When it comes to my guilty pleasure of shark attack films, 47 Meters Down is far from the bottom of the pool. It’s not scraping the sea floor like Shark Night 3D, that’s for sure. But it doesn’t quite swim right below the surface as The Shallows does either. It’s a few more meters down.
No surprise, really, since Stephen Spielgull isn’t involved this time around.
Though it lacks the avian costar, 47 Meters Down is nothing if not comparable to The Shallows. Mandy Moore and Claire Holt may find themselves much further out to sea than the rock Blake Lively clings to in view of shore, but the basic principles are still there: they only really have each other as they’re trapped in the diving cage that has fallen 47 meters below the safety of the boat above, and there is at least one aggressive shark ready to show its pearly whites to anyone close enough to see them. Oh, and time is running out.
As the tide rose to push Lively from her perch, Moore and Holt can count the hours of oxygen they have left on a hand that has donated most fingers to the belly of a ravenous fish. Any rational human being afraid of the ocean (and somehow still managed to find themselves in this awful situation) would eventually tire of their hyperventilation filled freak out and accept the more peaceful suffocation the safety of the cage has to offer, but lucky for Moore’s character, Lisa (and us, really), her sister Kate is not satisfied with giving up. Which is where this film really gets going.
Eventually Kate and Lisa are forced to venture out of the safety of their cage, and the filmmakers get to play with a fear understood by many, a fear of the ocean. More specifically, it’s a fear of the unknown that keeps us awake at night, and there’s nothing quite like the ocean and the dangers lurking in its depths to fully explore this unease. The flashiness of the great white streaking murderously through the deep blue sea is scary enough, but at least in those instances he can be seen coming. We can calm ourselves by shouting “boop him on the nose!” with frantic abandon, as if that will actually protect us. It’s when the light barely pierces the water that this really becomes a horror film. Like with The Blair Witch Project, it’s what we can’t see that truly terrifies. What we imagine to be just beyond our squinting eyes, what may very likely be hidden by the darkness. Because in an ocean teeming with life, you’re never alone. Not really.
And that is truly scary. So excuse me, Kate, while I stay on dry land. Far away from your comments about how boring your hyperventilating sister is. Away from the sharks, away from the darkness, and away from the story with a regrettably telegraphed twist. I wish you well, but I’ll be watching The Shallows from my couch, in a very well lit room.