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Underwater (Digital HD Review)

While we haven’t had a movie in the theater for a while, Underwater is one that did see one of the earliest releases of the year coming in January. It opened to some “eh” box office and middling reviews, but an appreciation has come from the horror community regarding it and going to bat for it. There is a lot of support for the deep (DEEP) sea monster movie starring Kristen Stewart to peek that “I’ll check it out on home video” interest for people. Its arrived on Blu-ray on April 14, but unfortunately due to the craziness we live in now, review copies were not available. However, I did want to check out and cover this movie, so in the rare case I accepted the digital code review copy compensation. So, please don’t be confused, you CAN purchase a physical copy of Underwater, but for this particular occasion, I am covering the HD digital version of the film (Yeah, didn’t even send me a 4K redemption code, LOL) for this review.

Film

Disaster strikes more than six miles below the ocean surface when water crashes through the walls of a drilling station. Led by their captain, the survivors realize that their only hope is to walk across the sea floor to reach the main part of the facility. But they soon find themselves in a fight for their lives when they come under attack from mysterious and deadly creatures that no one has ever seen.

Underwater proves to be a very rock solid genre picture, perfect for a Saturday afternoon matinee or a late night double feature.  William Eubank’s film keys in on simplicity and relishes in the thrill of the chase for an exercise. His film features a pretty game cast that sells everything and helps key it in on the in-between moments, with enough little trinkets of depth to help keep things rounded and afloat for the stakes.

From the jump, Underwater has you quite hooked and just in the middle of the call to action as are the characters in the film. We have a nice, slow set up of the environment for the deep sea drilling station’s interior to familiarize that rivals Ridley Scott’s Alien both in look and feeling.  As soon as we first see Kristen Stewart we are off to the races with not a moment to think and are constantly driven from here to here to here with just some short breathes in between. While this works and gets you going, it does start to turn monotonous in the middle, still fun but making you wondering if there’s gonna be anything to up the stakes at any point or are we just holding on til the end? Spoiler-ish, yes you kind of are holding on til the end. But it is pretty redeeming.

Kristen Stewart leads a pretty solid cast that are all come on plenty likeable (Even TJ Miller is fine here, despite what you may feel about his real life troubles), despite having very light weight on the page. Stewart is her typical blend of good, but not trying to jump above the material and able to cozy in and blend with it. I was particularly happy to see Jessica Henwick here (The best thing about Glow Hand – aka Iron Fist), even though she probably has the “annoying character”. Vincent Cassell is a nice touch of veteran class to really sell things and give a weight to certain turns.

Craftwise, Eubank is doing some pretty impressive stuff with what little budget he probably has. He’s able to hone in and really grasp that Alien feel (which he is clearly going for) with his look at interiors and the costuming and tech featured in the film. There is also a sense of his ability to utilize strengths found in good found footage aesthetic movies that he applies here. Not so much in a first person perspective, but in the immersion and inclusive feeling when crawling through wreckage or making a discovery to being inside the deep sea diving suit with a character. There are moments that hamper where I couldn’t tell what I was looking at, what was going on or if I was supposed to be noticing something on the screen. This is potentially an issue that isn’t present on the big screen, but struggles to translate to watching at home on your much smaller set up.

Are people right to champion Underwater and think it may have been under appreciated (Moreso “underseen”, honestly)? I would argue yes, but don’t let that particularly overhype you prior to seeing it. It has really good design, some good suspense pieces and a sense of fun in chases. Its the ideal late night rental for this current “stay at home” world we are living in today.

Video

Screenshots/stills are not taken from any Movies Anywhere/Vudu/Apple Movies/etc stream or digital presentation. If you find one of them is an image you would like credit for or prefer to have removed, please e-mail me (brandon@whysoblu.com) and I will take whatever action you prefer.

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p (HD)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: I preferably don’t enjoy or support reviewing the video presentation on digital streams as your mileage may vary based on your internet connection, what time of day it is, la la la. There isn’t a confident, guaranteed consistency from watch to watch. Underwater did fair pretty well on my HD viewing (Also available in 4K). Details are strong enough and it comes across as pretty crisp overall.

Depth: Depth of field is pretty decent here. Much more impressive on the interiors in showing pushback and scale. The ocean floor stuff is very CG heavy, dark and blurry (Intentional), making it more difficult to really flush out much. Movements are pretty smooth overall with minimal distortions in the more rapid movements.

Black Levels: This handles blacks pretty well. This is a dark movie, deliberately hiding some information by design. However, there are some crushing issues around the edges as the black skirts to the ends of the frames in the more deeper moments. When going toward the center, it does improve to admirable degrees.

Color Reproduction:  Not the most colorful of movies, but features a pretty good saturation of what’s there and handles many whites and greens quite well. Lights, computer displays and more pop quite well and little uniform flourishes and the yellow one Kristen Stewart ends up wearing show a good degree of full boldness.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones take on the colder, greener filtered look that the movie suits itself up with overall. Tone is consistent all the way through the film. Facial textures and features are pretty well discernible from the medium and closer up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: No real distracting or notable issues occurred that hasn’t been mentioned already.

Audio

Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Ditto what I said for video goes for the audio. And unfortunately, because I was only sent an HD code, I didn’t get to experience lossless audio. As is, this one did feature a pretty impactful viewing with the effects bumped up and more present in the mix with the vocals taking a little bit of a back seat.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: Things really do boom impressively during explosions, attacks, roars, shots and more. Your subwoofer provides good thump where needed.

Surround Sound Presentation: I was pretty happy with the playfulness of this mix and my receiver’s simulated 7.1/Atmos version of this 5.1 made for a more engaging viewing with such intricacies playing delicate and really creating an accurate 360 degree experience and bringing every room to life.

Dialogue Reproduction: As mentioned above, while clear and crisp, the vocals do find themselves lower in this mix. Its not detrimental or unwatchable, merely notable for a review.

Extras

Audio Commentary

  • By William Eubank (Director)

Digital Exclusive: “Call The Mover” Extended Scene (HD, 1:30)

Extended/Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary by William Eubank

  • Crew Suit Up – Extended (HD, 1:44)
  • Gantry Exit – Extended (HD, 2:30)
  • Baby Clinger – Extended (HD, 1:35)
  • Midway Station – Extended (HD, 1:43)
  • Ocean Floor Walk – Extended (HD, 5:25)
  • Rock Garden (HD, :48)
  • Smith Depature – Extended (HD, 1:01)

Alternate Ending with Optional Audio Commentary by William Eubank (HD, 2:55)

Real Bunny Montage with Optional Audio Commentary by William Eubank (HD, 3:25)

Making Underwater

  • Design (HD, 17:54)
  • Production (HD, 19:50)
  • Creatures & Visual Effect (HD, 19:56)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:20)

Summary

Underwater is a fine 3-star genre effort that perfectly encapsulates a 2 for 1 matinee or weekend rental. Appreciation for it is definitely worthy, but don’t let that overhype the film for you. I had a decent time with it digital, showcasing an above average picture for my viewing and some audio that was playful and got the job done. Underwater comes with an impressive array of extras, which should be applauded considering it could have been a bare bones and generic 5 minute press kit featurette. Check it out if you have the time (Which you probably do right now) for sure. A digital rental is probably the way to go.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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