47 meters down uncaged review

Ever since Steven Spielberg unleashed a great white off the shores of Amity, sharks have been chowing down on swimmers on the big and small screen. Much like sharks themselves, the sharksploitation subgenre has to continue to swim or it will die. Nothing will ever come close to Spielberg’s Jaws, but every now and then we get a nice surprise – like 2016’s The Shallows. The low-rent shark thriller 47 Meters Down swam in the wake of The Shallows, and while it was nowhere near as good or stylized, it had its moments. And it was also a surprise hit. Now here comes 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, a sequel in name only.

47 Meters Down trapped two sisters in an underwater cage surrounded by hungry sharks. Uncaged has a sister element too but throws in even more characters destined to become fish food. Will you feel anything for these people as the sharks come swimming towards them, jaws wide? Not likely. They’re a group of flat, indistinguishable screamers who kick and flail and shout dialogue like: “Here comes the shark!” It doesn’t help that the majority of the characters spend the bulk of the film underwater, dressed the same and wearing bulky scuba diving masks, making it nearly impossible to tell them apart. A smarter filmmaker would’ve included some sort of visual cues to help us keep track of who’s who. But Johannes Roberts, who helmed the first movie, as well as the highly underrated The Strangers: Prey At Night, neglects this.

Roberts does try to throw plenty of style into the proceedings, relying on super slow-motion, or shots of crystal clear waters turning crimson red. But the filmmaker also has a tendency to keep the camera extremely close on the action, to the point where it’s literally impossible to tell what the hell is going on as the characters thrash around underwater. As a result, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is a visually incoherent film.

Awkward teen loner Mia (Sophie Nélisse) has a chilly relationship with her far more popular step-sister Sasha (Corinne Foxx). But after Mia suffers an altercation at the hands of some mean girls at school, Sasha decides to take pity on her step-sis and invite her along to a fun getaway to a picturesque pool of water above a recently excavated cave. The cave leads to a sunken Mayan city, complete with spooky statues that stand stark still in the rippling waters like silent sentinels. Mia and Sasha are accompanied by Sasha’s friends Nicole (Sistine Stallone), a character so utterly blank she might as well not be there; and Alexa (Brianne Tju), who convinces the girls to don scuba gear and go diving down into the Mayan city.

Unfortunately for the ladies, a group of blind albino sharks is also down there – and they’re hungry. A series of mishaps trap the girls underwater, where they proceed to scream, and scream, and scream again. All that screaming eats up a lot of their oxygen, so if the sharks don’t kill them, lack of air surely will. What follows is repetitive to the extreme, with the movie (and the girls) literally swimming in circles. Every now and then some new characters will come swimming into the situation, only to immediately be gobbled up.

No one would accuse the first 47 Meters Down of being smart, but it was at least economical enough to build its tension and make us care about its endangered characters. Uncaged has no interest in that – it just wants to get to the killing. In that respect, it’s like a slasher movie with sharks. A splasher movie, if you will. It’s also the type of movie that has a tedious amount of jump-scares. There’s even a jump-scare involving a screaming fish. And since Uncaged has no real ideas of its own, it decides to rip-off a famous jump-scare from shark movie Deep Blue Sea.

The sharks themselves have their moments. Their design – white as ghosts, with blind eyes to match – is often genuinely unnerving. And soundtrack composers tomandandy signal their arrival with a droning, moaning musical note that reverberates deep in your guts. On a primal level, this is plenty effective, but it’s not enough. We’re not supposed to care about the sharks – we’re supposed to care about their potential meals. And we don’t. After about the 1000th time the characters shriek and splash as the camera hangs tight on their blurry faces, you might find yourself wishing the sharks would jump off the screen and take a bite out of you – to put you out of your misery.

/Film Rating: 3 out of 10

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About the Author

Chris Evangelista is a staff writer for /Film. He's contributed to CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net