A deep-sea-diver movie is a close cousin to the greatest cinematic subgenre of all—the astronaut movie. The aesthetics are basically identical: Both rely on character actors decked out in chunky exploration suits, fumbling their way through postindustrial corridors while contending with loudly bleeping alerts from stern computer voices. Most important, both are set in harsh environments whose dangers are all the scarier for being unknown. William Eubank’s damp new horror film, Underwater, has all of those ingredients, and their presence was just enough to keep me entertained through a fundamentally silly 95 minutes at the theater.
Underwater could aptly be called Tunnel, given how much of it takes place in a series of anonymous tubes, but the existing title says all you need to know about the premise. This is a film that dares to ask the chilling question, “What if you were underwater and something really bad happened?” Norah Price (Kristen Stewart) is a mechanic living in a deep-sea base several miles under the ocean, where a faceless corporation has decided to drill deep into the Earth’s crust for reasons that are never quite specified. Plot-wise, it doesn’t matter, because Norah’s life as a subaquatic grunt is immediately disrupted. Every doohickey near her mysteriously explodes, and the undersea station starts flooding, leaving Norah and the other sweaty survivors to find their way to safety while being besieged by a mysterious force.