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Creep Dive

Twentieth Century Fox

Underwater (2020)

A remarkably late addition to Fox’s 1980s sci-fi canon, “Underwater” finally surfaces some three years since the completion of principal photography. To be sure, the studio has never gotten out of the B-picture business entirely, but for the past few decades its niche pipeline has been mostly outsourced to Eurotrashy outfits like Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, resulting in more bargain actioners like “Taken” while the low-budget sci-fi well ran dry in favor of . . . James Cameron’s other preoccupations.

Anyway, “Underwater.” Vincent Cassel is in this, so it emits those cheapo European coproduction vibes. It’s pretty solid; and everything in it – the darkness, the claustrophobia, the jump scares, the grotesque creatures – works the way it’s supposed to, but we’re not in the ’80s anymore. There have been too many movies of this ilk raising the bar since Fox’s sci-fi heyday. Director William Eubank does a serviceable job painting by numbers, but each number invites comparisons with another film that did the same thing better – such as “The Descent” or the more recent “A Quiet Place.” Even Kristen Stewart brings to mind just how magnificent Sigourney Weaver was in the “Alien” franchise. The out-of-nowhere conspiratorial credit sequences don’t add anything, either.

Fox probably should have gotten Alexandre Aja onboard, after previously releasing “Mirrors” and “The Hills Have Eyes” (through the Searchlight division) and given the positive reception for his recent “Crawl.” Mr. Aja at least would have made the film more memorable, probably by upping the gore quotient to a desensitizing level. Though it’s hard to say whether that is preferable to a movie whose ultimate flaw is being utterly forgettable.


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