Outside of sharks and spiders, crocodiles (or alligators) rank pretty high among nature’s scariest predators. They’re basically living, breathing dinosaurs. Not surprisingly then, the horror genre every so often trots out the reptilian predator for another go around. Last summer, Crawl scored a surprising box office take against a modest budget. Twenty years ago, Lake Placid delivered a fun mix of humour and giant crocodile horror. And Wolf Creek director Greg McLean’s Rogue remains a hidden gem. Over a decade ago, another small Aussie horror flick, Black Water, made a quiet, but favourable impression on critics. It took awhile but director Andrew Traucki (Black Water, The Reef) has finally released his sequel, Black Water Abyss.
In northern Australia, five friends looking for adventure take a trip spelunking in a remote cave system. Jessica worries her boyfriend, Eric, is cheating. Yolanda wants her boyfriend Viktor – a recovering cancer patient – to have some fun. But she’s hiding her own secrets. And friend and guide, Cash, neglects to mention that he found the cave while helping search for missing tourists. Once inside the cave system, a sudden tropical storm traps the friends beneath the surface. As the water level rises, the friends discover they’re not alone – a large crocodile is trapped with them. Now they either wait to drown or brave the crocodile to find a way out.
Black Water Abyss Spends Too Much Time Plodding Along
At just under 90 minutes, Black Water was a surprisingly tight thriller. Not unlike last year’s 47 Meters Down sequel, 47 Meters Down Uncaged, Black Water Abyss is an unrelated follow-up that aims bigger. It’s nearly 20 minutes longer. Too bad those extra minutes don’t add up to a better movie. What those extra minutes do add are long dull stretches. Expect to wait a good 30 to 40 minutes for the crocodile to surface. Even when our killer croc finally shows up, the pacing is too stop-and-go. Fortunately, Traucki picks things up in the movie’s second half, offering a few decent jumps and some claustrophobic suspense. But poor lighting, spotty effects, and PG-13 horror leave this crocodile mostly toothless.
It’s nearly 20 minutes longer. Too bad those extra minutes don’t add up to a better movie. What those extra minutes do add are long dull stretches.
In addition to pacing problems, Black Water Abyss suffers from tonal inconsistencies. Traucki clearly wants his sequel to feel like the first movie or Rogue. It badly wants to be a ‘serious’ movie, not a B-creature feature. However, soapy story turns clash with these ambitions. Whenever Abyss feels like it’s picking up steam, John Ridley and Sarah Smith’s story detours into unnecessarily subplots. A final curveball in the climax is best described as completely ridiculous. Still Traucki at least runs with it and delivers what could be the movie’s best scene … if you can ignore the stupidity of the set-up. Black Water Abyss further suffers from references to far better movies including Rogue and The Descent.
Black Water Abyss Needed To Embrace the ‘B-Movie’ In Its DNA
Though Black Water was a serious survival horror movie, Black Water Abyss probably would have worked better if Traucki had opted to embrace the B-movie at the heart of its premise. Take a look at the promotional material for the movie. Arguably, the posters are the best part of the movie – Abyss wants to be a silly, over-the-top ‘animals attack’ movie. Hints of that movie are spliced throughout it. The soapy melodrama, the ridiculous final climax – this could have been a fun, stupid movie in the vein of Deep Blue Sea. Even the movie’s basic story structure has splices of slasher movie DNA it it. Our killer croc stalks each character one by one. In spite of the efforts to give these characters definable traits, they’re basically cannon fodder. Most of the suspenseful scenes weigh on characters making completely stupid decisions. And while none of the actors are bad, no one stands out. You know there’s a problem when your best observation is that one of the actors ‘kind of looks like a poor man’s Chris Hemsworth’.
Black Water Abyss an Unremarkable, But Serviceable, Time-Waster
Though it’s technically not a bad movie, there’s hardly much to recommend with this belated sequel. Somewhere in Black Water Abyss is the silly, over-the-top B-creature feature to which it should have aspired. Sadly, director Andrew Traucki can’t breathe life into a clunky script. With little substance and too much time on its hands, Black Water Abyss drags far too much. Intermittent scares and bouts of suspense save it from truly awful territory. But it’s not much more than a forgettable time-waster.