it seems that Jurassic Park rules apply: just as the T-Rex can only see movement, the crocodiles of BLACK WATER: ABYSS are only drawn to splashing. At other moments, the crocodiles come out of nowhere despite the efforts of the group. Sometimes, safety is as simple as getting out of the water and sometimes the crocodile jumps out to grab its victim anyway. The rules of the film keep changing and it muddies some of the tension building that is established early on.

Beyond “croc mechanics” the film stays true to its course, minus the introduction of some third-act personal dramas that create an unnecessary distraction. All of that being said, these flaws are not to the detriment of the film so much as blemishes on an otherwise perfect crocodile film.

BLACK WATER: ABYSS is an absolute blast! It delivers on exactly what genre fans want and serves up croc horror with a toothy grin. A ton of fun for the summer and highly recommended by this creature feature freak!

BLACK WATER: ABYSS is in select theaters and On Demand on August 7, 2020!

Caitlin Kennedy
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Caitlin is a sweater enthusiast, film critic, and lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began with being shown Rosemary’s Baby at a particularly impressionable age and she’s been hooked ever since. She loves a good bourbon and hates people who talk in movies. Caitlin has been writing since 2014 and you can find her work on Film Inquiry, The Financial Diet, Shuffle Online, and many others.
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