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Film / Underwater

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"We drilled to the bottom of the ocean, and we don’t know what came out."
Paul: We're just going to walk with insufficient oxygen across the bottom of the ocean?
Lee: We don’t know what’s out there.

Underwater is a 2020 science fiction horror film directed by William Eubank in his third feature film outing, written by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad. The film stars Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie, Gunner Wright, and T.J. Miller.

Seven miles deep below the ocean's surface, mechanical engineer Norah Price (Stewart) is stationed at a deep-sea drilling site when an earthquake strikes, trapping her and several other researchers down in the damaged facility. While attempting to reach the safety of the surface, they discover that they aren't as alone as they first imagined...

The film was distributed by Disney under the 20th Century Fox label. Most notably, it was the final film to use that label's name, as Disney renamed Fox to "20th Century Studios" to distance the subsidiary from Fox Corporation. The first film to use that label was The Call of the Wild (2020).


Preview: Trailer

Underwater contains examples of:

  • An Aesop: From the monologue at the end, we are apparently meant to learn from this story that feelings of helplessness should be overcome by the realization that we are capable of doing something about our situations.
  • Alice Allusion: Paul makes numerous references to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, including a white rabbit doll that he insists on taking with him.
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: Smith's CO2 scrubber is damaged when the habitat reactor explodes. This leaves him mostly dead weight when the characters have to move into the water, as he has to keep his movement to a minimum so he doesn't die from CO2 poisoning.
  • Anyone Can Die: There were Tian Industries employees killed when the submarine started to get destroyed. The other survivors are in clear danger, due to either the creatures or the water pressure. At the end, only Smith and Haversham survive.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Smith and Haversham take the two remaining pods to the surface, with Norah blowing up the station and killing most of the creatures. However, Tian Industries is taking great lengths to silence the two survivors and announces their plans to resume digging as soon as possible.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Rodrigo is the first of the group to bite it.
  • Book-Ends: The movie begins and ends with Norah narrating on the effects of living without natural light has on a person, and also with newspaper clippings that provide exposition.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early on, there's mention that the cooling systems for the core have failed and it will likely blow eventually. At the end, Norah disables all the failsafes and blows up the entire station to take out the monsters.
  • Cold Equation: Norah is confronted with this right off the bat, and holds off closing a door for as long as she can so that other characters might live. Unfortunately, the two she's trying to save are just too far and she's forced to close the door on them.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Tian Industries runs on Umbrella/Weyland-Yutani rules, deciding that continuing to dig is more important than the lives of anybody they send down and maybe the whole world, and this decision is one they made long before the film even starts.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Played straight. Both sides appear to be affected by this. When its just one creature, it can tear a suit apart. By the time its down to 3 humans, facing many creatures, the smallest team member can take them on one-to-one.
  • Cosmic Horror Reveal: The movie begins as a Disaster Movie, with a group of survivors of an industrial accident at an drilling facility at the bottom of the ocean trying to make their way to the surface, however as the movie progresses it becomes clear that the "accident" was an attack by Cthulhu with an army of vicious Fish People at its command.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Special award goes to Rodrigo for being the most (relatively) mundane. While nearly everyone else is attacked by the creatures, he is killed because his helmet is faulty, so it cracks under the intense ocean pressure and compromises the rest of his suit, resulting in a very sudden and gory death.
  • The Darkness Gazes Back: The monsters' eyes reflect light very well, often making their eyes the only visible part of them.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Both averted and played straight. Virtually no time is spent before the accident which kicks off the plot, during which Norah is the only character seen. But then, during the characters' desperate attempts to survive, some character development does occur, but not all of those characters make it.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: A quite literal example happens the movie's climax, Norah overloads the engines at Roebuck Station, apparently disabling the Eldritch Abomination (confirmed to be Cthulhu by the film's director) that attacked the platforms.
  • Dripping Disturbance: Played for suspense, as Norah notices water ominously dripping from the ceiling above her shortly before a large section of the underwater station gives out and begins to rapidly flood.
  • Dug Too Deep: It turns out that Tian Industries did this, unleashing or at least disturbing the creatures that menace the main cast.
  • Economy Cast: The movie spends no effort to introduce any characters besides the ones who end up together after the initial disaster. Besides seeing a couple dead bodies and hearing some background radio voices, that leaves a cast listing of less than ten.
  • Eldritch Abomination: As it turns out, Cthulhu is the creature spawning all the monsters that hunt down the remaining crew members.
  • Eldritch Ocean Abyss: The cast is stuck nearly seven miles underwater and hunted by Fish People and an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Ensign Newbie: The crew is Mildly Military to begin with, but Emily is rather explicitly just a research assistant and not fully trained on the diving suits or the general station operations.
  • Fanservice: Any time spent out of the diving suits Norah is only wearing a tight bra, maybe with an open jacket. They also make it clear that you can't wear pants in the suits, so half of the time she running around in her panties too. Hits Fan Disservice when Paul disrobes with the camera right on his butt, and he groans after seeing his underwear was shredded too.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Norah notices water dripping from the ceiling mere seconds before the station starts flooding.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The opening credits mention that Tian Industries are accused of covering something up relating to their operations in the Mariana Trench. During the course of the movie, it becomes apparent that they knew about the creatures and didn't care.
    • The film opens with the hull of the habitat being compromised, and we later see a multi-thousand ton drill having been displaced. Both of these seem inconsistent with the man-sized creatures attacking the party. Then they reach the main drill and realize there's a much bigger one out there.
    • On a more mundane level, Lucien says his daughter is fourteen, only for Norah to correct him and say she'd be about her age. Norah later learns Lucien's daughter died years ago when she was fourteen.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: When Norah is trying to force Haversham into the last pod, she gives her a punch in the face, partly to force her back into the pod, but partly to calm her enough that Haversham will listen to Norah's (valid) reason that Haversham should be the one to go.
  • The Hero Dies: Norah accepts to die to secure the explosion that would kill the creatures.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Norah speculates that Rodrigo knowingly took a faulty helmet even though he'd die as soon as they left the habitat. It's not clear if she's right or just feeling guilty.
    • Lucien and Norah each pull this at the midpoint and climax of the film respectively, with both attempting to save someone from the creatures.
  • Little Miss Badass: Though not a child, Norah is physically the smallest person still alive but is the only one who manages to kill one of the creatures.
  • Lovecraft Lite: The only thing keeping the movie from being a Cosmic Horror Story is the fact that the Eldritch Abomination and its Fish People minions are eminently killable and humans are all too capable of fighting back.
  • Ludicrous Gibs:
    • This is what happens to Rodrigo when he is exposed to the ocean pressure with a faulty helmet. Little bits of him even hit Norah at one point.
    • One of the creatures snags Paul, manages to rip a hole in his suit and pull the rest of his body through that hole. All we actually see is the bloody helmet.
  • Minimalist Cast: The only onscreen characters are the six submarine members and the creatures.
  • Monster Progenitor: Turns out the sea monsters are all the spawn of a giant humanoid squid creature that's slightly larger than the Roebuck station itself.
  • More Expendable Than You: Norah tries this twice, once with Lucien and once with Haversham, because both have people they care about while she's a loner. It doesn't work with Lucien, who is the captain and won't abide by saving himself at the expense of his crew, but she manages to get Haversham to escape to safety at the end.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Relatively downplayed, but Kristen Stewart does spend substantial stretches of the film running around in a prominent Bare Your Midriff outfit.
  • Never Found the Body: In the backstory, Norah's fiance went diving alone and was never seen again.
  • Ominous Crack:
    • Implied when Norah notices dripping water inside the underwater station, before it rapidly goes From Bad to Worse.
    • This happens to Rodrigo's helmet, giving the characters a few moments to realize what's about to happen before it fails completely and the ocean pressure crushes him.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Lucien's daughter died before the story started.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Paul provides the majority of the humor in the film. When he dies, all joking noticeably stops.
  • Powered Armor: It's not shown explicitly, but the diving suits look like part space suit and part old-time dive suit, giving them a very hefty appearance. Realistically, even if it could protect people on the ocean floor they would need to be powered for the person to move.
  • Precision F-Strike: At the climax, Norah narrates again on how living without light makes you lose all sense of time.
    Norah: So let's light this shit up.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Shepard Station has been abandoned for years, yet when Norah makes her way there everything in the facility is in working order, including power and life support.
  • Sequel Hook: The film ends with images of news articles indicating that Tian intends to continue its drilling efforts, which raises questions about what else they might wake up.
  • Shipper on Deck: Norah likes the relationship between Smith and Haversham, and she decides to sacrifice herself so both can live as a couple.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Paul's death marks the end of all attempts at comedy during the story.
  • Shower of Angst: Norah takes one when she gets to the Shepard station and is (apparently) the only survivor left.
  • Sinking Ship Scenario: Sinking underwater drilling platform, rather.
  • Swallowed Whole: One of the creatures tries to do this to Norah when it can't get through her suit, unhinging its jaw to completely envelop her suit. This just makes it easier for her to shoot a flare through it.
  • Taking You with Me: Norah decides to blow up Roebuck Station, killing herself — but most importantly, the Eldritch Abomination and all the creatures going after the escape modules.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Norah's fiance once went scuba diving alone, breaking the first rule of diving. Norah mentions that Search and Rescue never found any trace of him. The cast also suffers this in a tunnel encounter. Despite an aquatic “Slender Man” approaching Paul, nobody seems to realize there’s nothing actually preventing it from giving chase.
  • Underwater Base: Both Roebuck and Shepard Stations.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Norah doesn't make it out in the end, while the more feminine Haversham lives.
  • Weakened by the Light: The creatures instinctively flee from bright light, although it does not appear to actually harm them.

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