It’s fairly common knowledge on the internet at this stage that you have a higher chance of dying to a vending machine than a shark. However, seeing as how vending machines don’t have big teeth and bloodlust, we don’t get many horror movies about those. So adding to the grand tradition of sharks being big scary murder machines, here’s 47 Metres Down, reminding us yet again to stay away from the water.
The premise is kinda what you’d expect. Two sisters on holiday in Mexico are given the offer of a lifetime to go cage diving to see sharks. Something goes wrong, the cage drops, watch them fight for their lives. There isn’t much to it. It follows a fairly predictable sequence that we’ve seen plenty of times before. But then, if we went into movies like this expecting safety checks to be done and common sense to be followed, there wouldn’t be much movie left. They’d realise this is nuts and spend the next 90 minutes drinking margaritas. It’s an old trope, but it holds true. Everyone in a horror movie is a dumbass.
The problem is that since we’ve seen this sequence plenty of times before, the results are very predictable. Even if I hadn’t watched this movie, I could likely outline the entire plot. There’s a problem, there’s a solution. They’re getting rescued, the rescue fails. It’s all very formulaic and really does a detriment to the audience’s experience. For example, if someone in a movie were to say “Don’t do this, or this will happen!”, how likely do you think it is that they’ll do it? 47 Metres Down falls into that pitfall over and over again. As a result, any tension the movie manages to build up is cut down by the fact you can predict the next step.
In my opinion, the movie could have done a lot more by being trapped in a cage. Because despite the fact the premise is being stuck in a cage underwater, they spend an awful lot of time swimming around it. If the girls had spent more time stuck in the cage, lamenting their situation, slowly ticking down their oxygen, it would have been much more effective. It would have allowed the tension and hopelessness of the situation to sink in. Plus we would have gotten a better chance to know the characters and hence actually care if they live or die.
Instead, they’re constantly taking trips out to retrieve oxygen or contact the surface. I’ll give you that dealing with a crisis is tense, but it kinda seemed like the only purpose of these little expeditions was to jumpscare the audience. If you see the girls leave the cage, you better believe they’re getting chased by a shark. Seriously, the place is teeming with sharks the second they’re outta that cage. But inside the cage may as well be a cosy lounge. Sharks fuckin’ hate that cage. They won’t even bother their arse to break it open.
And I get it, the point is to make you leave a place of safety out of necessity. But come on, it’s yet another old trope! I can’t be the only one thinking that giving them 1 hours worth of air and leaving the sharks circling overhead would be more enjoyable.The premise of being trapped under water in this situation is terrifying. It’s a great premise. But you need to let the pressure weigh down on the audience. Make them feel like they’re just as trapped as these girls instead of finding magical solutions every 10 minutes so they can be jumpscared.
Bad execution aside, the acting is solid. I’d believe Moore and Holt were sisters. Not because they look alike but because of how they interact. It’s a very believable bond and I could easily see these characters existing. Moore does go a bit over the top in parts, but I’d put that down to a character choice. Her character, Liz, is portrayed as a complete worry wart. You can imagine someone like that, who probably spends their evenings with a good crossword puzzle, freaking the fuck out in a crisis.
All in all, I wouldn’t really recommend 47 Metres Down. Sure, it’s put me off cage diving anytime soon. But I wasn’t scared. There were a few jumps here and there, but that’s all they were. Being scared of sharks is nothing new, it’s nothing groundbreaking. We’ve had so many movies since Jaws that they’re just not scary anymore. They’re formulaic. If I hear that a shark movie is good, I wanna be terrified of my bathtub after watching it. I wanna be convinced that any body of water in proximity to me contains a shark. And 47 Metres Down just doesn’t do that. Really, if you asked me to sum up the movie, I could do it in one word: Meh.