Toothless Killer Croc Movie, Black Water: Abyss (2020), Is Best Left in the Kiddie Pool
Updated: Feb 2, 2021
Title: Black Water: Abyss
First Wide Release: August 7, 2020 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Andrew Traucki
Writer: John Ridley, Sarah Smith
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Starring: Jessica McNamee, Luke Mitchell, Amali Golden
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A group of friends makes the decision to explore a cave system in the Australian wilderness only to get stuck after a freak rainstorm. Racing against the rising water, the group must figure out a way to get to the surface before it’s too late. Unfortunately for them, they will soon realize that the cave system they wandered into is actually the lair of a deadly crocodile hellbent on removing the uninvited guests from its home. Known for his aquatic-based horror, Andrew Traucki directs this sequel to his breakout film, 2007’s Black Water.
Black Water: Abyss lacks the depth or bite of its superiors in this by-the-numbers creature feature.
For a film with such an interesting premise, the execution leaves much to be desired. The biggest issue of Black Water: Abyss is how limited it feels. Aside from two sequences, one underwater and another above, there’s very little exploration of the cave once they begin clawing their way out. This feels like wasted potential of what could have been incredibly tense and creative escape sequences. The action is stagnant because the characters are just sitting around for most of the runtime. Outside of this, Black Water: Abyss is weighed down by unnecessary subplots and an ending that enters into territory that’s more silly than scary.
To dive in a little deeper on an earlier point, Black Water: Abyss’s characters suffer from a lack of imagination. It’s understandable that a writing team needs to create multiple points of tension to increase the stakes of a film. Unfortunately for us, this team decides to go for the absolute laziest subplot of relationship drama to add to the crocodile feature. It really kills any momentum this film could achieve and feels unnatural and forced. While it is actually mentioned in the film, neither couple really has much chemistry. They feel woefully mismatched only to serve up some cheap melodrama. The acting is largely fine but cannot save the main crew from being uninteresting and unmemorable.
I’m always disappointed in horror films set in nature that don’t lean into their setting and Black Water: Abyss is no exception. When outside, the shots are beautiful and engaging. Since the majority of this film takes place inside a cave, we are not treated to much of that. Black Water: Abyss’s cave sequences are decently lit but still don’t capture the true terror of the situation. At times we feel claustrophobic, but these feelings are irregular. Aside from a few good underwater sequences, we are treated to shots of a large, barren cavern with a slowly rising tide, which is not capitalized on either. It’s mostly the wasted opportunity that makes this reviewer so sad when looking back at the experience.
While I feel like I have been dogging on this film too much, Black Water: Abyss does do an above-average job at selling its creature. The crocodile scenes are well edited. Everything is obscured by the water and darkness of the cave, which makes the terror lurking below seem even scarier. The effects themselves are above average, which, again, for this genre is pretty good. The croc looks real in most scenes and the action is relatively quick, so there are fewer opportunities to really mess up.
This is a tough movie to review. I enjoy water and cave-based horror movies, so its premise really excited me from the beginning, and it did get a rise out of me a few times. Unfortunately, I can’t get past all the mistakes that are made here. Its runtime is unjustifiable. Traucki could easily cut 10-15 minutes and still deliver a high-quality, tense film. Furthermore, some aspects just didn’t make sense when you think about it. Why didn’t Jenn and Viktor just go with the others when they explored the passage? Where was the breeze coming from if it was blocked off? These questions and more really puzzled me throughout and made it harder to enjoy.
I enjoyed Black Water: Abyss for what it is: a dumb creature feature that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. Its characters are stupid, and its plot is nonsensical, a far cry from its leaner, meaner, and tenser predecessor, but it does a good job of eking out a scare or two. I wouldn’t watch it again, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to trash it entirely. For fans of killer animals and horror films set in nature, Black Water; Abyss is an empty calorie watch you can sink your teeth into for 90 minutes or so.
Overall Score? 5.5/10