Sisters Lisa and Kate are vacationing in Mexico when they are presented with the opportunity to cage dive with sharks. The experience starts out great but faulty equipment leads to a series of harrowing situations that keep the ladies in constant danger. The stakes are high and their oxygen levels are low as they struggle to survive at 47 meters down.

My initial thought when 47 Meters Down was announced was that Johannes Roberts was really going to have to work to set his film apart from the legions of killer shark films already in existence. I didn’t have a lot of faith in his directorial prowess after The Other Side of the Door. But I am pleased to say that (for the most part) he succeeded in crafting a suspenseful and enjoyable killer shark tale that didn’t feel reductive.

Going in, I was a little concerned that Pop-singer-turned-actress Mandy Moore would be too saccharin to take seriously but she is actually surprisingly likable as Lisa. And Claire Holt (The Vampire Diaries) was equally well-cast as Lisa’s sister Kate. We don’t get a great deal of backstory on either character but we know just enough to get behind them and enjoy the ride. What we do know of the siblings is conveyed naturally and the progression of the story never suffers as a result.

Roberts cowrote the screenplay with Ernest Riera. And that initially concerned me because I found their last collaboration (The Other Side of the Door) to be something of a mess. But, for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised by the script for 47 Meters Down. One issue I had with the screenplay is that couple of the gags are reused and that cheapens the effect and makes at least two sequences utterly predictable. Without going into too much detail, the winch scene and the tank scene are both repeated almost blow-for-blow and in both instances were significantly less effective the second go around.

Another complaint is that the opening scene makes a cringe-inducing attempt at foreshadowing with a glass of red wine being overturned into a pool. It’s at least nicely photographed but it almost reads as something you’d see in an episode of Murder She Wrote. 

My last real criticism is that some of the shark effects are poorly rendered. A couple of times, the obviously digitized FX work took me out of the film. But I have to say that I  almost always found myself being pulled back in shortly after losing concentration–which is something of a testament to the film’s overall execution.

Minor grievances aside, I really commend the film’s pacing. Lisa and Kate find themselves in one hectic situation after another and almost every sequence builds upon that which came before it to up the ante. Roberts shows true prowess for building and sustaining suspense in this picture and I sincerely hope he’s able to keep that trend up in his forthcoming Strangers sequel.

Also to the film’s credit, the cinematography is really phenomenal. The underwater sequences (which comprise the bulk of the feature’s runtime) are breathtaking and beautifully rendered.

The gore in 47 Meters Down is fairly downplayed but I really commend that. The film plays, effectively, with what we don’t see and delivers plenty of shocks and surprises throughout the course of its runtime. More bloodshed would have felt excessive and ultimately uncalled for.

If you haven’t seen 47 Meters Down, check it out. It is suspenseful and exciting. And it’s tame enough that you can share it with family and friends that don’t typically gravitate to horror. Not convinced? You can also peruse April Bennet’s positive take on the film from its theatrical release right here.  47 Meters Down is now available on DVD and Blu.

WICKED RATING: 7/10

Director(s): Johannes Roberts
Writer(s): Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera
Stars: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt
Release: September 26 (DVD and Blu)
Studio/ Production Co: Dimension, Ancor Bay
Budget: 5.5 Million (estimated)
Language: English
Length: 89-Minutes
Sub-Genre: Horror-Thriller