47 Meters Down: Uncaged review – shark horror sequel has teeth

A follow-up to 2017’s surprise hit removes the cage and finds surprising suspense as four teens try to survive an underwater onslaught

Closing out the summer with far greater efficiency than one might expect, the brisk, brutal sequel 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is notably impressive because it almost didn’t exist at all. Its predecessor was originally sentenced to a muted home entertainment premiere in 2016 before another studio picked it up, repackaged it and pushed it to the following summer, gifting it with a splashy theatrical bow. It paid off: the $5m budget film bit off a $62m worldwide gross, making it one of the most successful independent releases of 2017.

It told the story of sisters whose cage dive goes horribly wrong when a technical fault leaves them marooned in shark-infested water, stuck on the ocean floor. Despite its modest ambitions and solid reviews, I was still rather lukewarm on it, weary of its repetitive nature and aghast at its dim final twist. The follow-up retains the British director Johannes Roberts, who has since added a slick sheen to a mostly unnecessary Strangers sequel, and this time around he’s been given what feels like a slight upgrade in budget, working hard to make a film designated for the big rather than small screen. In what passes for a plot, four teenage girls make the ill-advised decision to explore an underwater Mayan temple and find themselves trapped, oxygen quickly decreasing and, yup, sharks quickly circling.

Without the restriction of a cage (check out that clunky title!), Roberts, who also co-wrote the script, has created a more ambitious survival thriller that relies not only on the girls avoiding sharp-toothed predators but also managing to find a way out of a string of precarious underwater locations. It’s The Descent meets Sanctum but with screechy teens, and it’s this added jeopardy that prevents it from becoming yet another shark movie. Not that Jaws, or at least Deep Blue Sea, fans won’t go home happy, with Roberts packing the 86-minute film with enough effective, if not earth-shattering, action sequences. It might be PG-13 but unlike last year’s disastrously de-gored The Meg, it never feels tamed for a wider audience, with sharply edited death scenes mostly having a suitably nasty effect.

The teens, who include Jamie Foxx’s daughter Corinne and Sylvester Stallone’s daughter Sistine, are all equally forgettable, as is most of their dialogue: their early banter, scripted by two men in their 40s, proves particularly embarrassing. It’s also hard to distinguish between them when they’re underwater, although given their non-existent personalities, it really doesn’t matter too much. Shark bait is shark bait.

While it might not be as inventive as this summer’s other surprisingly effective creature feature Crawl, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged does possess a similar unwillingness to rest on its laurels. As the film progresses, Roberts consistently amps up the action and the stakes and as he races towards the final act he thankfully avoids crowbarring in another silly twist, instead engineering a ferocious, gasp-inducing finale on the open water. It’s refreshing to see a genre film-maker do more than rely on simple tricks and although his knack for dialogue might be questionable, he’s more than capable of constructing a nifty set-piece.

I doubt there’s much more life to squeeze from this franchise (although I would bet money that they’ll try) but as an unrelated sequel to a film that was originally set to premiere on the bottom shelf of a supermarket, this is better than it needs to be.

  • 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is released in the US on 16 August and in the UK later this year

Contributor

Benjamin Lee

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions review – fun puzzle horror sequel
A briskly entertaining follow-up to the 2019 sleeper hit provides more nifty death traps and disbelief-suspending suspense

Benjamin Lee

15, Jul, 2021 @2:43 PM

Article image
Night Teeth review – stylish Netflix vampire horror needs more bite
There’s a certain flair to director Adam Randall’s Collateral-with-blood-sucking caper but not enough to disguise a reheated script

Benjamin Lee

20, Oct, 2021 @5:45 PM

Article image
Don’t Breathe 2 review – dull and dingy home invasion horror sequel
A follow-up to 2016’s sleeper smash reunites us with the murderous blind antihero yet fails to recapture even the slightest bit of tension

Benjamin Lee

12, Aug, 2021 @4:00 PM

Article image
Blood Quantum review – grimy zombie horror offers intriguing twist
A visually distinctive, semi-effective Canadian thriller pits a First Nation community against a zombie invasion

Benjamin Lee

29, Apr, 2020 @7:10 AM

Article image
The Perfection review – gory Netflix horror offers imperfect intrigue
Get Out’s Allison Williams plays a mysterious cellist in an intermittently alluring yet flatly directed B-movie that tries too hard to shock

Benjamin Lee

23, May, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
The Night House review – Rebecca Hall anchors spooky horror
An electrifying performance lifts an often effective yet often muddled film about a woman investigating her husband’s suicide

Benjamin Lee

16, Aug, 2021 @7:46 PM

Article image
Sea Fever review – sturdy, slimy sci-fi horror trawls for cliches
A parasitic infection plagues a fishing boat in a low-budget Irish B-movie that provides modest entertainment before a damp ending

Benjamin Lee

08, Apr, 2020 @10:55 AM

Article image
Malignant review – lurid Argento-influenced horror is hit-and-miss
The Conjuring and Saw director James Wan’s latest is a curious combination of plodding thriller and spectacular body horror

Charles Bramesco

10, Sep, 2021 @2:36 PM

Article image
Crawl review – brutal alligator horror is a snappy summer surprise
Piranha 3D director Alexandre Aja returns to the water for a lean, suspenseful tale of a father and daughter trapped in a flooding, predator-filled house

Benjamin Lee

12, Jul, 2019 @6:04 PM

Article image
Body Cam review – Mary J Blige cop horror is halfway haunting
A curious mashup of ripped-from-the-headlines cop drama and gory horror just about finds its footing thanks to director Malik Vitthal’s confident hand

Benjamin Lee

22, May, 2020 @6:05 AM