Two women become trapped in a cage 47 meters below the Mexican waters.
It’s been a long time since there have been modest budget serious well produced shark films, then in 2016 two come along at once. Thankfully, In the Deep’s set up is quite different to The Shallows, but it shares the same high production values and execution. Director Johannes Roberts offers a novel, tense, at times claustrophobic great white film that will leave you gasping for air.
Sisters, one in the mist of a breakup Kate (Claire Holt) and wilder worldly travelled Lisa (Mandy Moore) are restless in the safety of a hotel pool and room in Mexico. Coincidently, Roberts like in The Shallows adopts the film technique of texts, in this case Lisa’s ex, popping up on screen, breaking the fourth wall. With Kate being upset the sisters go on a night out and meet two locals, who they later hook up with for a meal and kiss. The next day after a motorboat ride they all go on a $100 each cage dive on a rickety boat, the Sea Esta.
Matthew Modine is the captain of the unofficial excursion and his extended cameo, which is mostly a soothing voice on a radio advising the inexperienced divers on what and what not to do. Modine offers some weight and star power to the film as a everyday sailor Taylor. Like the aforementioned film, it’s also different to Jaws, The Reef and the like and stands on its own.
Although, writers Ernest Riera and Roberts sacrifice developing Modine’s functional character in place of getting the sharks on screen quicker, they put enough into brunette Moore’s self-conscious Lisa and carefree blonde Holt’s characters for you to invest their fate. They have an arc from the nightclub holidaymakers to strong women striving to survive. The story is straightforward enough, but visually at times it excels.
When the sea-hand Javier (worthy of note Chris J. Johnson) starts chumming – a shark, approximately 20 foot shows up, bigger than those on the Discovery Channel or in the National Geographic. After the two locals try the first cage as the huge shark circles, the two nervous but excited sisters have their turn with their diving masks and tanks checked. Suffice to say, it all goes wrong when the rusty winch breaks and the the girls descend 47 meters. What follows is a survival test, trapped in the cage at first, then running out of air as they make attempts to move the winch, swim from the bottom ocean floor in the aggressive shark infested waters, to get more air in various ways etc. Only to be thwarted by the finely realised, terrify sharks.
With sharks attacking from nowhere there are some genuine jump scares which are heightened by the sound design and tomanddandy’s music. Mark Silk’s cinematography really shines, not just on the surface but below water. It’s not just the confines of the cage that add chills, it’s the vast ocean open space, the silence of being submerged and void beyond the sea cliff’s edge. Notable there’s a scene with their radio’s out of range, Lisa tries to communicate with the surface leaving herself venerable in the endless salt water. Going beyond the sea floor cliffs edge later underwater Kate swims, stopping on top of a protruding rock deep below the blue sea. The unseen giants overshadow each move the women make with the threat of an attack at any moment. Every time the sisters leave the cage you feel the edgy chill of the imposing sharks.
Anyone scared of the water will no doubt get glass-boat diving chills out of In the Deep. And those who love shark films will not be disappointed with the whites on display as they attack, from below and on the sea floor with only cave recesses and the eroding cage to protect the sisters.
Roberts keeps the pressure on as things get worse when a diver is killed and the second attempt to save them goes awry. There’s also a fearful doubt throughout that those topside have left them. We get plenty of blood-filled wince moments with the cage crushing Kate, spear gun cuts, shark bites and flares. As they fend off the predators when trying to get air tanks and get to the top it never slows in pace. In addition, Riera and Roberts add an interesting surprise Gravity, Descent-like twist in the tense final act.
Overall, a fine and welcomed addition to killer Carcharodon carcharias the genre.