Black Water: Abyss, 2020.
Directed by Andrew Traucki.
Starring Jessica McNamee, Amali Golden, Luke Mitchell, Benjamin Hoetjes and Anthony J. Sharpe.
A group of friends are trapped in a flooded cave, with an aggressive crocodile circling their hiding spot.
The solid 2007 croc attack horror movie Black Water ripped its story from some pretty sensational headlines, crafting a thrilling tale inspired by a reptile attack that left a group of experienced campers menaced by a huge saltwater crocodile. Its sequel, with co-director Andrew Traucki now on solo helming duties, sheds the real life context for a similar predicament – but this time the photogenic 20-somethings are being stalked by a croc in a network of subterranean caves. We’re in the world of straight-up croc-sploitation, and it’s a disappointing world to be in.
Gung-ho Eric (Luke Mitchell) and his girlfriend Jennifer (Jessica McNamee) are with their friends Yolanda (Amali Golden) and Viktor (Benjamin Hoetjes), who is in remission after cancer treatment, in Australia’s Northern Territory. They’re in search of a unique experience and local Cash (Anthony J. Sharpe) has just that for them. He has found a previously unexplored system of caves and is willing to take the friends with him to have a look around. Alarm bells, ahoy!
Black Water: Abyss briskly zaps through this opening storyline in order to get to the cave and, though this shows a laudable desire to get to the point, it also leaves the characters as little more than thumbnail sketches. John Ridley and Sarah Smith’s script fails to add much depth to them as the story progresses, merely throwing in some soapy romantic elements that don’t square with the lean, mean creature feature terror. These aren’t people. They’re just cannon fodder for the marauding beastie lurking in the murky water.
And murky is very much the order of the day here, with Traucki struggling to find any coherence in the underwater sequences, which are redolent of the nonsensical third act of James Bond adventure Thunderball. This is a movie that unfolds almost entirely within the slim beams of light provided by the character’s head-worn torches and, while this is often effectively tense, it also lends the whole thing a lack of clarity. It doesn’t help that Abyss leans far more into CGI than its predecessor, which innovatively utilised real croc footage to amplify the terror.
There’s simply a level of contrivance to Black Water: Abyss that did not apply to the original. The script introduces extra stress factors throughout, but these simply feel overly written, as if this is a puppet show being operated by screenwriters rather than a primal battle of wits and wills between man and beast. This is also true of the movie’s climax, which piles turn on top of twist en route to a final face-off that priorities narrative surprise over the inherent thrills of the scenario, which powered the similar, superior 47 Meters Down: Uncaged.
Abyss does benefit from a handful of very effective set pieces, particularly in its second half. However, these are undercut by the lack of depth behind the characters and the confused storytelling, which cuts between multiple portions of the cave without creating any sustained tension in any of those locales. Much of what was effective the first time around is forgotten here and the result is a disappointing film that lacks the fear factor of the best animal attack movies.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.