Black Water: Abyss (2020) review: an atmospheric croc horror sequel to welcome audiences back to the cinema experience

Andrew Traucki’s sequel to his 2007 crocodile horror is a taut, well made, natural horror that feels at home on the big screen.

Black Water: Abyss was one of the first new film releases here in the UK, to welcome audiences back to the joys of the cinema after many (though not all) re-opened on the 4th July. In fact it was this writer’s first trip back to a cinema since 2020 went to hell in a handbasket and COVID tried to drag the movie industry into the dark and murky waters, and thankfully it proved to be a wise choice. As Black Water: Abyss is arguably the perfect kind of flick to see in a cinema environment. As the senses are elevated and director Andrew Traucki’s sequel to his 2007 crocodile horror Black Water is another effective nail biting natural horror.

Practically unrelated to the original, other than the fact it takes place in Australia, Abyss sees two best friend couples meet a pal who has uncovered an unexplored cave in the woods, and they decide to go and check it out. Unbeknownst to them, a violent storm they thought they were avoiding, moves overhead and this mysterious cave system’s waterways start slowly flooding and filling up, trapping the group underground and worse still, they are not alone down there.

As the flashlight’s zoomed around frantically onscreen, the beams of light seemed to bounce across the walls of the cinematorium as though you were sat in these perilous rising waters of the cave, with this killer croc, yourself. Like the first film, and his stranded at sea shark horror The Reef, Traucki crafts another suspenseful animal attack horror film. Once again opting for less CGI (and more integrated real crocodile footage), the ferocious natural predator itself looks realistic and worryingly fearsome, while Traucki keeps a tight directorial control of events, and Ian John Ridley and Sarah Smith’s simple and effective screenplay places out story items ahead of time, which come of use later.

The confined setting could be hell if the film had nothing to fill it but it at least offers some edges for its characters to possess, so they aren’t just wet flopping bait waiting to be snapped up. The young adult cast here do a good job in a film that requires a largely physical commitment. Speaking of the physical, one interesting point was how this movie had a rare realistic depiction of really being panicked and out of breath.

Taut and well shot throughout (the cinematography is rather immersive), with only select pieces of score to pierce the long stretches of water trickling filled silence, the film delivers on its promises and even as the finale goes bigger, it does so without being too silly (in the way the similarly themed 47 Meters Down Uncaged did). Admittedly the ending itself could have been more daring, especially after some of the elements of the build, but as murphy’s law gives this team a thorough spanking throughout, maybe a relieving breather was fair.

Black Water: Abyss was a suspenseful watch and a great way to be welcomed back to the realm of the big screen.

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