I’m a firm believer that every summer movie season should come with at least one film that reminds us why watching movies during the hottest months is a better idea than going outside. This year, 47 Meters Down is the movie to fill that void. It’s a woman versus shark tale not unlike The Shallows, but that is where the comparisons end. This film is another beast altogether, or perhaps a more accurate description would be ‘beasts.’
Mandy Moore and Claire Holt star as Lisa and Kate, two young women on vacation in an exotic locale. Their plan is to splurge on a shark cage adventure, which places tourists in a small metal box in shark-infested water for photos and a brief taste of life on the edge. Things take a turn for the worse when the chains tethering the girls to the tourist ship break, and soon, the pair find themselves trapped with limited oxygen over one-hundred feet below the surface as predators circle overhead.
With rescue still a ways away, Lisa and Kate must work together to remain calm and conserve what little oxygen they have left. This is made increasingly difficult by the lack of light found that far below the surface, which only raises their sense of dread over the monsters that lie in the deep. If they don’t run out of air there is a good chance a beast several times larger than them could gobble both up before they knew what was happening. I’m not sure whether I’d prefer to drown or become a snack in that scenario, but suffice to say, neither one is a desired outcome.
47 Meters Down is the kind of terrifying creature feature we don’t see much of anymore. More than an hour of the film takes place underwater, and a good portion of that time is spent exploring the stress such surroundings cause on someone’s mental state. The monsters are all around, but it’s the fear and panic within that eats at Lisa and Kate the most. They don’t know if they will ever see the surface again. They don’t even know if their corpses will see the surface again. Their entire world for the duration of this film is the distance from their eyes to where they lose sight of their own hands, and as time carries on, that space is increasingly small. The isolation presented drives both women to the brink of madness, and it’s in capturing that descent that the film finds its best moments.
A late third act twist threatens to spoil an otherwise taut tale of terror, 47 Meters Down more than fulfills its promise of underwater terror. There are a few ideas that may be a bit of a stretch for certain viewers, but for a select few, it will only further emphasize the suffocating sense of dread that permeates for the two-thirds of the film that take place below the surface. Once the cord breaks, 47 Meters Down finds a new and haunting way to explore a familiar subgenre of horror that has been desperately in need of reinvention for some time. It’s survival horror with a pinch of existentialism, and the resulting cinematic concoction is one many will struggle to shake.