Horror film not so ‘scary’

Luke Mitchell, Jessica McNamee, and Anthony J. Sharpe in Black Water: Abyss (2020) Picture: IMDB

Rob Goodwin

I find it quite hard to review horror movies.

They are supposed to be scary, that’s their number one goal, so should that be the most important metric by which to judge them?

Is an engaging story as important as being hair-raisingly terrifying?

There is an argument that one should lead into the other, but a film can be plenty scary without an overly complicated plot.

2005’s The Descent is a good example of this, a film which shares plenty with this week’s review Black Water Abyss.

Both films have essentially the same premise, ‘a group of friends go cave diving, something unexpected happens, cue fight for survival.’

While The Descent succeeds in nearly every facet, unfortunately Black Water Abyss does not.

The second entry in the Black Water series after the first became a sleeper hit, Abyss changes the setting from oppressive mangrove swamps to claustrophobic caverns and retains the giant crocodile as the villain.

Couple Jennifer and Eric decide to take their friends Yolanda and Viktor on a cave dive after a buddy of Eric’s finds an unexplored tunnel system while out searching for some missing hikers.

A storm hits while out and about and they find themselves trapped with rising water and a territorial croc to contend with.

Personal issues also flare to try and make us feel bad as they are picked off, however this is one of the areas the film falls over.

Bad decisions come part and parcel with horror movies and have long been a cliché of the genre.

You tend to take the films with a grain of salt, empathising that terror can change the way people react in the moment.

The problem here is that I found myself with little sympathy for the characters after a series of extremely poor decisions drive them to a completely avoidable situation.

In fact, the two characters leading the group on this little escapade, portrayed to be experienced adrenaline junkies, have an almost kamikaze ‘she’ll be right’ attitude.

This really deflates the tension as you almost feel that they deserve to get eaten.

The film also goes for a ‘less is more’ tactic, with the audience never seeing a full shot of the croc.

Murky water and ambush attacks are designed to heighten the tension and for the most part succeed, however when you do see the killer the CGI is a little too obvious and breaks the realism again.

A somewhat unnecessary extended ending also hurts the film’s resolution.

The movie does do some things well, the performances by the actors themselves are quite good.

Jessica MacNamee fills the ‘scream queen’ slot admirably, hardening as the film progresses and Anthony J Sharpe is great as the blustery guide who begins to realise he has bitten off more than he can chew. Pun intended.

The pacing of the tension is also very well done, with rising water and not being able to see the monster keeping the film chugging along as the characters explore ways to get out of the cave.

Circling back around to my original point, the important question is, ‘Is the film scary?’

With only one kill making me look through my fingers, unfortunately the answer is ‘not really’ and at the end of the day I believe that IS what really matters.

BGH rating 4/8