47 Meters Down Review: A Fresh Enough Bite

Photo Credit:http://www.sltrib.com/home/5403082-155/shark-thriller-47-meters-down-is

Shark thrillers are nothing new, but when done well, can be a riotous hoot. The Shallows proved that last summer by being genuinely well made and thrilling. 47 Meters Down nails one of those. Parts of Johannes Roberts’ film are truly terrifying, using the mysterious, cloudy underwater atmosphere to its full potential. But pretty much everything else about the film is terrible. Thankfully, it’s not the dull kind of terrible. When you’re not cowering in your neighbor, you’ll probably be laughing at the asinine decisions the characters make, and the ridiculous things they say while making them.

A pair of sisters, Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt), take a trip to Mexico after Lisa’s breakup and end up on a shady boat with a shark cage, as one does when building your own horror movie. While in the cage and observing a number of great white sharks, the thingamajig holding the cage up collapses and the cage sinks, you guessed it, 47 meters below the surface.

With the setup out of the way, it’s time for what we came for: tourists fighting to not become shark bait. But Roberts shows restraint in delivering the sharks, building tension in their absence. It’s a classic monster movie trope made new again thanks to the dark, murky atmosphere. The underwater setting is ripe for scares, which the film fully takes advantage of. The most frightening bit comes when one of the sisters is traversing open water with a flashlight and the camera switches to POV, making an already uneasy experience that much more immersive.

Between scares, however, we’re also given one of the all time great bad performances courtesy of Mandy Moore. The This is Us star seems to be fully committed to her role here, making for one of the most delightfully tone deaf horror leads in quite some time. Where Blake Lively reeled us in with The Shallows last summer with fear in the midst of strength, Moore is given a ham-fisted arc to find her way to becoming braver and more adventurous. The arc doesn’t go through though, as the film starts to play with hallucinations in about as frustrating a manner as one could. So she really just kind of huffs and puffs and doesn’t learn anything, which is much more the script’s fault than Moore’s. But damn, you’re likely never to hear a movie star yell “I really thought that shark would get me!” with the kind of blind enthusiasm that lacks any and all self awareness ever again. It’s a hoot.

But I know what you’re thinking, no audience member is checking out 47 Meters Down expecting a turn like Meryl Streep’s in Sophie’s Choice. I agree with you; if anything, Moore’s performance makes the unscary parts a hell of a lot more entertaining. It’s just the hilariously wrong kind of entertaining.

Either way, you’re likely to leave the theater after a brisk 90 minutes feeling you got that much needed simple summer escapism you wanted. No actor or maddening ending can take away the genuine thrills of a trashy shark flick that just wants to do its thing. So you do you, 47 Meters Down, you may not be the gold standard (or the silver, or the bronze, or even worthy of an honorable mention), but I’m still very glad you exist. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

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