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Review: 47 Meters Down

The low-budget shocker doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's terrifying nonetheless.

I find it hard to believe that the producers of 47 Meters Down expected their film to play wide against North America. It’s no long shot to attribute the film’s heightened interest to a last-minute injection of star power. Following the massive success of the series This is Us, star Mandy Moore is in high demand once again. With a mere five-million-dollar budget, director Johannes Roberts created a film that very much seems like it was meant to find success on VOD platforms. Though on the big screen, the film works shockingly well. Its low-budget is often apparent – the work looks a little shoddy at times – but the film is nevertheless pretty terrifying.

Moore stars as Lisa, who is on vacation with her sister Kate (Claire Holt) following a breakup. Before leaving, Lisa’s boyfriend told her that she was “boring”, thus injecting a newfound sense of adventure. Usually cautious, Lisa is persuaded to join her sister cage diving by two men they meet partying. As soon as the two board the boat of Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine), things seem a bit off. Not only is the operation not licensed, but everything looks just a little too rusty. Everything works out fine when their male counterparts take a dive, but as Lisa and Kate’s cage dive begins, the boat wench snaps, sending the women to the bottom of the ocean. With only the cage to protect them from surrounding sharks, the sisters must wait for rescue as their oxygen supply depletes.

To find enjoyment in 47 Meters Down, the willing audience member should abandon all sense of reason. The decision making of Lisa and Kate is obscenely ridiculous, but get on board with it and things actually get pretty scary. It’s actually quite shocking just how unnerving the film is. The aesthetic and setup perhaps predict a more schlocky film, but once the narrative is set at the bottom of the ocean, things become terrifying quickly. Surprisingly, it is not the sharks that are scary; it is the darkness that surrounds the cage. The sharks are out there, we just do not know where; at least not until they’re snapping at the women’s faces. As the conclusion approaches, the eye-rolling familiar from the film’s introduction resumes.

The setup and the conclusion of 47 Meters Down do not work. Look past that and you have a film that does not make a lot of sense but is nevertheless pretty damned scary. It’s been a while since we have had a genuinely chilling film on the big screen, so you might not want to miss this one.

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Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.