47 Meters Down, aka, Don’t Go In The F*cking Ocean, You Dipsh*ts, opened in 5th place this weekend, exceeding expectations with over $11 million at the box office, and ahead of Rough Night, which should tell you how much of a bomb Rough Night is. But is 47 Meters Down any good?
When it comes to shark movies, there’s Jaws, and Everything Else, which can be subdivided as “sequels to Jaws”, enjoyable B-movies like The Shallows, and intentional trash like Sharknado. 47 Meters Down is aiming for the “enjoyable B-movie” category but fails at the “enjoyable” part. It’s the kind of movie that depends on its protagonists being the stupidest f*cking humans alive, which makes it hard to root for them because f*ck, we don’t need that sh*t DNA swimming around the gene pool. It also has a terrible cheat ending that ruins whatever mojo it manages to work up.
Mandy Moore stars as Lisa, whose defining trait is that she is so boring the only way she can prove she’s not boring is by practically crawling into a shark’s mouth for the photo op. She’s joined on her Mexican vacation by her sister, Kate (Claire Holt, The Originals), a Grade-A dumbass whose only purpose in life is to get everyone she meets killed. By virtue of being pretty, white, and clueless, we’re supposed to sympathize with Lisa and Kate, but they’re so willfully stupid that’s impossible. Lisa, freshly dumped because she’s boring—seriously! They say this!—wants to spend her holiday at the pool, because she has instincts. Kate, a moron, wants to go on a completely shady and obviously unsafe shark-diving expedition. Kate wins, because Lisa’s stupidity is greater than her self-preservation.
The first warning that this shark-diving thing is a bad idea is that Matthew Modine is the captain of the boat. Never get on a boat captained by the guy who starred in Cutthroat Island. The second warning is the rusted and janky-ass cage the girls have to get into. Lisa’s like, “Umm….no?” and Kate’s all, “We’re white in a survival movie! We’re invincible!” And so they go in the cage.
47 Meters Down has precisely one good idea: That the ocean is F*CKING SCARY. Once the girls are stuck in the cage on the ocean floor—because Captain Cutthroat’s boat is a piece of sh*t and breaks—director Johannes Roberts (pulled from the world of low-budget horror) makes the most of the murky, impenetrable depths of the ocean. Though the ocean is vast, because their vision is so limited, the effect is claustrophobic and would have been more effective without a grinding, thumping electronic score (courtesy tomandandy, the duo who also scored Sinister 2). The Shallows made the same mistake, going for loud when the tension would be better served by something quieter. But it’s worse here—tomandandy go WAY over the top, to the point that music cues become comical.
47 Meters Down also has precisely one good scene: The girls, injured, make a desperate break for the surface. It’s a tense, actively frightening sequence, with the one good shot in the movie—a trio of sharks, illuminated by an underwater flare, circling Lisa and Kate. It’s a good shot in a good scene, and this sequence also delivers on the tacit promise of a shark movie: That you’re going to see a shark attack. For most of the movie the camerawork is sh*t and you can’t tell what’s happening, and all the shark attacks are just camera bonks and people sliding out of frame. But not in this last scene! There’s a decent staged attack and a cathartic, everyone-exhale ending.
But wait! What’s this? IT WAS ALL A DREAM? This ending, what could have been a strong ending on a bad movie, is a giant psych out because Lisa is hallucinating. You can practically hear the movie deflating as the audiences realizes none of that sh*t actually happened. The problem with “It’s all a dream” is that it destroys momentum and kills audience engagement with the story (see also: Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2).
Instead of leaving audiences with a positive, energetic impression, it leaves audiences feeling cheated. You can convince an audience to like whatever garbage movie you’ve made, as long as the ending is strong enough. But 47 Meters Down takes away what would have been a decently cathartic ending and replaces it with a dumb, anti-climactic fade to black that spits in the eye of the audience that just sat through eighty minutes of bad movie, waiting for some payoff only to get “It’s all a dream’d” like that’s going to be acceptable to anyone. 47 Meters Down assumes its audience is as dumb as its characters.