Dog’s Movie House: “47 Meters Down” Adequate Shark Bait Film!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog!
There’s a reason “Jaws” is still a terrifying film over forty years after its initial release. Despite the goofy-looking, hardly-ever-working mechanical shark, the film’s thrills have never been bettered for two reasons: the fear of what you can’t see and the wonderful attention to character that makes you care about their fates. In this era of digital effects, most filmmakers still don’t get the idea that it takes more than a realistically rendered computerized shark to make a good shark horror film. The latest in this sub-genre “47 Meters Down” gets it half right. It has wonderful atmosphere and makes the most of its small budget when it comes to the suspense. Unfortunately, slim character development keeps it from being anything but a competent matinee picture.
The set up for “47 Meters Down” is fairly simple. Two sisters, Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are vacationing in Mexico. After getting dumped by her boyfriend for literally being “too boring” Lisa is convinced by her younger sister to live it up a little by signing up for a shark diving expedition. It doesn’t hurt that two cute Mexican fellows (Yani Gellman and Santiago Segura) are encouraging them almost to the point of badgering. The expedition is being run by on Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine) whose boat looks like it should be condemned. The guys jump in the shark cage and everything goes as planned, but when the ladies get in wench breaks and sends them. . .you guessed it. . . forty-seven meters to the ocean floor where they have to contend not only with a diminishing air supply but a bevy of voracious great white sharks looking to make them dinner.
“47 Meters Down” derives most of it’s entertainment from the situations the two sisters get themselves involved in. You automatically put yourself in a “what would I do in that situation” mindset that adds to the suspense. Director Johannes Roberts (who also co-wrote the script with Ernest Riera) does a fine job of creating a claustrophobic atmosphere that anyone can relate to. The sharks a very well rendered as well and it’s clear the filmmakers did their research on attack patterns and the lack of sound they make in the water. When the attacks come, they come quick and are actually pretty terrifying even when the sharks don’t always hit their mark. Credit goes to the screenwriters for giving as much attention to challenges like lack of air or getting disoriented in deep water as they do to the sharks.
Where “47 Meters Down” fails is in terms a characterization. Lisa and Kate are nice enough but you don’t get anything about their relationship save for the usual melodrama about Lisa’s breakup. They are supposed to come off as smart an capable women, but the set up feels like a shark version of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” First they tell their male companions they can’t scuba dive, yet when they meet Captain Taylor they assure him that they can. Apparently they’re better then they know because in a time of extreme stress and crisis, they can both switch from empty to full emergency air tanks while in deep, murky water while being hunted by great white sharks. That’s a skill set I’d like to have naturally without a whiff of training. The point is, everything the two ladies do up until the cage breaks makes no logical sense. Why would you trust these two guys you just met the night before? Why does a boat so coated in rust and corrosion that it seems more red than white in color inspire any confidence at all to go cage diving with great white sharks? These types of questions are what make the set-up less than completely believable.
However that doesn’t kill the movie. In the end, “47 Meters Down” is a tight little suspense film that, despite the lack of character development, hits some high notes in low budget horror filmmaking. Give me a better script and you’d have a mini classic on your hands. As it stands, this film is an agreeable time-waster that hopefully serves as a launching pad for better films to come from a talented filmmaker. 3 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!