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A claustrophobic sci-fi horror that sank without a trace lives on as a nerve-shredding delight

Shunned by critics and ignored by crowds is not the fate it deserved.

via 20th Century Fox

Any movie that released in 2020 will forevermore have an asterisk placed next to its box office performance, but the fact director William Eubank’s high concept sci-fi horror Underwater released in January unfortunately means that it’s destined to be remembered as a bomb, regardless of the industry being brought to its knees just a couple of months later.

It came as a surprise that the intense B-tier thriller smothered in A-list production values failed so spectacularly, though, given that anything that even remotely promises nerve-shredding terror and sweaty-palmed anxiety among audiences has always tended to draw in a crowd. In the end, Underwater could only rustle up $41 million from theaters on a budget rumored to be anywhere as high as $80 million, but it hasn’t taken long for the under-the-radar feature to start stating a case for cult classic status.


A 48 percent Rotten Tomatoes score is about as middling as it gets, but a recent Reddit thread celebrating the unsung favorite has been gaining a lot of traction, and the outpouring of support from all corners indicates that Underwater is a lot more popular and held in higher regard than its critical and commercial performance would lead you to believe.

Anchored by a fantastic Kristen Stewart performance, the nightmarish narrative finds an undersea drilling station six miles beneath the surface suffering heavy damage, forcing the crew on a perilous journey on foot across the ocean floor. However, oxygen is running low, the pressure is building in more ways than one, and there’s a creature lurking in the depths picking them off one-by-one.

The bottom of the ocean is perhaps the most terrifying place on the planet, and when you throw a Lovecraftian element into the mix, you can understand why the dread-inducing Underwater keeps on finding new fans.

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Scott Campbell

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