Horror Is Shallow in Lovecraftian Adaptation The Deep Ones (2021)
Title: The Deep Ones
First Non-Festival Release: April 23, 2021 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: Chad Ferrin
Writer: H.P. Lovecraft, Chad Ferrin
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Starring: Gina La Piana, Robert Miano, Johann Urb
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Young couple Alex (Gina La Piana) and Petri (Johann Urb) rent a seaside Airbnb in a quiet coastal community for their vacation. They meet their hosts Russel (Robert Miano) and his wife Ingrid (Silvia Spross) who help ingratiate them into the community. Not long after they find themselves curious to the odd behavior of the locals and begin investigating the home. Laced with hidden cameras, their hosts know exactly what they are doing at all times and for sinister reasons, which they will soon learn.
The Deep Ones is a painfully trite H.P. Lovecraft inspired tale that wanders aimlessly until its pointedly unsatisfying conclusion.
A tonally silly and brainless attempt at cosmic horror, The Deep Ones fails to construct a cohesive narrative that paralyzes or confounds in the way that a Lovecraftian story should do. The setup is typical of most vacation-gone-wrong horror films. Alex and Petri book their vacation online and find themselves wondering what is going on. There is a lack of justification for this that makes the suspicion seem unearned. Aside from Alex’s bad dreams and morning sickness, what does she have to believe that she is in harm’s way? It’s necessary for the plot to move forward, that’s why!
Nearly everyone brings their C game to this feature resulting in not one single compelling or believable performance. A scene at the end that is intended to evoke abject fear and revulsion looks silly at best. This is in combination with some poor effects work, but the cast does not do their best work in making the terror come to life. Little moments throughout the feature impede this too. Hypnotism, carjacking, and naked women running in the dark alone all bring the same hokey energy to the film. Sure, it doesn’t help that the characters themselves are bland and forgettable, but the lack of depth is astounding.
Beyond the writing, the film falls flat on several technical levels as well. It’s a very static film in terms of camerawork aside from a few establishing shots. Some of the scenes are rough in terms of editing. Actions repeat themselves and only stop after enough runtime is spread out to justify the film’s feature length. This is especially true in the film’s climax. The effects work ranges from mediocre to laughably bad. Thankfully for its big reveal, the film goes for a man in a rubber suit over computer generated work, so it’s slightly more watchable than it could have been realized. Otherwise, tentacles and glowing eyes do not hit the way they need to in order to maintain the audience’s investment in the film.
There are moments where some kernels of a good movie can be seen. While disjointed and inconsistent, the film’s many different attempts to scare and antagonize from all sides does leave the viewer guessing what will happen next. The team also makes some bolder moves in terms of their horror. A scene filmed in daylight balances the tightrope of uncanny and freaky while still moving the plot appropriately. The Deep Ones suffers more from its lack of execution rather than its imagination.
From the beginning, The Deep Ones is not a serious contender of nailing Lovecraft’s calling card of wonderfully bizarre cosmic horror that many expect from features adapted from his work. While touching on various aspects of his work, it feels painfully ordinary compared to the monstrous tales of unexplainable terror associated with the name. If you can’t deliver on that, it might be best to go a different route in marketing at the very least. Aside from expectation bias, the acting is painful, the dialogue is trite, and the story moves at a glacial pace without any sort of gratifying payoff. It begins and ends exactly how you would expect it to do so. Lovecraft’s work shouldn’t be this forecasted, but unfortunately in The Deep Ones that is the only type of weather on the horizon.
Overall Score? 3.5/10