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Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)

Having reviewed Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth yesterday, I decided to watch Something in the Dirt as a follow-up, just so I could make wry comments about the titles forming a thematic double-bill. Having watched them both now, they have a lot more in common than I’d anticipated. More on that later, however.

Between the podcast and blog, we’ve discussed Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson a few times on this site, specifically Spring and The Endless. Their imaginative, DIY approach and genre-bending films appeal to me greatly. With the exception of Synchronic, I’ve loved all their work so far, and even that was only a mild disappointment.

I’d been waiting while now for Something in the Dirt to pop up on one of the streaming services I subscribe to, but it has yet do so. Impatience got the better of me and I ended up buying a copy, which I rarely do with films nowadays. So let’s see if this was money well spent.

Something in the Dirt is currently available to rent or buy on most streaming services.

Something in the dirt 1

Synopsis

“What’s crazier? Believing every single coincidence you ever see or just ignoring them all?”

We meet Levi, a bartender working in Los Angeles, as he wakes up on the floor of a rundown, unfurnished apartment. He heads outside and meets one of his new neighbours, a maths teacher named John, who offers to lend him some furniture. As John helps move this furniture in, Levi sees a large quartz crystal float up from the floor and refract dazzling light around the room. When John withnesses this as well, the pair decide to make a documentary about the phenomenon.

As the weirdness in Levi’s apartment escalates, John starts seeing signs and symbols relating to it all around the city. As John begins to piece together a web of impossible coincidences, Levi grows steadily more concerned about how these reversals of gravity are affecting the apartment block.

Even as we start to suspect that John is faking at least some of his evidence, both men are undeniably faced with an accelerating series of impossible events. Their desperate need to come up with more and more outlandish theories drives them deeper into obsession.

Will Levi and John be able to untangle this sprawling web of ideas and phenomena? How does all this relate to John’s membership of an Apocalyptic Christian sect? And how much of what we’re seeing can we even trust?

Something in the dirt 2

General Thoughts

Like yesterday’s In the Earth, Something in the Dirt is a product of the early days of the pandemic. This is a film with a tiny budget, largely shot in Justin Benson’s apartment during lockdown. While the subject matter is quite different, there are also parallels in how the two films tackle making sense of the ineffable. There are even similarities in the role of sound and light in these attempts.

Much like Wheatley, Moorhead and Benson have been working on much larger productions recently, so this feels like a return to their earlier indie days. Not only did the duo produce, write and direct, but they star as well, just as they did in The Endless. Their performances are perfect, especially Aaron Moorhead’s turn as the mild-mannered John, who becomes steadily more sinister as the film progresses.

Perhaps appropriately for a film all about making connections, I kept finding myself thinking about all the different media Something in the Dirt reminded me of. Seeing Levi and John fall apart as they tried to make sense of something impossible in a small apartment building made me think of Kathe Koja’s The Cipher. The pair’s obsessive need to find meaning and patterns in everything felt like an unlikely mash-up of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, and their failure to do so reminded me of Lem’s Solaris. Their exploration of the occult history of their city also took me back to Fritz Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness. And the unreliable documentarian angle almost mirrors Butterfly Kisses.

Something in the dirt 3

Verdict

The tight constraints under which Something in the Dirt was made means the script is everything here. Happily, it more than delivers. This is a clever, mind-bending, and surprisingly funny piece of cinema. We’re used to seeing weird ideas handled deftly and imaginatively by Moorhead and Benson, but this is exceptional even by their standards.

While Something in the Dirt is only tangentially a horror film, the growing unease we feel as we struggle to make sense of these miracles and lies is very real. We share Levi and John’s anxiety as they try to find patterns and impose ever stranger meanings on them, but with an additional layer of intrigue as we wonder how much we can trust what we are witnessing.

I can see people who want neat narratives and resolutions becoming frustrated, but those who are happy to be challenged will find plenty to enjoy here. Something in the Dirt is a maddening piece of cinema in all the best ways.

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.

If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:

  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)

A Final Note

If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.

If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!

Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)

Shrew’s Nest has been on my Shudder watchlist for ages, and I figured this was as good a time as any to try it. Many of my favourite horror films have come out of Spain, and I’m always on the lookout for more. I didn’t really know anything about this one beyond it starring the always reliable Macarena Gómez. The two directors were new to me, although there were a few familiar names in the cast and crew, including Álex de la Iglesia as executive producer. Let’s see how all this comes together.

Shrew’s Nest is currently available on Shudder in the UK.

Shrews Nest 1

Synopsis

Monste and her younger sister, whose name we never learn, live together in a spacious flat in 1950s Madrid. While the sister has a job as a shop assistant, Montse works from home as a seamstress. The sexual and emotional abuse Montse suffered at the hands of her late father have left her emotionally damaged, and she suffers from severe agoraphobia. Even stepping over the threshold of the front door brings on a debilitating panic attack.

Compounding this is the strict religious upbringing both women endured. While Montse clings to the most morbid aspects of Catholicism, her sister rejects it, unaware that her misgivings are rooted in dim memories of the role religion played in her sister’s abuse.

Montse worries that her sister will soon move out and make a life for herself, leaving Monste all alone. Hope unexpectedly enters Montse’s life, however, when Carlos, her upstairs neighbour, falls down the stairs and breaks his leg just outside her flat.

Montse tends to Carlos, manipulating him with lies and morphine, slowly making him her prisoner. Her attempts to win his heart stumble, however, when he starts developing feelings for her sister instead. This pushes Montse over the edge.

Will Montse be able to manipulate Carlos into loving her? Why isn’t Carlos making more of an attempt to escape? And what really happened to Montse’s father all those years ago?

Shrews Nest 2

General Thoughts

While the unnamed girl is very much the protagonist of Shrew’s Nest, this is really Montse’s story. She is an embodiment of a cycle of abuse, shaped by the atrocities of her youth and unable to stop herself from committing atrocities of her own. The strongest aspect of the film is how it lets us sympathise with Montse even as she does terrible and repellent things.

The most obvious comparison seems to be the character of Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s Misery, memorably portrayed by Kathy Bates in the 1990 film adaptation. They both use drugs and lies to manipulate captive men, and share a willingness to maim their captives when this fails. Wilkes is a very different kind of human monster, however. While both women are driven by loneliness, there is a lot more pathos to Montse’s pathology. She genuinely seems to want to make normal human connections with the people around her but is too damaged to do so.

Montse strikes me as something closer to Frederick Clegg, the protagonist of The Collector by John Fowles (also adapted into a memorable film, starring Terrence Stamp and Samantha Eggar). Much like Montse, he is emotionally stunted, with underdeveloped social skills that make it difficult for him to bond with those around him. Rather than having the object of his obsession fall into his lap, however, he kidnaps a young woman, keeping her prisoner in the hope that she will learn to love him. Fowles manages the same trick of making Clegg perversely sympathetic, but also takes the narrative to a harrowing conclusion that makes Shrew’s Nest feel hollow in comparison.

Shrews Nest 3

Verdict

While I found Shrew’s Nest engaging enough, it didn’t really pack enough of an emotional punch. The performances are strong, the production design is lovely, and the story escalates nicely. Macarena Gomez is especially impressive as Montse, giving us a character who is vulnerable, pitiable, and yet utterly monstrous. Despite all these strengths, I knew by the end that Shrew’s Nest was not going to linger long in my thoughts once I’d written this review.

Part of the problem is certainly that we’ve seen so much of this story before. While Montse’s agoraphobia and religious mania add some new wrinkles, the story is ultimately a weak echo of Misery and The Collector. It’s fine for what it is, but I wish it had been able to surprise me.

Despite this overfamiliarity, Shrew’s Nest is perfectly entertaining. The tone melds touches of Gothic melodrama with giallo, and turns quite shockingly bloody in the final act. There are some good moments of dark humour that offset the oppressiveness of Montse’s physical and emotional seclusion. I certainly never felt bored or impatient, which puts Shrew’s Nest ahead of a number of films on this month’s list. Still, I can’t say I feel overly moved to recommend it.

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.

If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:

  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)

A Final Note

If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.

If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!

In the Earth (UK, 2021)

In the Earth is another film I’ve been itching to see for a while. A number of Ben Wheatley’s earlier films — Kill List, Sightseers and A Field in England — used elements of folk horror to great effect. So when I heard that Wheatley was returning to the genre, I was excited. This excitement was tempered by the film’s lukewarm reception, but the premise still sounded intriguing enough to reel me in.

Well, let’s see what’s waiting for us in the woods.

In the Earth is currently available on Netflix in the UK.

Synopsis

In the midst of a pandemic, scientific researcher Martin Lowry heads into some restricted woodland, guided by a park ranger named Alma. These woods are rich in folklore, especially relating to a local forest spirit or deity named Parnag Fegg.

Martin is searching for his missing colleague and former lover, Olivia Wendell. She has been researching the symbiotic relationship between a local variety of fungus and the roots of the trees making up the forest, resulting in a vast mycorrhizal network. Martin likens its complexity to that of a brain.

After Martin is injured by a trap, they are aided by Zach, an eccentric but avuncular man who lives in the woods. While he is initially helpful, Zach soon drugs the travellers, incorporating them into his strange mystical rites in praise of Parnag Fegg.

This is only the beginning, however. Alma and Martin discover that Olivia has been blurring the line between ritual and scientific experiment, making contact with an intelligence far from human. She, too, is dangerously keen to involve them in her work.

What is the relationship between Olivia’s theories and the legend of Parnag Fegg? How does this connect to an ancient standing stone and folk tales of necromancy? And how will these discoveries change everyone involved?

in the earth 2

General Thoughts

In the Earth represents a profoundly British fusion of folk horror and science fiction. This weird little subgenre owes everything to Nigel Kneale, who we have discussed on the podcast a few times, especially in our episode about his 1972 TV play The Stone Tape. In much of Kneale’s work, from The Abominable Snowman to his final Quatermass serial, ancient traditions are explored through scientific means. Rather than demystifying or dispelling any horror, the greater understanding this analysis leads to only makes things worse. This is especially true in The Stone Tape, where discovering the reality behind an apparent haunting only reveals something far more ancient and terrifying.

We see exactly this approach with In the Earth, but Wheatley takes it one stage further by introducing a philosophical tension between wanting to understand the science behind Parnag Fegg and simply accepting him as a god. That argument about what defines a god — whether it is simply something greater than us and beyond our understanding — also lies at the core of the Cthulhu Mythos. There is a very real human impulse to worship that which awes us, and Wheatley shows us here that scientific understanding does little to dispell that impulse.

There is also a distinct Lovecraftian element to the desperate and perhaps futile attempts to communicate with a god on its own terms. Even if we were manage to succeed in any capacity, would we really want to undergo the changes that would surely bring?

In the Earth was shot in the early days of the pandemic, and it shows. The spectre of Covid hangs over everything, from the quarantine and precautions Martin goes through before embarking on his quest to the threat of infection permeating the whole story. At one point, Martin admits how he is struggling to cope with being outside after months of isolation. It all feels horribly relatable.

in the earth 3

Verdict

With its slow pace, lo-fi aesthetic, and unashamed philosophical ambitions, In the Earth is going to alienate a lot of viewers. While it deals with existential horrors, it is not a film that sets out to scare. Its effects are more insidious, with only the occasional moment of bloody violence to shake the audience up. In other words, it could have been made for me.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a toothless film, however. When it gets nasty, it is brutal. If you have any issues with injuries to feet, in particular, watching In the Earth will not be a happy experience.

At the same time, I know that a lot of people will find In the Earth dull, and that’s fine. Wheatley has made a wilfully uncommercial film here, and I’m just glad that someone in his position still gets to do so. It is mind-blowing to think that he went from this to Meg 2: The Trench as his next project.

The performances here are top-notch. Reece Shearsmith, in particular, is excellent as Zach. This is a character who disarms through politeness. Just through tone of voice, Shearsmith absolutely convinces us his actions are harmless even as the rational part of our brains are screaming in alarm. It is genuinely chilling.

If you have the patience for a more thoughtful, psychedelic approach to horror, you may well enjoy In the Earth as much as I did. This is now the top contender for my film of the month.

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.

If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:

  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)

A Final Note

If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.

If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!

The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)

While I have been focusing more this year on films I’d been looking forward, I’m still popping a few random selections into the mix. I stumbled across The Oskars Fantasy while browsing Netflix, and the premise appealed to me. Also, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever seen a horror film from the Philippines before. So here we go.

The Oskars Fantasy is currently available on Netflix in the UK.

The Oskars Fantasy 1

Synopsis

After being forced to work with his boss’s talentless son once too often, producer Bobby B and his associate Odessa leave their high-flying studio jobs and set out as independent filmmakers. While drinking at a bar, Bobby encounters DMZ, his old friend from film school, who has spent years working on a script drawn from local folklore. After reading the script, Bobby decides this project will be his path to becoming the first filmmaker from the Philippines to win an Academy Award.

Relocating to DMZ’s family home on the scenic island of Catanduanes, Bobby learns that DMZ’s grandmother is a wise woman whose stories inspired the script. While the old woman seems to be suffering from dementia, she insists that her fantastical tales of magic and monsters are all true.

When Bobby goes seeking the old woman’s former lover, a shaman, he enters a hidden world filled with monsters out of legend. Learning that these creatures have forsworn eating human flesh, Bobby offers them a shot at stardom.

Will Bobby save a fortune on special effects by using real monsters in his film? If these monsters don’t eat people, why do members of the film crew keep disappearing? And will Bobby and DMZ achieve their lifelong dream of winning an Oscar?

The Oskars Fantasy 2

General Thoughts

Although it’s clear that The Oskars Fantasy is not a big-budget production, it’s really quite beautifully made. The locations offer plenty of visual appeal, with some more striking ones serving nicely for Bobby’s trips into the netherworld. The only place this spectacle fails, sadly, is with the monsters themselves.

There is an irony about having unconvincing monster effects in a film about using real monsters instead of special effects. It undercuts the very illusion we are being sold on. While the makeup effects and costumes are fine, the CGI when Gina sprouts wings and for the forest troll’s monstrous head are simply awful. Ordinarily, I’d have no problem looking past such shortcomings, but they kept working against the reality in which the film was asking me to believe.

The monsters themselves are a lot of fun, both in design and as characters. Despite the shortcomings in their execution, I kind of wish we’d spent more time with them. I don’t really know anything about Filipino folklore, so I can’t attest to the accuracy here, but a few stirred up old memories of stories I’d heard or read. Bangs was a particular highlight — a giant snake/leech thing, living in an oddly ambulatory metal urn.

The Oskars Fantasy 3

Verdict

There is a lot I enjoyed about The Oskars Fantasy and a lot I really did not. It’s one of the most wildly inconsistent films I’ve seen for a while. The main flaw is that too many of the jokes fall flat, which is a major problem for a film that strives so hard for comedy. It’s not that The Oskars Fantasy never made me laugh, just that too many gags merely made me wince. There is a juvenile naughtiness here that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1970s Benny Hill skit, and is not helped by the lazy stereotypes we see in some of the supporting characters.

Mercifully, the worst of this is restricted to the second act, when the location shoot gets underway. The narrative loses steam here as it introduces a whole raft of new, wacky characters and makes cheap jokes at their expense. The final act does largely turn this around, giving us a lively romp through the forest, pursued by monsters. And the resolution — a bizarre, high-stakes battle over creative differences — is so much fun that I was glad I’d stuck around.

On the whole, I’d say that the enjoyable parts of The Oskars Fantasy outweigh its flaws. Its engaging premise and delightful protagonists carried me over the worst of the bumps. If the humour had been a bit less crass, this could have been something really special.

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.

If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:

  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)

A Final Note

If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.

If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!

47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)

As I mentioned in my review of Sea Fever last year, I am a sucker for any horror film involving the ocean and its inhabitants. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with sharks, reading endless books about them. As I got older, that expanded to watching any horror film that offered so much as a glimpse of a dorsal fin. While I did eventually outgrow this obsession, thanks in no small part to how awful most of these films are, that overexcitable shark nerd is still in me somewhere. And, every now and then, I indulge him.

47 Metres Down has been on my list for a while, but I’d somehow managed to miss that it was on Netflix until I saw a message about it leaving the service in a few weeks. That finally prodded me to catch up with it, and I’m very glad I did.

47 Metres Down is currently available on Netflix in the UK.

47 Metres Down 1

Synopsis

Following a painful breakup, Lisa joins her sister Kate on holiday at a coastal resort in Mexico. Lisa’s ex-boyfriend described her as boring, which has led her to some painful self-reflection and a new determination to take risks.

An opportunity for risk arrives in the form of an invitation to go swimming with great white sharks, led by a fly-by-night tour guide. Everything about his operation is a red flag, from his willingness to ignore safety regulations to the rusty condition of his diving cage. Unlike Kate, Lisa has no experience of scuba diving, but she lets herself be convinced that her perfectly valid concerns are just the kind of dull behaviour that drove her boyfriend away.

Of course, all this leads to disaster. After spotting a few huge sharks, the two women are plunged to the seabed when the winch holding up their cage fails. Now, with oxygen running out and hungry sharks circling, Lisa and Kate are forced to take increasingly desperate measures to survive until help arrives.

47 Metres Down 2

General Thoughts

The first jump scare in 47 Metres Down was seeing a credit for Harvey Weinstein in the opening titles.

There is an almost fairy tale quality to the foreshadowing in this film. The first act is at least 50% ignored warnings. In the wrong hands, this could be wearisome, but the script does an excellent job of making us understand why Lisa in particular would choose to take such stupid risks. The result is a sense of dread rather than frustration.

For a film marketed on its connection to sharks, it actually uses them sparingly. Once Lisa and Kate are on the sea bed, the water is dark and visibility severely limited. By making the sharks a largely unseen presence, they become all the more terrifying. There is the constant fear that one might be just out of sight at any moment.

When the sharks do appear, however, they look amazing. From the almost lazy swim-bys of the initial encounters to the sudden lunging attacks in the gloom, they never appear less than perfectly real.

My only real complaint about 47 Metres Down is that some of the sisters’ dialogue is muffled by their scuba equipment, making it difficult to follow. I had to resort to subtitles for a few key lines, although this was barely a distraction.

47 Metres Down 3

Verdict

While there may not be any ghouls or ghosts at play here, 47 Metres Down ticks all the boxes for a horror film in my opinion. I’d go so far as to call it one of the finest examples of survival horror I’ve seen.

Once we’ve moved past their initial carelessness, Lisa and Kate do everything right in their fight for survival. With the two facing serious injuries, dwindling oxygen, nitrogen narcosis, confinement, and gloomy water filled with predators, every moment following their accident is almost unbearably perilous. We always feel like we’re heading into further disaster as the sisters are forced to make increasingly desperate choices, ratcheting up the tension to breaking point. The cruelty of the ending does nothing to let us off the hook.

I often say that I don’t really get scared by horror films any more. While I can’t say that 47 Metres Down really frightened me, it was so tense that I had to take a break at one point to let myself relax. What I expected to be a lightweight bit of fun turned out to be an astonishingly effective horror film. Definitely worth a watch if you like horror with teeth, preferably rows of them.

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.

If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:

  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)

A Final Note

If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.

If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!