Black Water: Abyss

No summer is complete without an aquatic creature attack movie. From 47 Meters Down to Piranha 3D to Crawl, watching sharks, killer fish, or crocodiles munch on helpless victims for ninety minutes is almost always a lot of fun. I'll admit that I'm not terribly demanding when it comes to these pictures. As long as they deliver a decent B-movie experience, I'm happy. The Australian thriller Black Water: Abyss does just that.

Two couples decide to explore a remote system of caves together. Jennifer (Jessica McNamee) and Eric (Luke Mitchell) are romantically involved, although possibly not for long, as he appears to be “keeping his options open.” Yolanda (Amali Golden) is pregnant, but hasn't yet told her cancer-survivor boyfriend Viktor (Benjamin Hoetjes). With tour guide Cash (Anthony J. Sharpe), they go way out in the wilderness, then spelunk down a hole in the ground. Inside the cave, they discover a wide open space with a pool of water in the middle. A very hungry, territorial crocodile is in that water. Oh, and a torrential rainfall outside has caused the cave to flood and the only exit to seal off.

Now that's what I'm talking about! Black Water: Abyss sets its basic scenario up efficiently, putting the characters in danger while giving us just enough development of their personal stories to raise the stakes another notch. (Knowing Yolanda is pregnant creates a lot of worry about whether she'll escape, because if not, poor baby.) The croc, meanwhile, takes the Jaws approach to its scenes, largely remaining an unseen but deeply felt presence until feeding time.

The screenplay by Ian John Ridley and Sarah Smith nicely piles on the complications. Jennifer and friends aren't merely stuck underground; they're also trapped, in danger of drowning, and sometimes on opposite ends of that pool with the crocodile in the middle. Director Andrew Traucki shows nice patience, allowing moments to hang a little longer than expected. We know the croc is coming, but not always when. I jumped at least twice. Anticipation is always a welcome factor in movies of this sort, as it makes the shock moments hit harder.

There's nothing about Black Water: Abyss that hasn't been done before, for the most part. The film is pretty straightforward in that regard, aiming to scratch the itch of people who enjoy watching humans become prey for underwater creatures. The one thing that does separate it slightly from similar recent films is that it largely stays realistic. The crocodile doesn't do anything extraordinary or over-the-top. Everything that takes place could theoretically happen for real. In fact, the only concession to grandiosity is an awesome scene that takes place after you think the survivor(s) is/are actually safe. Traucki leaves you with one heck of a finale.

Black Water: Abyss isn't the best film of its kind, so viewers who don't naturally gravitate to these shark/piranha/crocodile pictures may leave feeling unimpressed. Those of us who enjoy seeing the template executed well, despite having already seen it countless times, will enjoy the experience once more. The movie is what it is, and it doesn't try to be anything else. If you want what it is, there's a sufficient amount of fun to be had here.

out of four

Black Water: Abyss is unrated, but contains bloody creature violence, and brief language. The running time is 1 hour and 38 minutes.